Nutrition
Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Fructose Good or Bad for People With Diabetes

Fructose is a naturally-occurring sugar primarily found in fruits, some vegetables and honey. While excess sugar consumption is often flagged for several health risks and lifestyle diseases, the jury is still out on the ill effects of fructose, which is a natural sugar. Researchers are still studying whether fructose affects our health, which remains inconclusive. 

The apprehension over fructose is primarily because most artificially sweetened food items and those with processed food, such as corn syrup, can have a high fructose content. Still, they are taken alongside sucrose or regular white sugar and other sweeteners, making it difficult to segregate the impact of the fructose component in the diet. 

So, is fructose good for diabetic patients? The critical thing to consider is that natural fructose is relatively healthier even for people with diabetes than sucrose or processed fructose such as corn syrup. In addition, physicians recommend specific fruit servings for diabetes as a part of a wholesome diet. 

What is Fructose?

Fructose is at the heart of the fruits. The sweet aftertaste that drapes your tongue when you bite into the juicy pulp of mango or when you chew off a delicious chunk of apple is because of fructose. 

It is a natural sugar which the body gets from consuming fruits. However, fructose is also processed from corn starch, which has invaded the food industry with its many uses, primarily sodas and confectionaries. This processed fructose does more harm than good, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels once consumed. 

Excessive Sugar is Bad, but Effects Depend on Context

Excessive sugar, whether sucrose (white table sugar), fructose - natural or processed - or glucose, is unhealthy and almost always leads to health complications. 

Excess intake of fructose has been linked to obesity. For instance, when our body fails to digest and process excess fructose, its build-up affects our liver and kidneys. 

When you keep topping up your fructose dose with colas, candies, and even baked goods, your liver’s threshold to process it into glucose is crossed. As a result, it starts converting fructose into fat for future needs, which, if not utilised, leads to a fatty liver condition and obesity. 

You can always enjoy a good fruit or an assortment of them on an empty stomach. But if you are guzzling cola cans or lacing your toast with a marmalade processed with corn starch, your body will take a hit over time. 

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Fruit also Contains Fibre, Water and Significant Chewing Resistance

Fruits are loaded with nutrients the body requires for its metabolism and energy requirements. Besides the vitamins and minerals, its fibre content aids in the digestive process keeping your gut happy. In addition, most fruits rehydrate your body and replenish their spent salts. 

We recommend having fruits with their skin on. Do you know why? Because fruits with skins offer Significant Chewing Resistance. Put simply, the time taken to chew your fruit is longer with the skin on, which gives your liver ample time to process the sucrose from the fruit than when its juice is consumed directly. 

Fruits Contain Lots of Fibre, Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants

Consider this: A can of aerated cola has a sugar content of 33-39 grams, per the United States Department of Agriculture. But on the other hand, a full-bodied apple has just 10 grams of sugar. And, that is not all. 

While most carbonated beverages are high in sweeteners and calories, they have no nutritional value. What you are having here is dead water spiked with sugar and carbon-di-oxide. 

Whereas an apple, which has one-third the sugar as a carbonated drink, is loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They don’t day an apple a day keeps the doctor away, without any reasons…

Not just apples, berries, peaches, pears and oranges are loaded with benefits for people with diabetes. For example, one orange gives you 75% of the daily dose of Vitamin C you need. 

Berries have been described as superfoods for diabetes because they are loaded with antioxidants. Fibre-rich fruits such as Kiwi and apricots are also moderately prescribed for people on a controlled diet. 

So, stop wondering if fructose is good for diabetics and plan a wholesome meal with a healthy portion of fruits in your diet. 

Most Studies Show Health Benefits

Fructose, when taken with added sugars such as sucrose, glucose or processed corn syrup, can incite liver problems and insulin resistance and trigger cholesterol build-up. 

But when taken in its natural form, sucrose comes with health benefits. In addition, unlike glucose, fructose does not lead to a sharp spike in blood sugar. Therefore, fruits are considered relatively safe for consumption for people with diabetes, even with fructose. 

If you have fruits, do not peel off their skin when possible (of course, you’ll have to vigorously wash them before consumption). The skin has several nutrients and allows the liver to process the sucrose release. 

In addition, fruit juices are loaded with sucrose which binds to other sugars and reverses the effects. 

Fructose vs Glucose

Glucose is the primary fuel source for our cells and the metabolic process that drives our brain and keeps the body active. Therefore, it is essentially a form of sugar that remains in the bloodstream and is assimilated directly by the cells for their day-to-day functioning. On the other hand, fructose is a natural sugar derived from fruits, honey, and some vegetables such as onions. But unlike glucose, the body cannot absorb fructose directly. Instead, to meet its energy requirements, the liver breaks fructose down to glucose for immediate consumption or stores it as fat for later use when there is excess availability. 

Bottomline

The critical thing to remember is fructose is the villain we made it to be and not the worst of dietary options. Fruits, by themselves, will not give us a sugar rush. But if our intake of table sugar and processed foods made from corn starch is habitual, even a fruit bowl with salts and fibre will top up the extra blood sugar levels already present in our body. 

In such an event, excess intake of fructose can lead to cholesterol build-up, fatty liver condition and a spike in uric acid. So it is time to stop questioning if fructose is good for diabetes patients. Instead, book an appointment with us to understand why you cannot enjoy a sumptuous bowl of fresh fruits! 

FAQs

What fruit is high in fructose?

Fructose which is natural sugar present in fruits can be consumed by people with diabetes but in disciplined quantities. Fruits high in fructose include jackfruit, apples, grapes, pears, raisins, watermelon, blueberries, tomatoes, etc. As fructose doesn’t have greater effects on blood sugar levels than refined sugars, therefore, it is widely used as a sweetener in the production of many processed foods and beverages.  

Is fructose healthier than sugar?

Your body can process natural sugar like fructose more easily than processed refined sugar. Having an excess quantity of items that contain fructose is equally damaging as having sugar, at times it can also be worse than consuming sugar as intake of fructose triggers an increase in your appetite that may lead to obesity and other complications. The most important point is that sugar when consumed in excess can cause severe complications irrespective of whatever form of sugar you consume. 

What is the best natural sugar for diabetics?

Switching to natural sugar is a healthier lifestyle choice than having processed sugars. Some of the best natural sugars are palmyra blossom nectar, date sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, stevia leaf, yacon syrup, etc. Even though preferring natural sugar options over sugar is the right choice, it is suggested to have natural sugars in moderate quantities as when these are taken excessively they can spike up your blood sugar levels and cause complications.

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