If you have a sweet tooth, you'll appreciate that almost all of our drinks contain fructose, a natural fruit sugar that burns slowly in your body to provide long-lasting energy, unlike ordinary table sugar. You'd rather just eat an orange? When you consider that the sugar content of an orange is only about 30% fructose, along with 50% sucrose (ordinary table sugar) and 20% glucose (grape sugar), it's clear that this combination makes for a good natural antifreeze for the orange, but it's a poor carbohydrate system when you desire long-lasting energy and carbohydrate hunger control.
Ordinary table sugar (cane or beet sugar, sucrose) and grape sugar (glucose) are absorbed from your digestive tract relatively quickly, causing your pancreas to release a lot of insulin, the natural hormone required to metabolize the sudden big surge in your blood sugar levels. The average amount that your blood sugar rises after you eat a given amount of a particular carbohydrate is called that carbohydrate's glycemic index. The natural fruit sugar fructose has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of any food - with a rating of only 20, compared to 31 for skimmed milk, 59 for sucrose (ordinary table sugar), 92 for carrots, and 98 for an equal weight of baked russet potato. This means that 1 ounce of fructose raises your blood sugar only about 1/3 as much as an ounce of sucrose, and it releases only about 1/3 as much insulin. And a baked potato raises your blood sugar almost 5 times higher than a comparable amount of fructose!
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High glycemic index carbohydrates can cause major problems for your body's fat control program. First, your elevated insulin level makes the sugar that you don't promptly burn enter your fat storage cells where it is converted to stored body fat. Your genes are preparing you to survive a famine, but in a country with plenty of food this famine life insurance can make you fat.
Second, all that insulin can make so much sugar leave your blood stream that you become hypoglycemic two or three hours later (your blood sugar falls below normal). When this happens, your brain and body functions are not up to par, and you will crave more carbohydrates, and you may feel irritable. If the carbohydrates that you then eat release another big dose of insulin, the same vicious cycle repeats itself again and again every few hours. This is precisely what happens to cattle when they are fattened in a feedlot. In fact, doses of insulin can make experimental animals hyperphagic (eat abnormally large amounts of food), and hyperobese. Some scientists have even called insulin a "hunger hormone."
Dr. Judith Rodin conducted an experiment with three groups of people who were either given a 192 calorie fructose drink, (glycemic index = 20, low insulin release fruit sugar) or a 192 calorie glucose drink, (glycemic index = 100, high insulin release grape sugar) or a plain water drink. Two hours later they ate as much of a delicious buffet as they wished. The people who got the fructose drink ate an average of 476 calories less than the people who got the glucose drink. That 476 calories per day is a difference of 23 pounds of body fat per year - without dieting, hunger, or exercise! In fact, the people who got the fructose drink ate fewer calories - including the calories in the fructose - than the people who got the plain water! (This improved blood sugar control is why many physicians advise many of the diabetic patients to replace other carbohydrates in their diet with fructose.) Note that the so-called "high fructose" corn syrup used to sweeten most soft drinks contains only 42% or 55% fructose; most of the rest is glucose and the overall result, in terms of insulin released, is about on a par with table sugar (sucrose).
When you eat, especially when snacking, try to substitute low glycemic index foods for an equal number of calories of high glycemic index foods. You can often find low glycemic index foods that are sweeter and that you like better than the foods that many unscientific diet books recommend. You will probably be surprised to learn that carrots have a glycemic index over four times as high as fructose, and that fruit sugar fructose has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of any food measured so far.
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