Here’s why we focus on fructose (not sugar)

By Brooke Rooney |

I Quit Sugar - Pear Crumble Congee

If you’ve finally decided to give sugar the flick then pat yourself on the back – you’ve taken the first step towards food freedom!

But if you’re still a little confused as to what it actually means to quit sugar, we’re here to help.

Unfortunately, we see a few people get caught on either side of the extreme sugar-quitting spectrum. At one end, some people think that quitting sugar means, well, simply quitting the “white stuff” labelled sugar on the supermarket shelf… and on the other side, some people are so serious about quitting sugar that they even forgo fruit!

Well, you’d be happy to know that quitting sugar doesn’t mean you have to give up homemade banana bread. But it does mean that you’ll have to cut down on some of the so-called “healthy” sugars like maple syrup, honey and Medjool dates. Nope we’re not just being party poopers… here are six very legitimate reasons why.

1. When we say we quit “sugar” we are referring to “fructose”.

Sucrose (ordinary table sugar) is made of up of 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent fructose. And the reason IQS promotes a (mainly) fructose-free lifestyle all has to do with the different ways our body metabolises them

2. Glucose is easily broken down by every cell in our body.

Though the body can easily use protein and fat for energy, the fastest source is through glucose (which is derived by breaking down carbohydrates). Saying that, too much (or too little) glucose can be harmful. Hint: that’s why we prefer complex, unrefined carbohydrates (like veggies, wholegrains and legumes) as complete sources of nutrients, fibre and energy.

3. Fructose, however, is almost EXCLUSIVELY broken down by our liver.

When people eat a diet high in fructose, the liver gets overloaded. BIG TIME. It spends so much of its energy turning fructose into other molecules that it may not be able to focus on its other functions.

4. This fructose liver “dumpage” can cause fat storage.

Yup, that’s right. Most studies now suggest that fat doesn’t cause fat – fructose does. The liver has to store all that excess fructose it can’t break down as fat (usually around the liver) in the form of triglycerides. This can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance.

5. Fructose makes us eat more.

Our bodies naturally regulate the amount of glucose in our blood by stimulating our pancreas to secrete insulin (which helps remove excess glucose from our bloodstream). Glucose also triggers the production of a hormone called leptin, which sends out a “stop eating now” signal to our brain. Fructose doesn’t do this. What’s even worse is that fructose can actually raise the levels of the hormone ghrelin, which makes us even more hungry! Double whammy!

6. Fructose is highly addictive.

Not only is fructose addictive, but it’s also twice as sweet as glucose. And because fructose doesn’t trigger our “I’m full now” message, we can’t stop eating the stuff!

But you can still have some sweetness in your life.

When we’re in the mood for a treat, we turn to fructose-free sweeteners. Rice malt syrup is a blend of carbohydrates, glucose and maltose, which is COMPLETELY FRUCTOSE-FREE. Stevia is a plant-derived sweetener containing no sugar of any kind. But “healthy” sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar and Medjool dates are quite high in fructose, which means we try to avoid them.

And yes, you’re right, we still eat fruit!

We still love a little whole fruit, around 1–2 small pieces a day. Fruit comes packaged with water, fibre and vitamins to lessen the impact of that sugar on your body. Just don’t consume it dried or juiced – then it becomes a sugar bomb!

We originally published this article in February 2016. We updated it in August 2017.

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