Understanding Sugar and How the Body Uses It

Sneakz Milkshakes have less Sugar than...

Did you know that 1 Sneakz milkshake has less sugar than a banana and about the same amount of sugar as 1 cup of milk? Also, the sugar in each of these products is different from the other and the body processes each uniquely.

The Different Kinds of Sugar 

Sugar can be a confusing topic. First of all, there are three monosaccharides: glucose, fructose, and galactose. These are all 1 unit molecules. From these, we can make disaccharides which are two unit molecules. Glucose and fructose make sucrose which is what we think of as table sugar or cane sugar. Glucose and galactose joined together are lactose, the sugar found in animal and human milk. Two glucose molecules together are known as maltose. When many molecules of glucose are strung together this is known as a “complex carbohydrate”. It isn’t thought of as a sugar because it takes longer to break down; however, once digestion takes place even complex carbohydrates become sugar in the body. (Side note: that is actually a good thing.)

Let’s take a deeper look at the process of digestion, absorption, and use of sugars in the body and why portion control and balance matter so much in this area.

How the Body Metabolizes Sugar

When we consume a product with sucrose in it, such as the cane sugar in Sneakz, an enzyme called sucrase is released and sucrose is broken into glucose and fructose. Similarly, lactase acts on lactose (the sugar in milk) to break it down into glucose and galactose. Complex carbohydrate digestion actually starts in the mouth with salivary amylase and then continues in the small intestine with a more enzymatic breakdown. Eventually, we have glucose, fructose (the sugar in the banana mentioned above), and galactose freed up. However, the body is built to use glucose for energy, so there is one more step. Fructose and galactose are taken to the liver for further digestion while glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and insulin are released from the pancreas.

sneakz kids playing

There are now three options for Glucose.

The first is that insulin can help glucose enter into our cells for energy. The brain and central nervous system rely solely on glucose for energy so they are given priority for use and then other parts of the body.

Once the body has taken what it needs, then glucose can be stored in the liver and in our muscle tissue in the form of glycogen. I think of glycogen as bread sitting in the body ready for use. There is another hormone that the pancreas releases called glucagon when it is time for the body to use stored glycogen.

The third step for any glucose that is leftover after glycogen is stored is that it can be stored as fat. This is where portion control comes in. If you have small meals all day long then the body will use carbohydrates for immediate energy needs and stored glycogen. If we consistently eat more than the body needs/can store at one time, then we are continuously offering a more adipose tissue. So the moral of the story here is that carbohydrates are not the enemy...portion size is!

Now, what about the fructose and galactose that headed to the liver? Well, they eventually are converted to sources of usable energy and again either used for immediate energy or stored as fat depending on the volume of consumption.

Fructose is the main sugar in fruit and accompanies many wonderful vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants entering the body. Fructose consumption from other sources such as high fructose corn syrup is of concern. This is something that should be avoided by people of all ages, especially children. It has been linked to obesity and chronic illnesses and yet is unfortunately found in many processed products.

sneakz milkshakes

When choosing products for our children there are a few things to consider.

The first is to avoid any product with high fructose corn syrup.

The second is to limit exposure to sugar alcohols and sugar alternatives as children need calories for energy.

The third is to ensure that when added cane sugar is consumed that it is offered as part of a high nutrient dense food such as Sneakz Organic or flavored Greek yogurt and not empty calories as found in cookies and candy.

Author: Noelle Martin
Noelle is a mom of 5-year-old twin boys and a 3-year-old son. She is also a Registered Dietitian with a passion for educating and inspiring people of all ages about making healthy choices. Noelle loves serving Sneakz milkshakes to her boys and making smoothies, muffins, pancakes, and more using Sneakz protein/probiotic powder.