Main types of Sugar you should know

Author: FITivate | Published date: December 1, 2021 | Category: Nutrition
types of sugar

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Sucrose VS Glucose VS Fructose

Sucrose, Glucose and fructose are all nuanced types of sugar with differences in their chemical structures. They are generally catagorised into 2 types, monosaccharides and disaccharides.

For Sucrose

is basically table sugar.  Sucrose is a disaccharide, which is made up of 2 monosaccharides – one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose. Why is it important to know this? It is because, the body needs to break down sucrose into its singular molecules in the small intestine before it can be absorbed.

For Glucose 

it is known as simple sugar or a monosaccharide.  Since it cannot be broken down further, it gets absorbed directly across the lining of the small intestine into the blood stream. As it raises blood sugar the fastest, it significantly stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreas to control the blood sugar levels. The insulin helps the cells make use of the glucose for energy, with the excess stored as glycogen for future use. And the even more excess will be stored as fats.

For Fructose (or fruit sugar)

it is also a monosaccharide, and gets directly absorbed into the blood stream. However, it does not raise your blood sugar levels as fast as glucose does because the liver needs to convert it glucose before it can be utilised for energy (1).

Yes, no matter what sort of sugar you are getting your sources from, the bottom line you need to know is that too much of sugar still gets stored as fats and the pancreas will need to be placed on overdrive to produce insulin to tackle the spike in blood sugar levels. You may question to say that since fructose does not raise blood sugar levels that quickly, it should be the healthier version right? Well, the same argument I am going to put forth, which is, excess sugar still results in fats being stored, and this will lead to obesity. Based on numerous statistics and studies, obesity is the number 1 cause of type 2 diabetes and many other chronic illnesses.

Common Names of Sugars you should note!

There are many names given to added sugar and It can be confusing. Some may even sound like they are better, healthier alternatives. When it comes to added sugar, which is the ones that we are most concerned about, rather than those naturally occurring in whole foods, we basically have 3 most common groups, namely sucrose, glucose and fructose. These are the most common sugar groups that are added to foods to make them taste better.

Common sugar names

Other than sucrose, those sugars that contain both fructose and glucose include :

  • High Fructose corn syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate (yes even though fruits contain fructose, they also contain certain percentage of glucose as well)
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Raw sugar

Some sugars that only contain glucose :

  • Barley malt
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Malt syrup
  • Lactose
  • Maltose

Those sweeteners that only contain fructose are usually just called fructose in the ingredient list.

This list is of course non exhaustive, but the most important thing to look out for will also be the nutrition facts panel. This will be indicative of the grams per serving when you consume the food item (2).

By : Alvin Ho

B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)



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