Question:

Someone told me that fructose wasn’t as bad as sugar because it comes from fruit. Does fructose come from fruit?

Thank you.

-Liz P.

Answer:

Sugars are generally single unit or dual unit compounds, called monosaccharides or disaccharides. Glucose (blood sugar) is a monosaccharide. Fructose (fruit sugar) is a monosaccharide. Sucrose (table sugar) is glucose plus fructose, making it a disaccharide. Lactose (milk sugar) is made of glucose and galactose, another disaccharide. All are natural sugars found in whole foods yet many are isolated as ingredients in processed food.

They all provide the same energy of 4 calories per gram and, in their isolated state, don’t offer any other nutrition. A whole fruit however, has water, fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals that a spoonful of table sugar does not. In that respect, fructose is better than sucrose. But the person that spoke to you may have been referring to the different sugars’ effects on the body.

Fructose is rarely found in isolation and according to the International Food Information Council Foundation its absorption is improved in the presence of glucose.  Harvard Health indicates that fructose isn’t used anywhere in the body other than the liver. This may be why it’s linked to chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  When high fructose intake is due to its presence as an ingredient (namely high fructose corn syrup) it is often associated with inflammation, increased calories and fat deposition, according to Medical News Today.

So isolated sugars are not as good as the original sources. The best advice is to stick to the whole foods (fruit) and limit your added sugar consumption in general.

You may be interested in our previous articles Busting Sugar Myths: Fact or Fiction, and Which Fruits are Best to Eat?

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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