Carbohydrates Part 2: Glycemic Index

Ok, so I’ve clearly been delaying this article which continues from part 1 and talks about the Glycemic Index and I’ll apologize up front if it kind of sucks.  As usual, it wasn’t planned and the best structure flow has kind of eluded me.  So I’m just going to hammer it out and hope for the best.  But it will probably blow overall.

So  two weeks ago I looked semi-briefly at carbohydrate structure and classification and will summarize that even more briefly here.  There are three primary single sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose) which combine with each other to produce double sugars (sucrose, lactose, and maltose).  There is also High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which for all practical purposes is identical to sucrose.  I should have also mentioned that glucose is sometimes called dextrose which explains the naming of maltodextrins, longish chains of glucose that are often found in sports and other food products.

Extremely long chains of glucose are called starch in food and glycogen in the body.  Very generally the above can be divided into simple (the sugars) and complex (starches) carbohydrates with maltodextrins being in a weird middle place (probably best to consider them as complex carbs I guess).  There is also fiber which, while a carbohydrate, is treated very differently in the body in terms of how it is metabolized and it’s effects.

Diabetes Treatment: Part 1

In the early days of nutrition, here I am talking about the first half and maybe a little bit later in the 20th century, it was generally thought that sugars were more or less ‘bad’ and starches/complex carbohydrates were ‘good’.

At least some of this was based on nothing more than the foods that each were found in were generally thought to be ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’.  Sugar bad, complex carbohydrates good, ook ook. It’s worth noting that fruits contain simple sugars and, especially at the time, few would have considered those unhealthy.  That type of extremist stance would come later (thanks, Parillo).