December 2, 2016

The Great Fructose Debate: The Journey of a Plant-Based Mama.

donna wild

I’ve been vegan for 14 years (and vegetarian for 24), and I get most of my calories from fruit.

Now, that sounds crazy to some people.

After all, we’ve all heard the hype about fructose by now:

“High-fructose corn syrup! Fructose ruins your liver! Fructose—run!”

So of course we wonder, “what about…fruit?”

Fruit—nature’s beautiful, delicious, organic source of fructose—do we need to worry about that too?

Listen, I’ve been doing research on the plant-based lifestyle for over a decade, in part for my own benefit, and in part so I can be sure I’m giving my readers and clients the most accurate information available. In that time, I’ve carefully followed the emerging knowledge on fruit and its role in a balanced diet, and I want to share it with other fruit-loving, health-conscious people out there! Here’s what I’ve found:

Studies have linked liver problems, blood sugar imbalances, weight gain and other health issues to “industrial fructose” consumption only—that is, these problems seem to be a result of added, processed sugars, and not fruit. In fact, studies have found that between a diet restricting all fructose, including that from fruits, and one restricting only industrial fructose, people on a fruit-inclusive diet will lose more weight.

What exactly does “industrial fructose” mean? I know, it’s a weird term, and I had to do a little digging. Basically that term refers to the white sugar we put in our coffee, the high-fructose corn syrup hiding in our soda, and the many other processed and overly-sweet non-foods stacked by the hundreds on grocery store shelves.

Fructose found in fruit, on the other hand, has not been shown to have any negative effects on our health.

Scientists wondered if this had to do with the antioxidant or fibre content of whole fruit (which industrial fructose is obviously missing), so they did some tests. 

Here’s what happens with industrial fructose: If someone drinks a few tablespoons of sugar mixed with water (the equivalent of a can of soda), their blood sugar will spike massively in the first hour. Then by hour two, they’ll be practically hypoglycemic, meaning their blood sugar will be way too low. After that, their body will move fat into their bloodstream, thinking it’s needed.

Add some berries to that sugar water, though, and not only will the blood sugar spike be a bit lower, the following hypoglycemic dip won’t happen. Adding only berry juice (without the fiber whole berries have), won’t block the blood sugar spice like the berries do, but it will prevent the dip.

Why? I wanted to know too!

Some nutritionists have suggested that phytonutrients in berries and other fruits (juiced or blended) partially block our bodies’ absorption of sugar through our intestinal wall. For example eating berries along with high glycemic foods like white bread seems to prevent the insulin spike these foods would usually induce.

So not only does fruit sugar not negatively affect our health, it seems it may actually protect our bodies from the negative effects of other less healthy foods, too.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am totally amazed by what fruit does for our bodies—and there’s plenty more to learn!

This is exactly why I tell my clients to eat as much fruit as they want—every single day. And that’s why I and my family do the same. We’ve never been healthier.

References & Further Reading:

R Torronen, M Kolehmainen, E Sarkkinen, H Mykkanen, L Niskanen. Postprandial glucose, insulin, and free fatty acid responses to sucrose consumed with blackcurrants and lingonberries in healthy women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):527-33.

S Petta, G Marchesini, L Caracausi, F S Macaluso, C Camma, S Ciminnisi, D Cabibi, R Porcasi, A Craxi, V Di Marco. Industrial, not fruit fructose intake is associated with the severity of liver fibrosis in genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C patients. J Hepatol. 2013 Dec;59(6):1169-76.

R H Lustig, Fructose: It’s “Alcohol Without the Buzz. Adv Nutr. 2013 Mar 1;4(2):226-35.

R Torronen, M Kolehmainen, E Sarkkinen, K Poutanen, H Mykkanen, L Niskanen. Berries reduce postprandial insulin responses to wheat and rye breads in healthy women. J Nutr. 2013 Apr;143(4):430-6.

K Johnston, P Sharp, M Cliffor, L Morgan. Dietary polyphenols decrease glucose uptake by human intestinal Caco-2 cells. FEBS Lett. 2005 Mar 14;579(7):1653-7.

S Manzano, G Williamson. Polyphenols and phenolic acids from strawberry and apple decrease glucose uptake and transport by human intestinal Caco-2 cells. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Dec;54(12):1773-80.

M Madero, J C Arriaga, D Jalal, C Rivard, K McFann, O Perez-Mendez, A Vasquez, A Ruiz, M A Lanaspa, C R Jimenez, R J Johnson, L G Lozada. The effect of two energy-restricted diets, a low-fructose diet versus a moderate natural fructose diet, on weight loss and metabolic syndrome parameters: a randomized controlled trial. Metabolism. 2011 Nov;60(11):1551-9.


Author: Donna Wild

Images: Author’s own

Editor: Erin Lawson

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