The Science of sweet food

There was a really excellent article in this month’s New Zealand healthy Food Guide (April 2013) on sugar and what it does in/to your body. Written by HFG Senior nutritionist Rose Carr, it begins:

04.-Apr13-cover-New Zealand healthy Food GuideSweet is one of the first flavours we learn to love as babies, and we all enjoy the taste of something sweet. So what happens in our bodies when we eat sweet foods? And should we be worried?” (p.34)

Carr goes on to explain: “Table sugar, called sucrose, is by far the most common sugar we consume. There are, however, sugars in other foods too: fruit contains fructose along with other sugars; milk contains sugars, predominantly lactose; and honey is nearly 80 per cent sugars, mainly fructose and glucose.

“Sugars are defined by their chemistry: they can be made up of single-sugar units (mono-saccharides) or two-sugar units (disaccharides). Table sugar is a two-sugar unit made up of glucose and fructose.

To distinguish sugars in our foods, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends we use the terms ‘free sugars’ and ‘intrinsic sugars’. Free sugars are sugars added to foods, either at home, in restaurants or factories, but also include sugars naturally found in honey, syrups and fruit juices. Intrinsic sugars describes sugars that are naturally found in food – the sugars bound into plant cell walls found in vegetables and fruit.

Free or added sugars are rapidly digested. If we were to eat table sugar or honey by itself, it would be broken down very quickly into single-unit sugars and absorbed into the bloodstream. But it’s not often that we eat sugar by itself, so how quickly sugars are digested depends on what else is in the food or drink. More complex foods are more slowly digested. Sugars in vegetables and fruit take longer to access because they are bound in the plant cell walls and combined with a far greater amount of other nutrients, including fibre, to slow digestion. Drinks containing sugar are rapidly digested as there is nothing else in them to slow digestion. Sugary sweets and highly processed foods containing a lot of sugar will also be digested fairly quickly.” (p.34)

I’d like to quote more of this wonderful article, but that would surely be cheeky. I’ll just recommend it! She goes on to describe sugar digestion, what our bodies do with sugar, sugar’s relationship to ‘hyperactivity’ (a myth, it seems), other sugar myths, and health tips.

The New Zealand healthy Food Guide also lists the references (in the back, on p.94) Carr draws on for this article, which is a professional writing approach (in a popular journal) that I really like – mostly because it means I can follow up on them!

Ref: (emphases in colour mine; emphases in bold in original) Rose Carr (2013) what sugar does to your body: the science of sweet food. New Zealand healthy Food Guide (April), pp.34-37


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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