Fructose A Sweeter Message

Is fructose any more healthful than sucrose, or table sugar? Surprisingly, the answer is no. All sugars nourish your body in the same way. Fructose and sucrose are just different sugars; both are simple carbohydrates. In fact, your body eventually breaks down sucrose into fructose and glucose.

Fructose is found naturally in fruit. But it's also added to certain foods, either as crystalline fructose or as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Crystalline fructose is made from cornstarch, and looks and tastes much like sucrose. HFCS is a combination of fructose and dextrose, a sugar that comes from corn. Currently it's one of the most commonly consumed sweeteners in the United States. Like any sugar, crystalline fructose and HFCS supply 4 calories per gram.

Where does high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) fit within the obesity epidemic? It's a source of extra calories, often from beverages such as soft drinks. Despite recent theories, there is not enough scientific evidence to say that HFCS changes metabolism, or that it increases body fat or boosts appetite. To help trim calories, ease up on added sugars of all kinds, including HFCS from nondiet snacks drinks.

You might find crystalline fructose on the ingredient list of baked foods, frozen foods, beverages, and tabletop sweeteners. HFCS is used in nondiet soft drinks, fruit drinks, salad dressings, pickle products, ketchup, baked foods, tabletop syrups, fruits, candies, gums, and desserts.

Just a Spoonful of Sugar . . .

1 teaspoon honey

21 calories

1 teaspoon jelly

16 calories

1 teaspoon brown sugar

16 calories

1 teaspoon table sugar

15 calories

1 teaspoon maple syrup

17 calories

1 teaspoon corn syrup, light or dark

19 calories

total calories, or 125 grams of carbohydrates from added sugars. Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars. The IOM advice for fiber is separate—and discussed in chapter 6.

Why limit added sugars? For one, they just contribute calories. Many foods high in added sugars supply energy but few other nutrients, and may replace more nutritious foods, along with the vitamins and minerals they provide. To compare, many starchy vegetables, legumes (dry beans), and grain products have less fat, but more vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Second, added sugars—like starches and naturally occurring sugars—can promote tooth decay, especially with frequent snacking.

When you're really active, you may need more calories. If your overall eating plan is healthful, added sugars can supply some of that extra energy as discretionary calories.

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