Have you heard about fructose as a sweetener substitute?
Now, I am not talking about high-fructose corn syrup. That is definitely something to steer clear of. The fructose I am talking about is pure crystalline fructose. Looks and tastes like sugar. It’s found naturally in fruits, honey, and vegetables, but has been used as a sweetener substitute for years. And guess what? It doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels like table sugar does, which helps diabetics and may help those trying to lose weight. In fact, the glycemic load per gram of fructose is only 19, compared to a whopping 65 for table sugar. So, why don’t we see it being used in weight loss recipes and why does it seem like such a secret?
The problem is partly due to the confusion between high-fructose corn syrup and just plain fructose. As you may know, high-fructose corn syrup has a pretty bad reputation, and maybe rightly so. It has even been suggested that high-fructose corn syrup has greatly contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States. It’s easy to confuse the two and it seems that people just want to steer clear of anything with the word “fructose” in it. However, fructose and high-fructose corn syrup are not the same and many people don’t know that.
Why is high-fructose corn syrup so “bad?”
Because it is a mixture of fructose and glucose, which causes blood sugar spikes, which can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and other problems.
Why doesn’t pure fructose have the same effect on blood sugar as high-fructose corn syrup?
The answer may be that fructose is directly absorbed in the intestinal tract and then sent to the liver, whereas other forms of sugar such as sucrose, must be broken down first. When sucrose comes in contact with the lining of the small intestine, an enzyme called sucrase breaks it down into both glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed and sent to the liver. Since fructose is transported to the liver, it is not regulated by insulin. Too much glucose floating around in the blood, on the other hand, produces an insulin response.
Are there any cons to using fructose as a sweetener substitute?
Well, if you’re consuming it for nutrition purposes, there is no benefit since it cannot be used for energy by your body’s cells. Also, in high amounts, it can have toxic effects on the liver. However, around 50 grams of fructose per day is okay for most healthy people. But it’s not for everyone. If you have gout, you should probably avoid it as it may increase uric acid levels.
So, although it may be a good alternative to other sweetener substitutes, it should be used in small amounts.