Unless you're very informed about labels and fanatically careful about additives, chances are you eat very few 'pure' foods – meaning foods that don't include anything but real food. The two most prominent are preservatives (which makes food last until approximately 2500 AD) and sweeteners. One of the newly-popular ones is fructose. But is this truly 'good for you' or are fructose products and their positive effects on health actually a valid claim or a fraud like so many others?
What Is Fructose?
If you've ever eaten a piece of fruit, you've eaten fructose because it's in fruits, some veggies and the juice of all of them. Fructose is a kind of sugar and is even found in the favorite food of the bees: honey.
If you've ever been on a diet and craved something sweet and chosen fruit, instead of a banana split (tough choice I know!), you will have eaten the fruit because it's sweet. A pear has fructose, brussel sprouts do not.
People who fast often choose a juice fast over a water fast and they quickly learn that fruit juices taste better than green juices [wheatgrass is my nomination for the worst-tasting food on earth].
It's possible to transform fructose into a crystal so that it can be added to foods that don't naturally contain it, foods that are big hits with the eat-on-the-run crowd:
Baked goodies like cookies, cupcakes and doughnuts
So-called 'health' bars
Granola bars and other high-fiber bars
Soft drinks like coke and pepsi
Fructose Or Sucrose?
You've eaten sucrose. Lots of it! That is, of course, the name for table sugar, that pure white poison that we all love so much. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the average is 156 POUNDS OF SUGAR PER PERSON PER YEAR!!! If you're shocked by that number, like I was, your first reaction is probably to deny it because that's about 31 five pounds bags. “No way! I don't possibly eat that much sugar!” I don't think I do either. In fact, I'm sure I don't. Really, I don't. I'm sure that I don't eat that much because I focus carefully on what I'm eating. That means other people are eating way more to make up for my failure to eat all that junk.
Because the problem is that we don't sit down at the table with a sugar bowl and a spoon. Instead, sugar has crept into all kinds of foods – even foods that aren't sweet at all. A great example is spaghetti/pasta sauce. Who in the world wants a dinner of salad, garlic bread – and a giant bowl of sweet lasagne? Yuck.
Another important point about fructose is that is about half as sweet as sucrose. The obvious advantage is that we can use half as much fructose for the same amount of sweetness. But is fructose any better health-wise?
The Health Benefits Of Fructose
Fructose is much lower on the glycemic index, meaning that anyone with diabetes is better off using fructose. Your blood sugar won't spike nearly as much as table sugar.
Likewise, anyone who doesn't like the sharp ups and downs of pure sucrose should consider fructose. Most of us know how our energy will spike with a candy bar or soft drink – and then crash just as quickly, leaving us craving more sugar because we're lethargic and tired.
Honey is an example of a fructose product that contains some nutritive value. Many want to argue this – but consider bees. They are a life form that needs nutrition and they live on honey so it must have enough value to support life. White sugar is totally devoid of value. Any kind of value. It's only a burden to the human system.
Fructose will not “hydrolyze”, which means it doesn't react with sugar and so baked goods that use fructose, for example, will last longer. Have you ever grabbed a container of sugar – and it was like a rock? That because sugar absolutely will mix with water as any iced tea or lemonade drinker already knows.
Fructose is easier on teeth and so you will have fewer cavities.
Don't Confuse Fructose With High Fructose Corn Syrup!
High fructose corn syrup is nothing like fructose in its pure state. High fructose corn syrup is more like pure sucrose and is a truly terrible product for your health.
This Doesn't Mean to Start Scarfing Down Huge Quantities Of Fructose
Fructose might be a naturally-occurring sugar and it is definitely preferable to table sugar or sucrose. But that doesn't mean that scarfing down huge amounts of it won't increase our weight. Some grab fructose-sweetened baked goods and other high-calorie foods and believe they can eat all they want without consequences. Simply not true. Large amounts of any kind of sweetener are unwise.