Fructose is Not the Enemy

Do you cringe when you hear the word fructose? Fructose has received a bad reputation recently due to media and its association with the term “high fructose corn syrup”. Fructose is blamed for obesity, diabetes and other health concerns, but does fructose really cause these problems?

While it is easy to blame one food ingredient over another for health problems, it truly comes down to balance on our plates and our cups. So let’s break down the facts on this misunderstood sugar and double check our perception of sugar.

Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, some vegetables, honey, sugar cane and sugar beets. Fructose is found in table sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) but you can also find dried crystalline fructose. People often use the terms HFCS and fructose interchangeably, but they are not the same. HCFS is more like sucrose, or table sugar, in that it contains equal amounts of glucose and fructose. Fructose is also naturally found with glucose and other sugars in fruits, honey, and some vegetables. Crystalized fructose contains only fructose and can be found in the baking aisle of many grocery stores.

Regardless of whether you consume fructose in fruits, honey, table sugar, or in a crystallized form, the number of calories is the same. Fructose has the same calories per gram, four calories per gram, as any other sugars, which means it doesn’t matter the type of sugar you consume, your body is gaining the same amount of energy. What is important to understand is that fructose is sweeter than other sugars so you may be able to use less of it to achieve the same amount of sweet taste.

Fructose has been dubbed by some as “unsafe” but this is not the case. The Food and Drug Administration has listed fructose as “generally recognized as safe” since research has shown that consuming fructose does not cause adverse effects, particularly when the same amount of calories are consumed.

While fructose is considered safe and has some benefits, moderation is key. The American Heart Association recommends 100 calories or less from sugar each day for women, and 150 calories or less from sugar each day for men.  And the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in 2015, recommend no more than 10 percent of daily total calories should come from sugar.