Is fructose really the devil?

Following on from my post a few months back, Is sugar really the devil? alongside this recent outbreak of SCURVY in Australia (yes that thing we learned about in high school where sailors had bleeding gums and their teeth fall out because of a deficiency in vitamin C) PLUS the crazy “fructose free” sugar syrups sitting on shelves under the banner “I Quit Sugar” (again see my previous post, it’s STILL sugar). I thought it was about time I addressed this crazy idea that fructose is causing us a problem (long story short: that’s not what’s making us sick or fat).

What is fructose?

Fructose is also known as “fruit sugar” and is also makes up half of the sugar sucrose also known as “table sugar”. Fructose is not known to be damaging to us, when the amounts of fructose in the diet exceed the amount of glucose (another sugar), that’s when your body can’t absorb anymore then issues such as diarrhoea may occur. Some people may also have a greater sensitivity to fructose (as it is a FODMAP), if this is you see your GP and a dietitian to help you through that.

Where is it found?

Despite fructose being called the “fruit sugar”, there are many more items in the supermarket that contain fructose outside the fruit & veg section. This is as a result of the development of high fructose corn syrup – derived from corn. This highly concentrated, inexpensive product is found in soft drinks giving them that sweet taste. I suspect this is the origin of where fructose got an undeserving bad rap!

What happens if I cut out fruit?

Well, personally I think you’re missing out on nature’s healthful dessert! Full of sweetness (that IS NOT “bad” for you), fibre, antioxidants and of course vitamin C as well as a number of nutrients. Two pieces of fruit per day has been associated with many health benefits and also preventing some serious chronic diseases. And look they’re pretty damn beautiful, they’re basically begging to be eaten!

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Image: lovethispic

Cutting out fruit not only gets rid of the so-called “devil” fructose, but it also gets rid of key vitamins and minerals including vitamin C. Which is why we are seeing this resurgence of what I always thought was a sailor’s disease – scurvy. Scurvy is characterised by a low immune system, poor absorption of iron (which can lead to it’s own issues – see my post on Iron Deficiency), as well as the breakdown of collagen (yes, ladies that substance that keeps your skin nice and firm and also holds your teeth in their spots too!).

How much fruit is enough?

EVERYONE (unless medically directed otherwise) should enjoy two large pieces of fruit (approximately 150 g each) such as an apple, banana or pear OR 2 small pieces of fruit (such as kiwi fruit or nectarines) every day. Two pieces are need to obtain a health benefit and also to reach your daily vitamin C needs.

Now, before your run out and buy a vitamin C supplement and continue to avoid fruit, remember that vitamin C is water-soluble and most of us only need 45 mg per day, most of those supplements are in excess of this requirement (1000 mg) meaning you’re basically weeing out your expensive supplements. As I like to say, a vitamin C supplement is really just giving you pricey piss!

What about fruit juice?

Fruit juice is a bit of a tricky area. Only 100 mL of fruit juice OCCASIONALLY counts towards a serve of fruit – yes people, that is LESS than half a cup! The reason why fruit juice is limited is because you don’t get the benefit of fibre (most of the time) with the sugars from the fruit meaning it is digested much more quickly. Whole fruit juices such as those that are blended NOT juiced are better, however, consider how much more fruit is packed into that takeaway juice and whether you could reasonably eat 7 or 8 oranges in one sitting. The concentration of fruit and sugar is much higher and is more than what you need (remember two pieces of fruit not 7 or 8). Eating WHOLE fruits is definitely what is advised to get all the healthful benefits.

And there is no better time to eat your serves of fruit with mango and berry season! YUM!

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Instagram: @stefanievalakas
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