With the recent demonization of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) I’ve heard a lot of people putting anything containing fructose into the “bad food” category. Thus, they end up telling me they don’t eat any sugar, “including fruit”. Now there are a few problems with this, but first of all, what exactly is HFCS and how does it compare to other common sugars?
HFCS is made by a chemical process that in the end creates a mixture of roughly 55% fructose and 45% glucose. It would take a whole novel to explain why we manufacture so much, and in turn use so much HFCS in this country, but in short, its much cheaper than regular old sugar, aka sucrose. Sucrose itself occurs naturally in the plant world and is harvested primarily from sugar beets and sugarcane.
But guess what sucrose is comprised of? It’s a 50/50 ratio of fructose and glucose, which effectively makes it a very similar compound to HFCS.
Regardless of the sugar, I absolutely agree it’s a good idea to minimize sugar consumption. But all the fanfare about HFCS has me scratching my head. Too much of the stuff (sucrose, HFCS, or any other sugar for that matter) isn’t healthy, period the end. It isn’t one type of sugar that is more harmful than another. And while there is some hinting in the research that fructose is more troublesome for our bodies than say, glucose, and therefore it is ‘worse’ for you, that is a dietary splitting of hairs in my opinion. We're not going to be healthier eating all the same junk with sucrose in it rather than HFCS!
But back to the avoiding fruit thing. The people who are avoiding all sugar, including fruit, that I mentioned before do so because they’ve read that ‘fruit is high in fructose’ or something like that. Well, it isn’t. Yes, fruit does contain fructose (and other sugars) as the primary sugar, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop eating it.
And I’m talking about real fruit here, not any of the processed junk that masquerades as fruit, such as fruit juices, fruity chewy thingies, or any other fruity flavored processed food. This includes canned fruits, which often come packaged in ‘heavy syrup’, also known as sugar.
Yes, real fruit contains fructose, but it also contains large amounts of nutrients that will produce far more benefit than any negative from the fructose. And here’s some perspective; a medium sized apple contains almost 11 grams of sugars; whereas 100 grams (same size as our medium apple) of apple jacks cereal contains nearly 44 grams of sugars! You can see where real fruit doesn’t even compare to processed ‘fruit’ foods.
So, please DO eat your fruit, as much as you want. There are sparse health issues that may dictate a person avoid fruit, but it's extremely rare to hear of anyone having health problems from eating too much. But just make sure it’s the real stuff in the produce aisle!
P.S. The American Heart Association recommends that we get no more than 150 calories a day from added sugars. That’s about 9 teaspoons of sugar!
P.S.S. Sugar is sugar. It doesn’t matter if its HFCS, agave, table sugar, honey, turbinado sugar, whatever. It’s ALL the same stuff.