Sugar has been big news this year.
How much of it we eat; how little of it we should.
What few realised until now is how much of it is hiding in “healthy” options like dried fruit, fruit juices and virtuous-looking breakfast cereals.
As countless newspaper case studies and magazine features have totted up for us since January, even if your diet features no obvious “naughty” foods it’s easy to be eating four times more sugar than is healthy.
A further shocking sugar fact now entering public awareness is that the most harmful sugar we can consume is fructose, or fruit sugar – identified as a leading cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease (among other things).
Opinions differ on how much fructose is safe – and it will also vary from person to person – but the evidence suggests that a single mango (the highest-fructose fruit) would be likely to push you north of your daily limit, as would three tablespoons of agave syrup (and there’s a lot more than that in many “healthy” desserts).
Refined sugar is 50% fructose, and that will quickly get you into fructose excess too – just not as quickly as agave, which is generally in the 75% to 95% fructose range.
For most of human history, the only source of fructose was local fruit, and our ancestors would have been eating no more than a piece or two a day; and that only when it was in season.
The human body was not designed to handle the fructose load in refined sugars. Nor was it designed to handle any diet where fruit is a major source of calories – and especially not today’s hybridised, imported sugar-bombs.
To keep your fructose intake within healthy limits:
1. Go easy on added sugars of all kinds (whether white, brown, palm, honey or maple syrup), and when buying packaged foods scour the labels for sugars and avoid anything that lists sugar in any form as one of the first three ingredients.
2. Steer clear of agave syrup and high-fructose corn syrup (in that order, actually, since agave is the worst of the two), mangoes, dates, and dried fruit of all kinds.
3. Have no more than three servings of fruit a day and aim to make at least one of those nutrient-dense, low-fructose berries (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are all great choices).
I’ll be following up with more on this topic soon. For now I’ll leave you with my article about sugar and mental health, The deadly drug in your kitchen.