Sugar in its many forms can be confusing, but if there’s one to get your head around it’s fructose. You might know fructose as the fruit sugar – I know I certainly used to a few years ago, before I got wise. It helps to understand fructose in a bit of detail, so here are the essentials you need to know (Don’t worry, I’m not going to bombard you with biochemistry here!).
What is fructose?
Fructose is a simple sugar that’s found naturally in fruit and in small amounts in some vegetables. It’s the sugar that makes things taste sweet and it exists as follows:
- Refined sugar (white stuff on grannie’s shelf) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose
- Honey is about 30-40% fructose
- Agave nectar is a whopping 90% fructose
- Fruits vary in fructose content. For example, bananas are higher, berries are lower
Fructose is unlike other sugars because it’s processed only by the liver. An excessive amount of fructose going through the liver puts strain on this organ. Our bodies just weren’t designed for the amount of fructose that is so readily available today (think fizzy drinks, 1litre cartons of smoothies and slabs of chocolate!).
The three main problems with fructose
1. It converts to fat & increases unhealthy cholesterol
Excess fructose in the liver converts to fatty acids as energy to be stored, so yes, it can lead to fat storage. This excess also increases bad cholesterol and uric acid. Whether it’s from honey, fruit, refined sources like chocolate, cake & sweets or agave nectar, you need to be conscious of your total fructose consumption.
2. You don’t feel full on fructose
Fructose doesn’t suppress your hunger hormones like other foods so you don’t feel as full on it. It’s why you can gorge or binge on sugar quite easily (now that explains my biscuit dilemma). Whilst fruit contains fructose, it also has fibre which does fill you up. This explains why you can’t eat 3 whole apples and a banana in one go (comfortably at least), but you could quite easily drink them in a juice or smoothie without feeling like a massive bloater.
3. It’s addictive
It’s this sweet sugar fructose that’s addictive. It’s the taste that hits the sweet spot when you’re craving, it releases the feel-good chemical in your brain and it wets your tastebuds for more. You want more and you need more to get the same hit. I know that feeling!
Managing your fructose intake
In your quest for low sugar, be aware that you want to really keep an eye out for the amount of fructose you eat day to day. Our bodies can tolerate a little a day, but not much. Different individuals may have varying sensitivities to fructose. I don’t count fructose grams (way too much hassle), but I’m largely aware of where it is and this is what guides me to eat it in moderation. I generally get my fructose from a few portions of fruit a day, if that.
You can build up a tolerance and taste for fructose. This is where you move towards sugar dependence or the addiction end of the scale. Likewise you can decrease your tolerance gradually reducing or detoxing off fructose.
In a nutshell, it’s important to consider refined sugar and natural fruit together in your daily fructose count and be aware of what it is (which this post should have explained).
I hope this has helped. Hit me if you have any more questions on fructose in the comments below?
Dr Rober Lustig, Sugar: The Bitter Truth (You Tube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
The Skinny on Obesity (Ep.7 ): Drugs Cigarettes Alcohol…Sugar? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWnbMnnLo5w&list=PL39F782316B425249&index=8