Fructose vs. Sugar: Why I Don’t Eat Fructose


People are constantly asking me for my Addiction-Free Cookie recipe.  I bring this favorite dessert of mine to parties (where I also implement my small-talk-can-be-fun recipe)  I bake them as a house guest.  People rave.  No one suspects they’re being punked… manipulated into enjoying something healthy.  Yes -healthy cookies!

Why “Addiction-Free?”

The ingredient that takes the cookies from “better just have one” to “it’s totally okay to come home hungry and shove ten of them directly into your mouth” is dextrose – preferably GMO free.

What is dextrose?  It’s just two glucose molecules bonded together.  The way your body sees it, dextrose is just glucose.  Glucose is the basic fuel your body needs.  It tends to be what’s in all those athletic gels and what-not used by marathoners and other endurance athletes.  It also makes up 50% of what you probably think of as “sugar” – the white stuff in the jar next to the coffee pot.  (The other 50% is fructose.) We’ll talk more about glucose down the page.

Why I Care About Food

I studied evolutionary genetics at university.  One of my focuses was dietetics.  I don’t care what Women’s Health or Cosmopolitan or Men’s Health or Maxim or even the New York Times or The Guardian says about what I should or shouldn’t be eating.  Think about it… are you really going to trust popular diet advice from food systems producing the fattest, most disease-prone people in the world?

Is fructose bad for me? You bet your bottom dollar. Heres why. And its not just because you could get fat like this pig.

America’s broken food system and lack of cultural food traditions makes me super sad. photo: austin guhl

There are only two things I don’t want to put in my body: fructose and poison.  Okay, I guess booze is technically poison.  And lawd knows I love me a good oaked bourbon.  But I digress.  And I’ll leave the poison for another day.  So.  Fructose.  Not for me.

But Fructose is in Fruit!  Fruit is healthy!

Ugh.  Look.  I’m not going to do your googling for you.  I’m not here to teach you about why you shouldn’t eat fructose.  I’m just trying to explain why I don’t eat it, and why I don’t put it in my uber-popular cookies.

Yes, fructose is in fruit.  It’s also in almost every single thing eaten by the average westerner, because fructose molecules make up 50% of table sugar and 42-60% of high fructose corn syrup… both of which get added to practically everything.

Which is worse - sugar or fructose? Sugar has fructose in it, but fructose is the dangerous part of sugar. This breakfast has over 6 grams of fructose - almost the max youd ewant to have in an entire day!

Aww, look! A healthy breakfast! If you don’t count the 3 grams of sugar in the bread and the 10 grams in the jelly for a total of 81% of your daily sugar limit.  Is there sugar in the tea?  The tomato adds a gram, too, but we’ll ignore that since the tomato is in its natural state.  photo: joseph gonzales

You know what fruit has that all those other fructose sources don’t?  Fiber.  Water.  Lots of both.  You know how many apples you would have to eat to get the same amount of fructose in a tiny glass of juice?  Guess.  The number that comes after four.  Five freaking apples!  If you are going to smash five apples every morning at breakfast, along with your bagel or whatever… you are a total doctor-repelling beast.

Guess Where Fructose Ends Up

Here’s why I don’t eat fructose: it f*cks you up.

Is fructose better for you than sugar? No. Absolutely not. Is fructose better for you than glucose? Again. No. Fructose does to your body what the kid is doing to this microphone.

Fructose does to your body what this kid is doing to the ears on the other end of this mic.  photo: jason rosewell

First, there are five types of cells in your body.  They all eat glucose.  You will die without glucose.  Your body will literally start eating itself, throwing your body into ketosis and slowly degrading sensitive tissues until you lose your feet/hands/vision/kidneys.  This is what happens to diabetics who don’t have the equipment necessary to access the glucose in their bloodstreams.  You must. eat. glucose. aAtkins and other no-carb, no-sugar diets are using ketosis to get your body to eat itself.  Fine in the short term, not okay for the long game.

Of the five types of cells in your body, all of them can burn glucose.  They need it.  One of the five can also use fructose.  Guess where those cells reside?  Clue: a giant organ.  You guessed “liver,” right?  You know… the organ responsible for processing toxins?  The organ whose toxin-processing duties you can support by taking my favorite, super-legit hangover pills before and after drinking? (You can take the pills every day if you’re one of those vitamin-fish-oil people.  In fact, I learned about them from a friend who does exactly that.  And never drinks.  Don’t worry. He’s still fun.)

Hmmm… cells that can use fructose only exist in the liver.  Verrrrry suspicious.

What the Liver Does With Fructose

Again, with the do-your-own googling thing.  Or if you really care, read this book.  I’m not going to burn time verifying what my brain currently remembers.  That’s up to you.  But here’s what I have stored in my mental rolodex:

The liver likes a little bit of fructose.  Emphasis on little.  It uses it for some jobs.  But when there’s an excess?  Well, let’s store if for later, of course!  The liver turns excess fructose into fatty acids and deploys them into the bloodstream. bWant to get sciencey?  Explained here.

Is fructose better than table sugar? No. Table sugar only has half the fructose, which like these crazy minions, wreaks havoc on your life

You ready to go make some friends?  Fatty acids unite!  photo: pixabay

If your blood happens to have a bunch of estrogen in it, the estrogen is like, “Whoa!  Fatty acids!  So good to see you!  Hey we were just about to swing by the fat cells.  Come with us.  Hey, you know, actually, why don’t you wait here, and we’ll let you know when you can come out.”  If your bloodstream lacks estrogen, the fatty acids wander around like, “How come I have no friends?  This is so lame.  Whoa!  What’s that over there?  Arterial plaque?  Sweet!  I’ll hang out with those guys.  Perfect!

Supposedly this is why women get fat and men have heart attacks… until women’s estrogen levels drop.  Then they start having heart attacks, too.  Yes, I’m simplifying.  Of course I’m simplifying.  This is a lifestyle and travel blog, not a highly technical, pedantic science blog.

What Fructose Does to Your:
Appetite, Joints, Hormones,
and Dopamine Circuits

Were you listening when I told you fructose f*cks you up?  I’m getting tired of writing, which probably means you’re getting tired of reading, so let’s wrap this up.

Appetite: fructose f*cks up the appetite control mechanism in your brain.  Here’s some science that I didn’t even read, but looks to explain what I already know.  Basically, you feel hungry even though you’ve smashed 1500 calories.  You’re never quite “not hungry.”  You might find yourself saying, “Well, I could always eat.”  You might find yourself eating a pint of ice cream right after you just polished after a massive plate of fettuccine alfredo, because… mmmm… ice cream.

is fructose bad for you? In the tiny amounts you'd get from a plant (not fruit) based diet? No. In the amounts that are in this milkshake ice cream? Absolutely.

If your mouth starts watering every single time you look at something like this… you’re probably addicted to fructose.  photo: dennis klein

Joints: I can’t even remember why now… I think because fructose causes an increase in uric acid circulating in your body.  Those crystals get stuck in your joints and cause pain – basically the same mechanism as gout.  Ouch!

Hormones: we’re not talking about what’s going on in your pants.  Did you know your appetite is regulated by hormones?  Ghrelin and… I can’t remember the other one.  But your hormones are all buddies on the same team, and a team is only as strong as its weakest link.  When your appetite hormones get out of whack, it can impact the rest of the team.  It’s my intuition that this consequence of fructose consumption is responsible for the explosion of PCOS, but I am 100% making that up in my little brain with absolutely no attempt to verify it in any way.  I can tell you that when I got addicted to sugar (I’ll write that story someday), I stopped getting my period.  (And totally freaked out because I was in a relationship with this guy and definitely did not want to have babies with him.)

How are fructose and glucose different from one another? One is used by all the cells in your body and the other can only be processed by cells that reside in the body organ that processes toxins... the liver. Pretty shocking what too much fructose will do to you.

Is fructose bad for you?  Well… is worrying that you’re pregnant for the first time in your life by a man you know you don’t want to have children with bad for you?  photo: gellinger

Dopamine Circuits: fructose is as addictive as nicotine and heroin.  Your inability to stop picking up a frappucino or stay out of the office candy jar has nothing to do with willpower.  Addicts can’t just be like, “ya know, I think I’m just going to stick to shooting up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.”  It doesn’t work like that.  You will access your drug whenever your brain chemistry demands it.  If your dopamine circuits are getting rewarded with fructose even just once every few days, they are going to want more fructose.  And they are going to make your life hell if you don’t give it to them.  You’ve experienced this.  Every person that eats has experienced this.  Try not eating any fructose for two weeks.  Then stumble around in shock, because you never thought it would possible to be faced with amazing foods and think “Eh.  I’m not really hungry.  Maybe later.”  Again with my personal, unsubstantiated theories: I think the combination of appetite control broken by fructose and dopamine addiction to fructose is where emotional eating comes from.

But Fructose Occurs Naturally!  In Nature!

You know what else occurs naturally in nature?  Cyanide.  Blue-ringed Octopi.  Pit Vipers.  Arsenic.  Puffer Fish.  Rattlesnakes.

Yes, I’m confident our paleo-ancestors ate plenty of fruit.  However – and some people aren’t aware of this – there was a time you couldn’t just eat an apple whenever you wanted.  Because it was spring and nothing was fruiting yet.  Or you lived in an igloo.  There was a time when honey didn’t come in jars.  You actually had to steal it from the bees, which is like the modern equivalent of trying to pick off a Harley outside a Hell’s Angels bar.  There was a time when maple syrup didn’t come in jugs.  You had to painstakingly collect sap during a tiny window of just a few weeks, and then cook and cook and cook and cook and cook and cook it stirring it the whole time so it doesn’t burn until it’s reduced 97 percent.

Is there fructose in honey? Yes. How is fructose bad for you? It really messes up your body. If fructose were as difficult to obtain as it was historically, would you still be eating it?

If you had to get all the honey you’ve ever eaten from here instead of a store shelf, just exactly how much honey would you be eating? photo: sumx

You know what else our paleo-ancestors ate?  Leaves.  Roots.  So. many. roots.  Where’s your hustle now?  Why aren’t you demanding acceptance for your turnip and tapioca obsessions?

Now Let’s Go Eat Some Cookies

In conclusion: my cookie recipe uses dextrose, not sugar, because I don’t like eating fructose cNo, I am not obsessive.  If you make me a cake for my birthday, I’ll probably eat a slice.  And sometimes I smash a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (Yes. The entire pint.  All at once.)… like maybe four times a year?  And I eat a piece of whole fruit almost every day.

I don’t like eating fructose, because it f*cks you up.  Your toxin-processing organ turns it into fat or arterial plaque.  It screws up your appetite, messes with your hormones, makes your joints ache, and makes you crave the next fructose-hit like a rabid zombie craves flesh.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Happy Baking! ♣

Other crazy health stuff I care about: 

References   [ + ]

a. Atkins and other no-carb, no-sugar diets are using ketosis to get your body to eat itself.  Fine in the short term, not okay for the long game.
b. Want to get sciencey?  Explained here.
c. No, I am not obsessive.  If you make me a cake for my birthday, I’ll probably eat a slice.  And sometimes I smash a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (Yes. The entire pint.  All at once.)… like maybe four times a year?  And I eat a piece of whole fruit almost every day