Many diets, such as the Paleo diet, advise against consuming large amounts of sugar. There’s a good reason for this: too much sugar can cause any number of health problems, from diabetes to heart disease.
However, unlike many other unhealthy foods, sugar is found in natural foods that can be good for you, like fruits and vegetables. This can sometimes cause confusion – is sugar good for you, or bad? If you’re supposed to avoid sugar, why are people always saying to eat lots of fruit?
The problem with sugar comes with the way we consume it in our contemporary diets. Sugar-rich foods like candies, sodas, and sweeteners are relatively new inventions. Our diets did not always include nutrient-depleted sources of sugars.
The Truth About Fructose
What we really need to be cautious about when it comes to sugar is fructose. Glucose, another form of sugar which is often found alongside of fructose in substances like table sugar, is used by our cells for energy, while fructose, when consumed in large enough amounts, can damage your liver(1) and contribute to the development of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes(2).
The exact amount of fructose that is damaging to our bodies varies from person to person depending on a number of factors. In the 1800s and early 1900s, the average American took in about 15 grams of fructose (about half an ounce), mostly from eating fruits and vegetables. In 1977, that number climbed to 81 grams per day!
Because table sugar still contains 50% fructose, even if you did avoid fructose-heavy foods and beverages, but continue to overeat sugar, you are still in danger of high loads of fructose.
The best strategy is to simply eliminate all sources of sugar that isn’t from fruits or vegetables.
How Much Fructose In Fruits?
Many people find that as they eliminate other toxic agents – such as simple carbohydrates and low-quality vegetable oils – from their diets, their bodies become slightly more tolerant of sugar. This isn’t an excuse to indulge in large amounts of sweets, but it does mean that if you eat right, you don’t need to stress as much about the precise amounts of fruits that you’re eating and the fructose that might be contained in them.
Reasons To Cut Down On Fructose
We’ve talked about some of the health impacts that fructose can have on the body, but here are even more reasons to cut down on this sugar:
- Fructose causes kidney stones and gout. In excess amounts, fructose increases uric acid production, which can contribute to the development of these conditions(4).
- Fructose throws off the balance of bacteria in your gut. Too much fructose can create an imbalance in your gut flora, and promote bacterial overgrowth in your gut(5).
- Chronic excess fructose can put you at risk for heart disease by raising your blood lipid markers(6).
- Fructose causes leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone which regulates and controls appetite, helping people maintain a normal weight. Individuals with leptin resistance have a difficult time maintaining a healthy weight(7).
- Excess fructose can affect the way your brain functions, including impairing your memory(8).