No matter what form sugar comes in, it’s a carbohydrate that is broken down for energy. Your liver and pancreas work together to maintain sugar levels in your blood. The liver metabolizes fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, then it also stores the resulting minerals, vitamins, and gylcogen.
The liver can only store about 100 g of glucose in the form of glycogen. The muscles also store glycogen. Muscles can store approximately 500 g of glycogen. Because of the limited storage areas, any carbohydrates that are consumed beyond the storage capacity are converted to and stored as fat. The Pancreas releases two hormones, glucagon, to break down gylcogen in the liver and muscle cells and insulin at regular levels to influence the absorbtion of glucose into your blood.
Sugar comes in two types, Monosaccharides and Disaccharides. Both are dissoluble in water and you can break down Disaccharides into Monosaccharides.
Here is a list of some disaccharides, including the monosaccharides they are made from and foods containing them. Sucrose, maltose, and lactose are the most familiar disaccharides, but there are others.
glucose + fructose
Sucrose is table sugar. It is purified from sugar cane or sugar beets.
glucose + glucose
Maltose is a sugar found in some cereals and candies. It is a product of starch digestions and may be purified from barley and other grains.
galactose + glucose
Lactose is a disaccharide found in milk. It has the formula C12H22O11 and is an isomer of sucrose(same atoms, different arrangement, different properties).
galactose + fructose
Lactulose is a synthetic (man-made) sugar that is not absorbed by the body but is broken down in the colon into products that absorb water into the colon, thus softening stools.
Its primary use is to treat constipation. It is also used to reduce blood ammonia levels in persons with liver disease since lactulose absorbs ammonia into the colon (removing it from the body).
glucose + glucose
Trehalose is also known as tremalose or mycose. It is a natural alpha-linked disaccharide with extremely high water retention properties.
In nature, it helps plants and animals reduce long periods without water.
glucose + glucose
Cellobiose is a hydrolysis product of cellulose or cellulose-rich materials, such as paper or cotton. It is formed by linking two beta-glucose molecules by a β(1→4) bond.
Here is a list of monosaccharides.
The sugar that’s in a piece of fruit is made up of fructose and glucose, just like processed sugar. Most fruits are 40-55% fructose (although this varies depending on the fruit—cranberries have 20% fructose and apples are 65% fructose). Table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Your body processes fructose in the liver so it won’t trigger an insulin response, while glucose starts to break in the stomach and requires insulin to be released into the bloodstream so it can be metabolized quickly. Neither glucose nor fructose is better than the other, when looked at alone. It’s how it’s packaged that makes the difference.
How they’re different: The type of sugar (natural or refined) that you’re eating impacts your health differently. Natural sugar—the sugar that comes in fruit—is packaged with fiber, water, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phtytonutrients and other nutrients that improve your health. (Natural sugar is also found in milk and cheese and is called lactose.) Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are both processed to extract the sugar. Usually, this sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose, called sucrose.
Manufacturers add chemically produced sugar, typically high fructose corn syrup, to many foods and drinks. Other than providing a source of energy that the body can use, processed sugar doesn’t provide any benefits to the body—it lacks the fiber and health-promoting nutrients that occur in natural sugar sources. By contrast, processed sugar can harm the body when overeaten and may contribute to inflammation, disease, weight gain and obesity. This is why refined sugar is known as “empty calories”—calories without nutrients that benefit the body.
Refined sugar (think candy and cakes) has no fiber to slow down its absorption, so it’s digested rapidly and enters the blood stream very quickly, causing a (blood) sugar rush/high. This sugar high, in turn, causes the body to release a surge of insulin, which quickly removes the sugar from the blood to the tissues. This is what is often known as a sugar crash or “low,” and is the body’s way of signaling that it needs a quick pick-up and the quickest pick-me-up is more sugar! This launches a vicious cycle of highs and lows that lead to a deep craving for more sugar.
Natural sugar comes packaged in fruit—and fruit is a good source of fiber, which slows down the digestion of glucose so you don’t get the energy high/insulin spike followed by a sugar crash like you do when you eat refined sugar. Fruit also contains water, which helps to prevent dehydration and the tired, drained feeling that comes with it that mimic blood-sugar dips.
Fruit juice (if the fiber has been removed) will differ from fruit in the way it affects energy levels. While it still provides important nutrients that the body uses for good health, portions should be limited to prevent a blood-sugar spike and also to prevent weight gain.
Be mindful that added sugars in foods and drinks may be listed on labels as: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup and white sugar and more.