Today I saw a menu that included the option of ‘fructose free’. Given that fructose is present in virtually every vegetable or fruit that leaves very limited options: primarily meat, starchy vegetables, nuts and recipes that replace fructose with glucose.
I’m a Nutritionist, and I am at odds with the National Dietary Guidelines as is the ‘quit sugar camp’. BUT, there is a whole lot of misunderstanding about fructose, glucose and the health effects of a diet comprised of meat, potatoes and nuts!
Glucose is the principle cause of inflammation and cardiovascular disease in our diet. It is also the primary fuel for cancer cells. A diet rich in glucose, notably from refined carbohydrate, becomes toxic and causes cell death (diabetes) and other metabolic disorders. It also triggers insulin function that in turn can make you fat. So why would you increase the consumption of a sugar that causes chronic disease in order to reduce a sugar found in types of food that are vital to your wellbeing?
Fructose is a health risk only when consumed as an added sugar manufactured from corn starch or as a component of cane sugar. And what they add it to is refined carbohydrate (bread, cake, biscuits etc). Refined carbohydrate is pure glucose. Why focus on the added fructose when most of the product is glucose? And why is anyone eating this nutritionally void, super sweet stuff anyway?
It’s because genetically we are programmed to seek out the sweet stuff. So it’s not actually fructose or glucose we are addicted to, but sweetness. To our brain it represents a big return on investment – our survival code predetermines that we seek out the greatest number of calories for the least amount expended to acquire them. In the natural world of our hunter / gatherer past fructose was gold.
Fructose, as a naturally occurring sugar in vegetables and fruit, comes with fibre and an abundance of micronutrients that keep us healthy. To demonise fructose is a mistake. The product of this mistake is the commercialisation of a diet that is premised on a flawed argument – that all fructose is bad for you. And commercial interests that exploit every opportunity are not concerned with your health, therefore you risk being sucked into yet another heavily promoted diet, and one that damages your health.
If you are to eliminate all fructose from your diet you are going to increase your consumption of meat and starchy vegetables – you have to eat something. The problem is that a diet rich in animal protein causes acidosis, oxidative stress, and cancer. And if you combine meat with refined carbohydrates (pure glucose) you are eventually going to get very sick. In fact the western diet is primarily a combination of meat and wheat and look where it is getting us – and there is no fructose in that.
The human body has evolved eating plants. We are entirely dependent on them for the micronutrition that keeps our bodies healthy and well. Hunter gatherers primarily gathered, and meat was something eaten whenever it could be caught.
So the answer is this: eat plenty of whole, fresh vegetables, fruit, and legumes, limited quantities of whole grains (unless you do a lot of exercise – then more is fine), limited quantities of quality animal products (preferably fish) and avoid anything that has added sugar, or is processed or refined in any way. By avoiding processed or manufactured food products you will avoid the processed fructose that is so bad for you. Oh, and get moving. Doesn’t matter how good your diet is, your body needs the stimulation of exercise in order to be well.
If you want to know more about eating for health, the Mediterranean Diet is a great benchmark. You can read more about it here.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from corn starch. Corn starch is pure glucose as a monosaccharide. The glucose is treated with synthesised enzymes to convert some of it to fructose. It is then added to everything from bread to sausages. Because it is added to virtually all manufactured food products it will make you fat and / or give you fatty liver disease.
Modern wheat strains are hybridised versions created in the 1960’s. They contain gluten proteins that have never previously existed and so we don’t have the digestive enzymes to absorb them. Thus the rise of gluten intolerance. Spelt is an ancient variety of wheat not known to cause gluten reactions. Spelt products are available in artisan bakeries and are becoming more widely available. However, refined Spelt flour is still pure glucose.
Bread and other wheat products are made from refined wheat. This reduces the glucose from complex sugar (polysaccharides) to simple sugar (monosaccharides). Bread is effectively a simple sugar destined to traumatise your insulin function and make you fat or sick or both.
You can read about GLUCOSE here.