Carbohydrates are generally known as sugars, but in speaking of sugar we should specify the variety.
Single sugars or monosaccharides are found in fruits and honey and include glucose and fructose. Double sugars or disaccharides are found in cane sugar and milk and include sucrose and lactose. Complex sugars or polysaccharides are found in grains, beans, and vegetables and include cellulose. In the normal digestive process, complex sugars are decomposed gradually and at a nearly even rate by various enzymes in the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and intestines. Complex sugars enter the bloodstream slowly after being broken down into smaller saccharide units. During the process, the pH of the blood remains slightly alkaline.
In contrast, single and double sugars (together known as simple sugars) are metabolized quickly, causing the blood to become overacidic. To compensate for this extreme yin condition, the pancreas secretes a yang hormone, insulin, which allows excess sugar in the blood to be removed and enter the cells of the body. This produces a burst of energy as the glucose (the end product of all sugar metabolism) is oxidized and carbon dioxide and water are given off as wastes. Diabetes, for example, is a disease characterized by the failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to neutralize excess blood sugar following years of extreme dietary consumption.
Much of the sugar that enters the bloodstream is originally stored in the liver in the form of glycogen until needed, when it is again changed into glucose. When the amount of glycogen exceeds the liver’s storage capacity of about 50 grams, it is released into the bloodstream in the form of fatty acid. This fatty acid is stored first in the more inactive places of the body, such as the buttocks, thighs, and midsection. Then, if cane sugar, fruit sugar, dairy sugar, and other simple sugars continue to be eaten, fatty acid becomes attracted to more yang organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, which gradually become encased in a layer of fat and mucus.
This accumulation can also penetrate the inner tissues, weakening the normal functioning of the organs and causing their eventual blockage as in the case of atherosclerosis. The buildup of fat can also lead to various forms of cancer, including tumors of the breast, colon, and reproductive organs. Still another form of degeneration may occur when the body’s internal supply of minerals is mobilized to offset the debilitating effects of simple sugar consumption. For example, calcium from the teeth may be depleted to balance the excessive intake of candy, soft drinks, and sugary desserts.
In order to prevent these degenerative effects, it is important to avoid or minimize the consumption of refined carbohydrates, as well as naturally occurring lactose and fructose in dairy foods and fruits, and to eat carbohydrates primarily in the form of polysaccharides found in grains, beans and bean products, vegetables, and seaweed.