Carbohydrates and How They Work with Water

by | Oct 6, 2023 | ESL Edition

When we talk about carbs, or carbohydrates, we usually think about energy. Carbs are a main source of energy for our bodies. But carbs also have a special relationship with water, and depending on the type of relationship, carbs will affect our health in different ways.


Simple Sugars: How Table Sugar Mixes with Water

Let’s start with table sugar, also known as sucrose. Sucrose is made from two simpler sugars: glucose and fructose. When you put table sugar in water, it begins to mix with the water. If you add enough water, the sugar will completely dissolve. This is what happens when you put sugar in your coffee or tea.


Starch: A Different Way of Mixing with Water

Starch is different from sugar. It is made from many glucose units and is found in foods like potatoes and grains. When you mix starch with water, it doesn’t fully dissolve like sugar. Instead, it forms a kind of gel. That’s why we use starch to make foods thicker.


Soluble Carbs: Pectin and Beta-Glucans

Pectin and beta-glucans are another type of carb. They like water but they don’t dissolve in it. Instead, they make a gel-like substance with water. These carbs have special effects on our health. They don’t give us energy like sugar or starch. But they can be turned into short-chain fatty acids and give energy to cells in our gut, improving our digestion. This is good for our stomach and even for our brain, because of a special connection between the gut and the brain.


What This Means for Our Bodies

The way table sugar and starch mix with water affects how quickly our bodies can use them. When table sugar mixes with water in our stomach, it quickly goes into our blood. This makes our blood sugar go up fast, so our bodies make more of a hormone called insulin. Pectin and beta-glucans are different. They have more complex effects on our health, like helping with high cholesterol and diabetes.


Thinking Differently About Carbs

So, carbs do more than just give us energy. How they mix with water can affect our health in many ways. Understanding this can help us see how different carbs are good or bad for us.

Hi! I'm Hilary Jacobson, and I've been helping moms with milk supply issues for over 30 years. My book, 'Mother Food,' was a game-changer when it first came out, and I'm still at it—researching, writing, and teaching to make sure new moms get the support they need. Want to stay in the loop? Sign up to my newsletter for updates. 

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