Are Simple Sugars Carbohydrates?

Diabetes is a medical condition in which sugars are not used properly for energy. This can be due to genes, lifestyle, medications, pregnancy or a medical condition.

Simple carbohydrates are simple sugars that are made up of glucose, fructose, and galactose. It is called simple carbohydrates because it has a chemical composition of only one sugar molecule. Thus, glucose, fructose, and galactose are called monosaccharides; mono (one); saccharide (sugar).

Food Sources:

Simple carbohydrates can be found naturally in fresh and dried fruits, honey, sodas, corn syrup, milk and dairy products, sweetened desserts, pastries, and instant cereals, refined sources like table sugar including candies.

Interesting Fact: Fructose gives honey its sweetened flavor. It is also the sweetest form of sugar.

How Simple Sugar Affects The Pancreas, Blood Sugar, And Insulin

After digestion, blood sugar rises. This reaction is normal because our body cells need to utilize glucose from the blood for energy. When you eat or drink sugary substances, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin to lower down the surge of blood sugar by allowing our muscle and fat cells to absorb blood glucose. However, a person with diabetes cannot produce enough insulin to cope up with this normal body process, which would result in high blood glucose levels or hyperglycemia.

What is the Simple Carbohydrates Digestion Time

Simple sugar molecules require minimal to almost no breakdown when it comes to digestion. As a matter of factly, the monosaccharides in the small intestine have a quick absorption rate. After which, the absorbed molecules travel into the liver, the site of glucose conversion.

In the end, complete digestion takes place in the large intestine. Most simple sugars are absorbed in the jejunum section of the small intestine. Nevertheless, there is no definite scientific timeframe as to when a simple carbohydrate can achieve its full emptying process. But most sugars are fully digested within 1-4 hours after eating.

When is the Best Time to Eat Simple Carbohydrates

When a person with diabetes is suffering from acute hypoglycemia,  a 15-gram dosage of simple sugars or carbohydrates are immediately given as an emergency treatment. The 15-gram serving of simple carbs could come from any of the following food sources: 4-6 oz of sweetened fruit juice, a ½ cup of non-diet soda or regular soft drink, 8-10 pieces of hard candies, 1 cup non-fat milk, and a serving of 2 tablespoons raisins.

Check the blood glucose level after 15 minutes. If still falls below normal, repeat the same procedure;  give another 15-gram-dosage of simple sugars. Wait for another 15 minutes and check; repeat until blood glucose returns to normal.

Note: For severe cases, it is recommended to seek the immediate professional help of a healthcare response provider.

Good vs. Bad Simple Carbohydrates

Even though foods that are rich in simple carbohydrates are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, there is no scientific justification that consuming such food sources could increase your blood glucose right after eating. But it is the total amount of carbohydrates in your diet that affects your blood sugar levels post-mealtime.

On the other hand, the ADA recommends that for those who are at risk and are having diabetes, to avoid sodas, sugared beverages including vitamin water, drinks flavored with corn syrup, concentrated fruit juices. The reason for this is to prevent weight gain and reduce the possibility of developing cardio diseases and diabetes.

What is the Glycemic Index of Simple Carbohydrates

In a simpler term, a glycemic index is a reference point as to how a certain kind of food could elevate our blood sugar level. The highest rank of a glycemic index is 100%.

The simple carbs like ice-cream and yogurt have a low glycemic response. Fructose (fruit) has a low to moderate glycemic index, while the sucrose (table sugar) falls in the moderate category with a 50-60% glycemic index.

Pros and Cons of Simple Carbohydrates


It adds palatability to food; enhancing its flavor, texture, and color.

It promotes appetite.

It is a food preservative.

For fruit and milk sugars, it is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

It provides calories needed for energy.


It promotes dental caries since it is a food favored by the bacteria in the mouth.

Excessive intake of which may lead to an overconsumption of total calories, which would lead to weight gain.

An unrestricted intake of simple carbohydrates may put the total carbohydrate allowance of a person with diabetes out of balance, which in turn could cause high blood glucose levels and obesity.

Table sugar alone cannot provide micronutrients needed for proper body nourishment.

Sweet desserts are empty of micronutrients yet high in total calories.

What are the Simple Sugars or Simple Carbohydrates to Avoid

Foods rich in simple sugars are not necessarily removed or avoided. A person with diabetes can still savor a serving of sweet but with LIMITATION and must be included or served as part of a healthy meal, like a dessert.

For example, for dinner, a healthy meal plan with varied menu choices may consist of a dessert of a 1 oz slice of plain brownie or a serving of ¾ cup mixed berries.

The main point of a healthy diabetic diet is to achieve variety, balance, and moderation in terms of food intake. Yes, it’s alright to have a moderate serving of a sweet dessert, as long as it fits in your total requirement of calories and carbohydrate counting as part of your daily meal plan.

But on another note, it is best to avoid the sugar-concentrated drinks.

Interesting Fact: A tablespoon of table sugar has 15 grams of carbohydrates the same goes to a serving of fruit and sweet desserts. Alternatively, a serving of milk and yogurt will give you 12 grams of carbohydrates.

The Bottomline:

To control diabetes, emphasize in the diet the carbohydrate food sources that are complex, like whole grains, vegetables, and beans from the starch and dietary fiber carbohydrate food group. While in the simple carbohydrates, consume the sources from fruits, low-fat, fat-free, or skim milk and dairy products. Spread this carbohydrate food evenly throughout the day.

Meanwhile, foods prepared and concentrated with refined sugar must only be consumed on rare occasions in a moderate portion as part of a healthy meal plan.


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Hypoglycemia: When Your Blood Sugar Gets Too Low. (n.d.).

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Klemm, S. (28, January 2019). Carbohydrates — Part of a Healthful Diabetes Diet.

Rolfes, Pinna, and Whitney. (2009). Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth