On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

‘Carbs Are Bad’? Context Is Key

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I often read your column and know you preach a varied, plant-based diet with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and lean meats. But I keep seeing things on television and in the paper, and have even heard from a friend, that sugar/carbs are bad and should be limited. When I told my friend that I fix a yogurt and fruit smoothie every day, she said I shouldn’t be having all that sugar from the fruit. I countered with the idea that fruit’s sugar is natural and unprocessed, and that it also contains other good things like fiber and minerals. But am I missing something? -- A.T.B., via email

DEAR A.T.B.: The message that “sugar/carbs are bad” needs some context. If one has a healthful diet, such as the one you describe, sugars and carbs can become an issue if they are over-represented. Only then do they become “bad.” The rather simplistic take on this matter can lead well-meaning friends to inappropriately condemn healthful foods, such as fruits.

I’m unclear on the specific formula for your smoothie, but using whole fruits as sweeteners makes healthful, and flavorful, sense to me.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Over the years, I have given my family honey for allergies, coughs and sore throats. My son, who has a problem with high blood sugar, says he should not take honey as it is sugar. But I thought honey’s sugar was different from other sugars. Please inform me if it is safe to take honey if you have high blood sugar. -- E.S., El Cerrito, California

DEAR E.S.: Honey is most definitely a sugar, and in addition to its unique qualities as a product of bees, it has assets and liabilities associated with other caloric sugars. Regular table sugar, also known as sucrose, is composed of equal parts glucose and fructose. With sucrose, each glucose is attached to a fructose in a structure referred to as a disaccharide. Honey also has glucose and fructose, but they are present as separate compounds, each referred to as a monosaccharide, or single sugar.

To widen this circle a bit, consider that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a manufactured sweetener, is -- similarly to honey -- made up of glucose and fructose as monosaccharides. The carbohydrate difference is that honey has nearly equal portions of glucose and fructose, while HFCS, because it is manufactured, can have varying levels of its two monosaccharides. It usually favors more fructose than glucose.

For anyone with blood sugar issues, honey should be consumed with the same caution as any caloric sweetener.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.