Carbohydrates - Let’s look at how our body uses carbohydrates and the health affects.

Sugar is part of the carbohydrate food group.

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient providing our bodies with energy. There are two types simple and complex forms.

Simple Carbohydrates = table sugar (sucrose), fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). If you have a lollipop, you're eating simple refined carbohydrates. Fruit and milk don’t contain added sugars they are a source of natural sugar(they also contain vitamins, fiber and nutrients).

Complex carbohydrates (starches) = beans, wholegrains, vegetables. As with simple carbohydrates we also have healthier choices within complex carbohydrate foods. Refined grains such as white flour and rice, have had the bran and germ layers removed.  This processing removes nearly all of the fiber and many of the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.  Some fiber and vitamins and minerals can be added back (such as in white bread) but these are not necessarily grain derived.  More importantly, the phytochemicals (which are linked to significant health benefits) which have been removed in refined grains cannot be added back.


Glucose is absorbed into the blood stream and is our main source of energy which is essential for our body cells, brain and muscles to function. Increase in blood glucose levels stimulates insulin a hormone released from our pancreas. Insulin acts as a key required to unlock our cells allowing the glucose to move out of the blood and into the cells. Any extra glucose we consume is moved to the liver where it is then primarily stored for later use as glycogen. Think of glycogen as our overflow energy tank, if our glycogen levels are at maximum capacity any excess glucose is then converted to fat.


Fructose is absorbed into the blood stream and then moves directly to the liver. It is either stored as glycogen or converted to fatty acids (triglycerides and low density lipoprotein [LDL]). Its these fatty acids which have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, obesity and fatty liver disease.

So what about fructose in fruit then?

The fiber in fruit hugely affects the metabolism of fructose. The fiber slows down digestion therefore the fructose doesn't get direct access to the liver. When fructose accesses the liver quickly there is no regulation therefore rapidly gets turned info fat. This processes is greatly affected when the fructose is absorbed with fiber. 


The bottom line.

Too much sugar both in the form of glucose and fructose can have negative health impacts on our body and liver resulting in over eating, fatty liver disease, diabetes and obesity.

It’s not just the type of carbohydrate we consume but also the rate at which our body is able to access these sugars. Our body has to work harder to digest and absorb the sugar molecules in complex carbohydrates, this results in a slow release of sugar into the blood stream which allows the pancreas, insulin, liver, muscle, brain and other cells time to effectively utilise and access the energy from these sugars rather than converting them to fat.


Keep an eye out for Part 3 of the Sugar Series: Natural Sugar vs Added Sugar