Fructose is a type of simple sugar that makes up 50% of table sugar, with the other 50% being glucose, which is the main energy source for your body’s cells. It’s also found in various sugary sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup and agave syrup. If a product lists added sugar as one of its main ingredients, you can be pretty sure it’s high in fructose.
Why should it scare me?
Too much fructose in the form of added sugars may:
- Raise the levels of VLDL (the “bad”) cholesterol, leading to fat accumulation around the organs and potentially heart disease
- Increase blood levels of uric acid, leading to gout and high blood pressure
- Cause deposition of fat in the liver, potentially leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Cause insulin resistance, which can lead to obesity and type II diabetes
- Cause leptin resistance, disturbing body fat regulation and contributing to obesity
What’s more, fructose has been shown to increase the hunger hormoneghrelin and may make you feel less full after eating leading you to eatmore than your body needs.
It’s important to realize that all of this does not apply to whole fruit. Fruits aren’t just watery bags of fructose, they are real foods with a low calorie density. Whole fruit has a lot of fiber, which actually slows down your body’s digestion of glucose, so you don’t get the crazy insulin spike (and subsequent crash) that candy causes. That also means your body has more time to use up glucose as fuel before storing it — as fat.
Before the mass production of refined sugar, humans rarely consumed it in high amounts. While some sweet fruits and vegetables contain fructose, they are a minor source of fructose in the diet compared to added sugars. Fruit is hard to overeat and you would have to eat very large amounts to reach harmful levels of fructose.
We are bombarded by stories in the media about how sugar is bad for our health and sweets of all kind should be avoided. However, the desire for sweet-tasting foods is perfectly normal and natural. Indeed, our tongue contains an abundance of sweet receptors for a good reason. Fresh fruit, the source of natural sweetness, is health promoting and an excellent source of calories for the human body.
On average, Americans don’t eat enough fruit, so don’t cut it out of your diet in an attempt to limit your sugar intake. In fact, it’s a great way to satisfy that sugar craving. Sugar itself isn’t toxic, but getting too much of it from cookies and cake is, so keep that fruit handy as a healthy snack when you’re surrounded by sugary treats this Halloween.