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Fruit Sugar – is it a healthy alternative to table sugar?

Fructose – also called fruit sugar, can be found in all fruits along with another type of sugar called glucose. Fructose is naturally in honey, maple sugar, fruits, berries, some vegetables (e.g. cassava, onions, potatoes) and even found in some grains. 

Fructose, like other types of sugars (sucrose and glucose, for example) help to make foods sweeter, however fructose is primarily metabolised by the liver and typically doesn’t spike blood glucose or insulin levels in the body. This is particularly important for people who suffer from conditions such as diabetes. Fructose is usually quickly used by the body for energy and <1% appears to be directly converted to fat.  

What’s the difference between fruit sugar and other types of sugars?

Fructose tastes sweeter than sucrose and has slightly less kilojoules per gram at 15.6 versus 16.5 kilojoules per gram of sucrose. 

The major difference between fructose and other types of sugars like white sugar, cane sugar, palm sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (a product used in the USA but not common in Australia or New Zealand), is that fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in all fruits, many vegetables and other natural food items such as honey, sorghum, maple syrup and agave syrup. 

From a nutritional perspective fructose isn’t typically consumed by itself as it’s only found naturally and most commonly in fruit. The consumption of fruit also gives the body a range of different nutrients, vitamins, minerals as well as fibre and antioxidants combined with any fructose found in the fruit being eaten. 

This combination of nutrients, fibre and sugars give the body a chance to metabolise the sugars found in fruit at a slower rate. Fruit is also lower in kilojoules than most sweet snacks so makes a great sweet alternative to chocolate bars, cakes or other sugar-sweetened snacks. 

Is fructose healthier than other sugars?

Like most things in life, the answer to this question isn’t a straightforward yes or no, the devil is in the details. 

Studies have shown fructose does not have any specific effects on the body that causes weight gain or obesity when consumed in line with sugars; however, the fact that fructose is a naturally occurring sugar in fruits and vegetables means it’s much harder to consume high levels of fructose in its natural state. 

Having large amounts of pure refined fructose will cause weight gain and affect blood fat levels but in reality we don’t eat pure refined fructose at all. The same as other sugars, we should have fructose in moderation.  

References 

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/86/4/895/4649668

https://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(15)01651-0/fulltext

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34408323/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4078442/

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/raw-fruits-poster-text-version-accessible-version

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