are carbs or sugars in foods like bread or crackers “equal” to those in fruits?


I saw my friend eating a banana, and he said “I’m trying to eat more fruits instead of junk like bread and crackers”, and my other friend said “that doesn’t matter. Carbs are carbs.”

Now at face value, it seems a bit silly: we are all brought up to believe that fruits have other nutrients that are beneficial to us. But in the end, are the carbs in both sources the same? Similarly, can one say that the sugars one obtains in a fruit are the same as those obtained in a candy bar?

My intuitive understanding is, while “sugar” is in fact just sugar (irrespective of the source), the reason we consider fruits or vegetables important is because of the other nutrients and vitamins they contain, giving them an overall better nutritional profile than their processed counterparts. In addition, I think that the chemical modifications that manufacturers make to their goods are considered unhealthy. But In the end, is it fair to say that a “carb is just a carb”? Or sugar a sugar?

In: Biology

Every type of carb provides the same amount of energy by weight but the speed they get converted to usable energy varies. This is known as the glycemic index. Simple sugars found in soda and simple starches in processed/fried foods quickly get converted to blood sugar. More complex starches like those in oatmeal take longer to enter your blood stream. Spikes in blood sugar can lead to health issues like diabetes.

Fruit sugars are a bit more complicated. Studies have shown that eating whole fruit makes the processing slow down due to the fiber in the fruit. In addition, you may not realize how much fruit sugars you are taking in while drinking juice (one glass of orange juice can be 2 – 4 whole oranges. Try eating that in one sitting).

There are complex and simple sugars. Things like candy bars and sodas have simple sugars, which don’t require as much time to be broken down and can be used very quickly to create energy . This is what people call a sugar high. The sugar crash happens when we quickly exhaust the sugar and are left with low energy.

Complex sugars require time to be broken down, so they are absorbed and converted into energy much slower. This means that they provide sustained energy over a longer period of time.

Carbs are made of starch or sugar. Starches are broken up into glycemic index which affects your blood sugar response. Generally a low glycemic index food is more preferable as to not cause spikes in your blood sugar. Such as brown rice vs white rice.

Then sugar is broken up as well into glucose which is from starches, fructose, and sucrose. Fructose is probably the worst for you then glucose then sucrose. But any added sugar (as opposed to naturally occuring) should be avoided.

So yes there are good and bad carbs. Same for fats, which are broken in mono unsaturated, poly unsaturated, saturated, and trans.

Eating an apple and eating candy both have sugar or carbs. But the apple is healthy because of the nutrients which the candy does not likely have.

So healthy is something that has nutrients such as vitamins and minerals in addition to fats, carbs, and protein. “Empty” carbs are carbs such as candy and soda which contain no nutrients.

So carbohydrates are a category that includes starches and sugars. Both if them have sub categories, like complex starches which are chains of simple starches, and there are many types of sugars, glucose, fructose, maltose, etc.

Different types of foods will have different ratios of those.

You’re correct regarding vegetables & minerals; bear in mid also that there is a wide array of other vital chemicals (e.g. omega-3) in some fruits & veggies which might not appear in, say, a multivitamin.

One important difference in the carbs is the glycemic load of a food. Yes, they are all carbs – and yes, the fructose in an apple is the same as the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup. What makes it different is how hard & fast the sugar hits your body – known as the **glycemic load** (similar to the related **glycemic index**, but multiplied by serving size). The glycemic load is mostly used by diabetics to know what foods to avoid, but there is some evidence that it is also useful for things like *avoiding* diabetes, maintaining low cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight – all factors that make a food “healthy.”

The glycemic load is based around serving size (e.g. a bottle of soda versus one banana), the type of carbohydrate (glucose goes straight to your bloodstream, whereas others must be broken down first), and whether the carbohydrate is trapped inside a sponge of fiber, protein and fat. Trapped carbs are slow to enter your blood stream, as they must be released first.

Pure sugar has a glycemic load of 100. Simple starchy carbs can have a high glycemic load, whereas the glycemic load of fruits and vegetables tends to be much lower. You can look up glycemic load charts online, but be sure to check the serving size listed. One slice of white bread has a low load of 10… but two slices have a moderate load of 20, and three have a very-high load of 30.