Fructose is a simple sugar found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are whole foods. They are nutritionally rich–they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre, enzymes, phytonutrients, and water. The fructose hits the liver slowly, and in small amounts, so the body can easily process it. Fruits and vegetables are also filling and can help to reduce sugar cravings since they are naturally sweet. The body is capable and well adapted to metabolize whole foods.
The problem comes with added sugars found in processed foods. Added sugars include sucrose, which is mostly fructose, and added fructose in any form – including high-fructose corn syrup and crystalline fructose – can have harmful consequences on our health, especially when eating in large amounts, which most people do. Most fructose in the American diet does not come from fresh fruits but from added sugars found in processed foods.
Most people see fructose on a food label and think it’s healthy. The reality is that added fructose is not healthy, and not even safe. Many studies have even identified fructose as a toxin. Added fructose is actually a cheap sweetener found in processed foods, normally derived from corn. It’s important to know that not all sugars are the same. Glucose, for instance, is what our body normally uses for energy. It’s metabolized differently in the body than fructose.
Fructose is in fact metabolized in the liver. When fructose (from processed foods) hits the liver in large amounts, it creates triglycerides (a type of fat), free radicals and uric acid. Triglycerides accumulate in the liver and muscle tissues, and they contribute to plaque inside artery walls. These fats also contribute to obesity, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease. Free radicals damage cells and contribute to aging and heart diseases, and elevated uric acid is associated with gout, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Sugar also accelerates aging and feeds cancer cells.
The best thing to do is to stick with wholesome foods – what our body was designed to metabolize. When using added sugar, use in moderation and choose natural sugars such as pure maple syrup; organic, local honey; coconut sugar and coconut nectar, yacon syrup, dates or pureed fruits or root vegetables, or green stevia. Stay away from agave, refined honey, corn syrup, refined white sugar and all artificial sweeteners.