Watch out for fructose

Fruit sugar (fructose) is a simple sugar that has a low glycemic index, which means it does not raise the blood sugar too high or fast, unlike other sugars, such as glucose or even table sugar (sucrose).

Fructose can be used for energy as it can be converted into glucose, but because that takes a little time and a little work from your body it doesn’t have the same impact on blood sugar as glucose.

The small amount of fructose in fruits and vegetables — especially because the fructose is delivered with fiber and a little bit of protein — is not dangerous or bad. In fact, there is evidence that fructose delivered in whole foods, such as fruits, veggies or a well-balanced meal replacement, can actually help you process glucose properly.

The problem in today’s society is that 10 percent of our diet is fructose. Compare this with the very small amounts of fructose in our ancestors’ diets.

In most parts of the world, people used to consider a piece of fruit a rare treat and refined sugars were absent from their food sources. Nowadays our liver is overwhelmed with fructose, and responds by converting it into fat, mostly triglycerides.

High levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease.

High levels of fructose do not signal the satiety triggers in your brain, so you end up eating more and getting fatter, and high fructose consumption appears to facilitate insulin resistance leading to Type II diabetes.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is one of the leading problems in this category of sweeteners, largely because it is very inexpensive and “food” manufacturers throw it into just about anything in order to “enhance” the flavor.  

So here’s an example of how much fructose we might consume unknowingly. A cup of chopped tomatoes that you might prepare yourself has about 2.5 grams of fructose.

A can of regular soda has 23 grams, and a super-size soda has 62 grams of fructose. Holy heart attack!

Honey has about the same amount of fructose/glucose ratio as high-fructose corn syrup. And fruit juices that are sweetened also contained high levels of fructose, as does agave syrup.

Fructose consumption is linked to visceral fat. A new study by the American Society of Nutrition has shown the strong link between fructose consumption and cardio-metabolic risk in adolescents.

This study was based not on teenagers’ propensity to enjoy a nice plate of fruits and veggies, but on their love of junk food and soda, leading to fat deposits around their organs, under their skin, higher levels of heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure.

The researchers concluded that a diet high in fructose leads to many increased risk factors for heart disease, even among young people. Researchers also concluded that, although HFCS is often demonized, table sugar — which is nearly identical to HFCS — is just as bad, especially in the quantities consumed today.

The best way to feed your body is to go for minimally processed organic foods, and think always of how people fed themselves for millennia.

They did not reach for sodas and Twinkies. They ate whole foods grown organically or wild, and they did not overeat. Be real, go natural!

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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