As a wholefood philosopher, I try to keep abreast of ever changing research around nutrition and health. In recent years I have been watching, with increasing alarm, the rise of raw food restaurants and raw choices in the so called nutrition and healthy food sector.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully support eating raw and live food, but there is one aspect of this raw food tsunami that bothers me. I want to expose a health-harming sweetener that’s often used and has been masqueraded as a healthy sugar alternative: fructose. Fructose occurs naturally in ripe fruits, honey and other sweetening syrups like maple and agave syrup. What sticks out like a sore thumb for me, however, is the overuse of agave and maple syrups in the raw food brigade.
Fructose is a harmful substance in large doses or when taken chronically. So, just as smoking a few cigarettes once in a while is not likely to cause lung cancer, small doses of fructose are not an issue. Fructose is a natural sugar found in all fruits so small doses are normal. What is NOT normal is when it is consumed in doses 500 times higher than preindustrial times – which is fast becoming the case. At these levels, metabolic syndrome can occur in the form of expanding waist lines, increased blood fats, diabetes and even CVD risk. So, it may be fine to visit the raw food café just once a week for that delicious raw dessert with its relatively high content of agave syrup, but do this on a daily basis, and you are heading for trouble.
Maybe you’ve heard the research surrounding high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) ? When scientists discovered how bad it was for your health, many people switched to using agave as a ‘safer’ sugar alternative. But agave is actually WORSE than HFCS ! Agave has a higher fructose content (70-97%) than any commercial sweetener .
Part of what makes fructose so unhealthy is that it is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar. The entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver, and it promotes a particularly dangerous kind of body fat, namely adipose fat. This is the type of fat that collects in your abdominal region and is associated with a greater risk of heart disease, not to mention the increase in LDL-Cholesterol and triglycerides that occurs from high and consistent ingestion of fructose. In addition, fructose turns off your body’s appetite-control system which can result in overeating and developing insulin resistance.
To avoid such health risks, I suggest using raw honey and fresh fruit for sweetness when necessary. As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. This includes all sources of refined sugars and sweeteners. This might look like 1-2 pieces of fruit daily and a small amount of raw honey or up to 3 serves of fruit daily without the raw honey. The average Australian easily consumes up to THREE times this amount daily, so this will be a fairly substantial reduction for most people.
If you are looking for further research on this subject, checkout “Fat Chance” by Dr Robert Lustig from USA and “Sweet Poison” by David Gillespie (Australia).
I am writing this blog to share information and inspire fabulous health. Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. Wishing you rude with health !