Essential Sugars, part 1

There are eight monosaccharides which are found in foods and are essential to a healthy diet. The most commonly known one is glucose. Eating optimal amounts of this sugar will support several body systems in their functioning. This sugar is easily found in many common fruits and vegetables, as well as several herbs.

Glucose is the most commonly known sugar. It is manufactured by plants through the process of photosynthesis. Plants use energy from the sun, combined with carbon dioxide and water, to produce glucose. Glucose is the primary energy source needed by living cells, and requires no digestion. It can be utilized immediately in the bloodstream for many biochemical reactions. Glucose is sometimes also called dextrose.

Glucose is required for optimal functioning of the body. Firstly, it is the primary, fast energy source we use. When consumed, it raises the measurable blood glucose level immediately. In order to be used in cells, insulin must also be present. When it is present, glucose enters cells and is used. Secondly, excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. When needed, the pancreas releases glucagon and breaks down the glycogen, converting it back to glucose to be used to maintain the body’s balance, or homeostasis. Thirdly, glucose is essential to healthy brain functioning on several levels. An adequate blood glucose level is necessary to keep the brain working at all times, and low blood glucose can lead quickly to somnolence and brain cell death. Glucose can cause the brain to experience mania or depression when it is excessive or inadequate, and those with depression have a higher incidence of diabetes. It has been found that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have much lower glucose tolerance levels than those with other types of brain disease.

Glucose is easily found in many plant foods. It is found in all types of vegetables. The well-ripened vegetables have higher concentrations of glucose than those harvested before their prime. Seek sources of vegetables which are from local farmers whenever possible, for optimal glucose concentration. Glucose is in high concentration in grapes, mangoes, cherries, and strawberries. Raw bee honey is an excellent source of glucose, and is a sweetener which has many other additional health benefits. Glucose can also be found in cocoa, aloe vera, licorice, sarsaparilla, hawthorne, garlic, and echinacea. Fresh, unrefined sources of these herbs will yield the best glucose sources.

Enjoy raw salads made with combinations of several vegetables you enjoy, and you will provide healthy sources of glucose for your body! Choose to include mangoes, cherries, or strawberries to your salads for an extra dose of healthy essential sugar!

—Sarah Benson, BSN


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