Chapter 7 – Nutrition
Carbohydrates have become, surprisingly, quite controversial. However, it is important to understand that carbohydrates are a diverse group of compounds that have a multitude of effects on bodily functions. Thus, trying to make blanket statements about carbohydrates is not a good idea.
Carbohydrates provide energy for the body as well as fiber for digestive health and blood sugar regulation. Many natural carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide essential vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates can be broken into 2 categories:
Simple carbohydrates: found naturally in fruits and milk and are added to candy and sweetened beverages. Simple carbohydrates provide quick energy.
Complex carbohydrates: found in grains and legumes provide sustained energy.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Food manufacturers are always searching for cheaper ways to produce their products. One extremely popular method for reducing costs is the use of high-fructose corn syrup as an alternative to sucrose. High-fructose corn syrup is approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose, which is the same as sucrose. Nevertheless, because increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup has coincided with increased obesity in the United States, a lot of controversy surrounds its use.
The New York Times article linked below discusses the growing popularity of sugar compared to high fructose corn syrup: “Sugar is Back on Food Labels, This Time as a Selling Point”
The simplest definition of fiber is indigestible matter. Indigestible means that it survives digestion in the small intestine and reaches the large intestine. There are three major fiber classifications:
1. Dietary fiber
This type of fiber contains both nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin and is always intrinsic and intact in plants.
2. Functional fiber
This type of fiber contains nondigestible carbohydrates only and can be isolated, extracted, or synthesized. Functional fiber can be from plants or animals and produces beneficial physiological effects in humans.
3. Total Fiber
Fiber that contains both dietary fiber and functional fiber.