Thursday, May 23, 2019

Retrospective #97: Fructose in Food

Fructose is commonly thought to be “fruit sugar.” And fruit is generally thought of as a “healthy” food, since it is “natural” (although hybridized to be made sweeter). It has fiber, pectin, micronutrients and phytochemicals, all of whose mysteries we have yet to unwrap. Still, we consider them all beneficial. As a result, there is a widely held perception that since all fruit contains “natural sugars,” it is therefore okay to eat whole fruit in moderation. Besides, who can eat a dozen apples? True enough, except: watch out for apple sauce and apple juice. These two highly processed apple food products are very high in liquefied sugars and especially high in fructose. Pears too.
But fructose, the “natural fruit sugar,” is not just found in fruit. It is present naturally in many other whole foods. Fructose is 40% to 67% of the sugar in fruits, from 38% to 55% of the sugars in some vegetables, and 49% to 82% of the sugar in sweeteners, both natural and manufactured.  Fructose is 50% of the content of granulated sugar, made either from sugar cane or sugar beets. And fructose is 55% of the liquid form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used to sweeten soft drinks in the U.S. HFCS is also used for a variety of other reasons in solid foods, including “mouth feel.” In a loaf of bread, it is brushed on the surface to brown it when baked and to get those whole grains to stick. The HFCS used in baked goods and many more products is a special type that is only 42% fructose.
The table below, created from USDA and Wiki sources, lists common “foods,” including fruits, vegetables and sweeteners (natural, refined and manufactured). It is sorted by total percent fructose.
Sugars in Foods
Sucrose
Free
Free
Other
Total
Total
Fructose/
as % of total sugars
50%F/50%G
Fructose
Glucose
Sugars
Fructose
Glucose
glucose ratio
agave nectar
0%
82%
18%
0
82%
18%
4.47
pear
8%
63%
29%
0
67%
33%
2.06
apple
20%
57%
23%
0
67%
33%
2.01
water melon
20%
55%
26%
0.06
64%
36%
1.81
HFCS55 (beverages)
0%
55%
41%
4%
57%
43%
1.34
sweet red pepper
0%
55%
45%
0
55%
45%
1.21
honey
1%
53%
46%
4.54
53%
47%
1.14
grapes
1%
52%
46%
0
53%
47%
1.12
pineapple
61%
21%
17%
0
52%
48%
1.09
molasses
54%
24%
22%
0
51%
49%
1.03
Granulated sugar
100%
0%
0%
0%
50%
50%
1.00
beet sugar
100%
0%
0%
0%
50%
50%
1.00
brown sugar
97%
1%
1%
1%
50%
50%
1.00
red beet
97%
1%
1%
0
50%
50%
1.00
carrot
75%
13%
13%
0
50%
50%
1.00
popcorn
69%
16%
16%
0
50%
50%
1.00
banana
20%
40%
41%
0
50%
50%
0.98
maple syrup
96%
1%
3%
0
49%
51%
0.96
dried fig
0%
48%
52%
0
48%
52%
0.92
sweet onion
14%
40%
46%
0
47%
53%
0.89
peach
58%
18%
24%
0
47%
53%
0.89
sweet potato
60%
17%
24%
0
46%
54%
0.87
HFCS42 (solid foods)
0%
42%
53%
5%
44%
56%
0.79
apricot
64%
10%
26%
0
42%
58%
0.72
plum
16%
32%
52%
0
40%
60%
0.66
sweet corn
15%
31%
55%
0
38%
62%
0.61
After agave nectar (82% fructose), pears and apples are the worst (2/3rds fructose). And natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup are about half fructose, and they aren’t even fruit! Only corn is low, but higher in glucose.