When it comes to eating sugar a question I get asked quite often is, "How much fruit can I eat?" The sugar found in fruit is "fructose" and it is different than glucose. I hope to set the record straight regarding the fructose found in fruit and the fructose found in processed foods.
The myth is that fructose is a “healthy” sugar while glucose is bad for you. In fact, in recent years, there has been a rise in sweeteners that contain this “healthy” sugar, such as the dreaded agave nectar. I sincerely hope that this information (please help spread it!) makes more people aware of the differences in sugar types, and makes more people know to avoid agave at all costs.
Fructose is one type of sugar molecule. It occurs naturally in fresh fruits, giving them their sweetness. Because of this, many people consider fructose “natural,” and assume that all fructose products are healthier than other types of sugar.
Likewise, fructose has a low glycemic index, meaning it has minimal impact on blood glucose levels. This has made it a popular sweetener with people on low-carbohydrate and low-glycemic diets, which aim to minimize blood glucose levels in order to minimize insulin release. But the glycemic index is not the sole determining factor in whether a sweetener is “healthy” or desirable to use.
Because fructose is very sweet, fruit contains relatively small amounts, providing your body with just a little bit of the sugar, which is very easily handled. If people continued to eat fructose only in fruit and occasionally honey as our ancestors did, the body would easily process it without any problems.
Unfortunately, the traditional Western diet is extremely high in fructose, which is present in many processed foods, soda, baked goods, crackers, canned goods, and many others. The result is a toxic load. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fructose intake has increased dramatically in the past few decades.
The problem with fructose is that when you consume large amounts of it in its concentrated form (agave, crystalline fructose, high-fructose corn syrup), it goes straight to your liver, avoiding the gastrointestinal tract altogether. This places a heavy toxic load on your liver, which must work very hard to process it, sometimes resulting in scarring.
Additionally, fructose is converted by the liver into glycerol, which can raise levels of triglycerides. High triglycerides are linked to increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
High fructose intake has been associated with:
Increased levels of circulating blood lipids
Fat around the middle
Increased levels of uric acid (associated with gout and heart disease)
Liver scarring (cirrhosis)
The formation of AGE’s* (advanced end glycation products), which can lead to wrinkling and other signs of skin aging
*Some studies show that fructose creates AGE’s up to 10 times more efficiently than glucose
Bottom line, a little fruit is just fine – it contains small amounts of fructose that the body can easily metabolize. Concentrated fructose in HFCS, agave, and crystallized fructose on the other hand, can cause a real health problem and should be avoided.
To your best health,
Owner/Body Basics Fitness
5 Powder Horn Drive Warren, NJ 07059