Simple carbohydrates are the sugars. They are grouped by the number of molecules they are made from. Single sugars, or monosaccharides, have one molecule. They include glucose, fructose, and galactose. Sugars that are composed of two molecules are called disaccharides. They include lactose, maltose, sucrose, and honey.
Glucose is made by plants during photosynthesis as energy for the plant. Also known as dextrose, it is the human body’s first source of energy. Most of the carbohydrates you eat are broken down into glucose by the body. It is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, concentrating in the blood.
This concentration is measured as your blood sugar level. You must eat 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates each day to maintain good blood sugar levels. Glucose is found in plants, fruits, and honey.
Fructose and Galactose
Fructose is found in honey, fruits, and plants as well. It is sweeter than glucose and table sugar. Galactose occurs in nature only as one of the two molecules that make up lactose.
Also known as milk sugar, lactose is a disaccharide composed of one glucose and one galactose molecule. Found naturally in milk, it is the only carbohydrate that is animal-based. It is not commonly thought of as a sugar because it is not nearly as sweet as glucose.
This disaccharide is composed of two glucose molecules. It is mainly seen in sprouting grains and is a vital component of beer. Brewers soak grain, usually barley, in water, until germination. The maltose is also extracted and used to make malt syrup, a common ingredient in artisan breads.
Refined Sugar: Sucrose
Sucrose is ordinary table sugar, derived from sugar cane and sugar beets. It is composed of one glucose and one fructose molecule. It occurs in small amounts in most fruits and is the most widely used sweetener in American homes.
Sucrose provides quick energy, but it is stripped of its additional nutrients in the refining process, so it is not the ideal form of carbohydrate. The human body needs the entire natural package of a piece of fruit, or a tablespoon of honey, which, unlike table sugar, also includes fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals.
This disaccharide is also composed of one glucose and one fructose molecule. Honey is more concentrated than sucrose, which makes it twice as sweet. Consequently, less is needed when it’s used as a sweetener.
The body breaks down and uses both sucrose and honey in the same way, but honey is a naturally occurring sweetener that needs no refinement. It contains other elements that are considered healthful, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Honey can be substituted for granulated sugar as a sweetener, but because it is twice as sweet, use half as much.