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Since this is a bigger topic, I am going to divide it into two parts.


Today we will cover the SIMPLE carbohydrates or sugars.


Next time I will cover the COMPLEX carbohydrates found in whole foods.

Carbohydrates have generated much confusion in the world of nutrition.


The recent “low-carb” or “no-carb” trends are attempts to persuade us that carbohydrates are bad for our health.


Of course, this is untrue. Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient that provides the body with energy.


We need carbohydrates to make our muscles move and our brains work properly.

However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Different kinds of carbohydrates have very different effects on the body and the mind.


To balance our body chemistry and moods, we need to understand the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates.



Simple Carbohydrates

A simple carbohydrate or sugar consists of one or two sugar molecules. Different sugars are contained in different foods – there is fructose in fruits, maltose in grains and lactose in milk.


These three sugars are all disaccharides, each consisting of two sugar molecules.

Highly processed or refined white table sugar, also called sucrose, is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets.


It is also composed of two sugar molecules: one molecule glucose and one molecule fructose.


Think of it as pure sugar. There are no vitamins, minerals, enzymes or fiber in white sugar. It is therefore called an “empty food”.

Corn syrup, also called glucose syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, is a highly processed sugar product made from corn.


These two forms of refined sugar are routinely added to processed foods and also belong in the “empty food” group.

When we eat a lot of sugar – particularly refined/empty sugar – we cause a rapid rise of blood sugar, also called glucose.


We experience this rise as a “sugar high.”


Our body registers this condition as an emergency and signals the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin to counteract a potentially dangerous situation – too much sugar in the blood can lead to a coma.


When our blood sugar level shoots up so high and so quickly, the pancreas overcompensates and sends a burst of insulin into the bloodstream.


The surge of insulin then causes a drastic drop in blood sugar, and shortly after the “sugar high” we experience a “sugar low.”

Neither high nor low blood sugar levels feel good in the body.


When blood sugar is too high, we might feel hyper, dizzy and restless. We might experience headaches or brain fog. When blood sugar levels are too low, we lack energy, feel lethargic, cranky or shaky and have difficulty concentrating.


We feel best when our blood sugar level is balanced – neither too high nor too low.

Glucagon is the hormone that releases body fat to be burned for energy.


When we eat a lot of simple carbohydrates or foods that contain added sugars, our glucagon production gets suppressed.


And this means: while we feed our bodies sugar, our fat stays put.


That is an adaptive mechanism – the body wants to get back to a place of balance, and it needs to burn the sugar in the blood before it turns toward fat for energy.


Those of you who would like to lose weight please make a note of that!

Insulin takes the sugar to all our cells.


We need a certain amount of sugar for our brains to work and for our muscles to move.


But what happens to the sugar that we do not use up immediately?


Part of it gets stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles, the rest as body fat.

As you can see, excess sugar is a double whammy as far as body weight is concerned.


It prevents fat from being burned for energy, thereby preventing weight loss, and it gets transformed into body fat, causing weight gain.

Many foods that are high in calories – nuts, for example – are also full of nutrients, so they belong in a healthy diet.


Refined sugar is loaded with calories but has no nutrients.


That is why we say it delivers “empty calories.” It even depletes nutrients, particularly minerals, because the body uses minerals to digest sugar.


Naturally sweet foods like fruit come with their own supply of supportive minerals.


Refined sugar has none, so the body must dip into its mineral reserves in order to process it.


In addition, sugar triggers the excretion of B vitamins and most minerals.


So a diet high in simple carbohydrates will eventually deplete and weaken the body and set the stage for many devastating diseases.

Sugar literally paralyzes the immune system.


For hours after it is consumed, it prevents white blood cells from performing their task of killing germs.


It also curtails antibody production, interferes with vitamin C metabolism, causes mineral imbalances and makes our cells more vulnerable to bacteria and allergens.


It can also hasten the growth of tumors because tumor cells are more effective than healthy cells at utilizing glucose – they can do more with less.

A high blood insulin level – the result of a high blood sugar level – is linked to obesity and high blood pressure, both risk factors for heart disease.


Sugar is also known to exacerbate premenstrual syndrome, painful menstrual periods, yeast infections and candida. It is associated with depression, sleep disturbances and dental cavities.

Simple carbohydrates from highly processed and refined foods, such as white sugar, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, are most extreme in their negative effect on our bodies.


Unfortunately, these products are added to just about all commercially produced foods.

Biologically, we do not need to ingest sugar in its isolated form.


Our bodies can make all the blood sugar they need from the breakdown of complex carbohydrates.

Fruits and natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, barley malt and blackstrap molasses do contain simple carbohydrates, but they are much gentler on the body.


They are sweeteners that offer more than empty calories.


They provide us with nutrients such as minerals and vitamins, and honey provides enzymes as well.


Do practice moderation with juices from sweet fruits, such as orange, apple, pineapple, peach, apricot and plum.


Juice is not a whole food – it is missing the pulp and therefore the fiber of the original fruit. When the naturally occurring sugars in the whole fruit are liquefied, they become too readily available and act in the body like refined sugar and can cause a sudden sugar high.

To be continued next month!

Marika Blossfeldt




Apple Cranberry Hazelnut Crisp


A classic American recipe. There is something very satisfying about the combination of apples, cinnamon and oats. The cranberries add a little zing, and the aroma of the baked hazelnuts is irresistible.

Serving size      serves 10
Cooking time     60 minutes
Prepare time     30 minutes
Cooking level    easy

Food Recipe Keywords: crisp, apples, cinnamon, oats, hazelnuts


Food Recipe Ingredients

½ cup (120 ml) apple cider or juice
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
9 tart apples, hearts and seeds removed,
cut into small chunks
½ cup (120 ml) cranberries, halved

1½ cups (360 ml) rolled oats
½ cup (120 ml) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (240 ml) hazelnuts, halved
¹⁄³ cup (80 ml) maple syrup
½ stick (50 g) butter, cut into slices
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt


Food Recipe Instructions

1 Butter a 9 x 12-inch (22 x 30-cm) baking pan. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2 Pour the cider into a bowl and combine with the cornstarch. Stir in the remaining filling ingredients.
3 Combine the crust ingredients in a separate bowl.
4 Pour the filling mixture into the baking pan. Distribute the crust mixture over the filling.
5 Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes.
6 Remove the aluminum foil and continue to bake until the crust is crunchy and the juices of the filling are thick and bubbly, another 10 minutes.
Serve as is or with whipped cream, sour cream or vanilla ice cream.


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