Monosaccharides, or fructose, are the most basic form of carbohydrates. They are the equivalent of an atom in relation to molecules. Meaning, they are the simplest form of a carb. Although you may assume that all sugar is sweet, this is simply not true. Many monosaccharides are sweet, but not all of them.
There are different types of monosaccharides, these include:
- Glucose Or Dextrose
- Fructose Or Levulose
They are also the particles that make up cellulose and lactose. As carbohydrates are often composed of monosaccharides, it would be beneficial to take a deeper look into what exactly they are.
Carbohydrates are converted to energy, but an excessive amount of carbs can be changed to fat when the body is overloaded. Of course, humans do not need carbs, as proteins can be converted into carbs by the body. But the energy made from carbs is a lot quicker and more convenient.
Depending on age, climate, and the amount of exercise you get, you will need a different amount of carbs, therefore, a different amount of energy. The more you work, the more energy you need, and the colder it is where you live, the more energy you will need.
The American Heart Association highly recommends no more than 100 calories of sugar for women and 150 calories of sugar for men be consumed each day. However, as for carbs themselves, half of your daily intake of food should be filled with them. These carbs should be beans, veggies, fruits, and occasionally dairy.
How Do Monosaccharides Affect the Body?
One of the biggest effects of monosaccharides in the body is the energy it produces. Glucose is a common monosaccharide that produces energy. Glucose is used by plants to obtain fuel, and humans eat food to acquire this fuel.
Monosaccharides also lay out the structure of complex carbs and build amino acids, a very healthy compound that is used to create protein that builds muscle.
One of the main sugars that monosaccharaides create is fructose, a sugar that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. Normally, fructose comes from sugar cane, or sugar beets. Today, it is used to brown foods and sweeten them, as to enhance their taste. But there are also natural sources of fructose such as agave, maple syrup, honey, fruits, and even some vegetables.
Your brain and nervous system use these foods (as well as breads and other fast carbs) to make energy. The body breaks them down into molecules known as glucose. Glucose is a fast monosaccharide, whereas fructose is slower.
Benefits of Monosaccharides
Without any monosaccharides, our body could not function as it needs to. Every cell in our body needs energy from the food that we eat. Monosaccharides help the body decide what needs digested, what needs sent through the bloodstream, and what is part of the body.
If you do not have enough monosaccharides then your immune system will drop and your body will not be able to detect healthy food from harmful food, and you are more susceptible to catching colds and developing diseases.
Fructose is an especially helpful monosaccharide as it is much sweeter than others and takes less substance to add flavor. Not only that, but the sweeter taste will make you consume fewer calories as it doesn’t take as much. It also does not affect your blood sugar in the same way that other monosaccharides do. This is helpful for diabetics and those with diabetes in their sights.
Risks & Side Effects of Monosaccharides
Along with benefits, monosaccharides have their own set of risks.
Fructose especially has its fair share as absorption occurs in the intestines. If one consumes too much, the body will not have time to absorb the fructose, thus water will be drawn in causing a flushing of the system known as diarrhea.
Monosaccharides are also known to be addictive, which will lead to overeating and weight gain. It has been proven that those who eat more monosaccharides have more obesity-related health problems.
This overeating of monosaccharides can lead to insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes, as well as bad cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome.
Studies suggest that a high intake of monosaccharides (especially fructose) leads to heart disease, liver disease and hypertension.
Sources of Monosaccharides
Although Monosaccharides make up all carbs, high amounts can be found in many natural and non-natural foods, such as:
- Agave nectar
- Corn syrup
- Maple syrup
- All fruits
- Vegetables (though small amounts)
If you feel you do not receive enough monosaccharides, you can take supplements that contain a healthy amount of each type of sugar. However, these monosaccharides are over processed and not beneficial to the body:
- Brown sugar
- Table sugar
- Anything with high-fructose corn syrup
For good reason, they are called “empty calories” as they do nothing good for your body. They will give you short term energy but will not provide you with healthy vitamins, minerals, fiber and fatty acids.
It is highly recommended that you replace the unhealthy carbs and monosaccharides with healthy ones. This means:
- Replace white flour with a limited amount of whole wheat flour
- Replace sweets with fruits
- Replace white or brown sugar with honey or agave
- Replace high fat dairy products with lower fat (limited)
- Eat legumes, such as beans (unprocessed)
If you struggle with choices or don’t know which foods are okay and which ones are not, consult a health professional before making the changes.
As you can see, monosaccharides make up all carbohydrates, but the main sources of monosaccharides are found in foods with high volumes of fructose and glucose. It is a necessary component for the body, but an excess of almost anything is never beneficial.
Of course, ideally, you will choose the healthier monosaccharide sources such as fruits and veggies as opposed to raw sugar. As with anything else, balance is the key with monosaccharides and fructose.
The step you’ve taken to learn about monosaccharides is the first step and a milestone you should be proud of! So kudos to you for reading this informative guide!