Fructose hasn’t earned a good reputation lately. Recent studies tie this sugar with inflammation, Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic syndrome symptoms. Among its detrimental health problems, fructose potentially increases pancreatic cancer, damages your liver and speeds up the aging process.
Most people associate fructose with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which as its name implies, contains about 55% fructose and 45% glucose. This ubiquitous, higher-fructose sugar sweetens soft drinks, cereals and other high-sugar impact processed foods and drinks.
HFCS’s problems have been well documented, but fructose also naturally occurs in fruit and fruit is supposed to be good for you ... right? Could eating excessive amounts create that same fructose overload we associate with its non-naturally occurring cousin?
That’s a controversial question.
It's been suggested that some experts might be making much ado about nothing when they argue excessive fruit could become problematic. And while no one argues you should completely eliminate fruit from your diet — it offers nutrients, antioxidants and fiber — the idea that eating an unlimited amount of fruit because it's "healthy" needs to become permanently buried.
Instead of classifying fruit as an unlimited “free” food like leafy and cruciferous veggies (eat all of those you want!), fruit should be down-regulated to a nutrient-dense, dose-dependent food.
In other words, a cup of organic blueberries in your protein shake is perfectly healthy. Gorging on red grapes during a two-hour meeting, not so much, especially if you’re trying to lose weight, protect your liver or boost your overall health. Your best bet for those benefits is to opt for low-sugar impact fruits like avocado and berries.
For many of my clients, I ask that they completely eliminate all fruit for two weeks to drastically reduces the liver’s fructose burden. The only fruits allowed are lemons, limes, avocados, tomatoes and olives. Many clients see their symptoms start to disappear during that time: no more fatigue, achy joints, dull skin, gastric distress or inﬂammation.
Best of all, they usually break through that brick wall of weight-loss resistance because they've dramatically lowered the amount of sugar (especially fructose) eaten for those two weeks, allowing your system and taste buds to reboot.
When I say fruit, I mean fresh fruit. Dried fruit might be tidy and bite-size, and you don’t need napkins or to eat it over the sink. But when food companies remove the water, they condense the sugar, and often add other things like sulfur dioxide to preserve color or syrup to make it sweeter, making it ﬂat-out candy. Even organic, nothing-added dried fruit has the same amount of sugar and calories as its waterlogged counterpart, but the pieces are much smaller, guaranteeing you'll eat more (and get more sugar) than you would with whole fruit.
Bottom line: Keep your fruit, but make low-sugar impact choices and treat them as dose-dependent rather than unlimited foods. Too much fruit isn’t always a good thing.
Do you agree too much fruit can become a problem, or should experts stick with attacking obvious culprits like high-fructose corn syrup? Share your thoughts below.