When we consider sugar in relation to metabolic health the key players are glucose, fructose, and sucrose (table sugar).
- Glucose and fructose are found naturally in some real foods as well as in many ultra-processed and packaged foods. A manufactured sugar called high fructose corn syrup is added to some ultra-processed foods.
- Sucrose is glucose and fructose joined together, which is digested back down to individual glucose and fructose sugars when eaten.
The smaller amounts of glucose and fructose in real foods are usually tolerated well by the body. It is when larger amounts of sugar are consumed over a prolonged period that problems can occur. This can drive insulin resistance.
Large amounts of fructose can be particularly problematic. Large amounts of fructose in nature is only found in sweet fruit and in honey. Fructose is very sweet and can be quite moreish and produce cravings. It is now present in many ultra-processed and packaged foods, sweets, and drinks. Research suggests large amounts of fructose directly causes insulin resistance, with nature's intention to help the body to gain fat. This fat-gain was fine in bygone days when fattening up for winter was important. However, with sugar now being so readily available all year round it is causing significant problems.
To improve health consider
- Reduce confectionary and sweet baked goods.
- Reduce ultra-processed foods that have added sugar or are high in sugar (review the ingredients list and the nutritional information)
- For people with significant insulin resistance, or those wanting to make greater health gains, it may be beneficial to reduce sweet fruits such as tropical fruits, bananas, grapes, and dried fruits.