A report was released today by the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center on a small study done to measure the effects of fructose on the human body. Fructose, most commonly found in the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in many processed foods, is a cheap alternative to natural sugar. According to this study, it also makes you fatter. After being ingested, it by-passes the liver, which usually metabolizes sugar, and releases enzymes that signal your body to store it as fat. It also inhibits the production of insulin, which helps the body feel full–so you eat more of it than you would if any other sweetener were used.
Long story short: stay away from fructose, especially HFCS. It also has a longer shelf life than other sweeteners, so manufacturers have been putting it in everything from sports drinks to baby food to candy. Check the labels next time you’re shopping: you’d be surprised where it’s hidden. It’s often in crackers and bread. Be especially vigilant about whole wheat bread; often, to make up for the taste of refined flour, manufacturers add HFCS.
Other sweeteners to try: honey, brown rice syrup, barley malt, date sugar. With all sweeteners–no matter what you choose, including fruit–remember that you’re raising your glycemic level. If you are sensitive to this, use sweeteners in moderation. As you begin to wean yourself off of HCFS, which is MUCH sweeter than can sugar, your body and taste buds will adjust and eventually you won’t need as much sweetness to satiate you.
Note: agave nectar, which has become quite popular to bake with these days (I use it all the time), is 90% fructose. However, no studies have been done to measure this form of fructose, which is extracted from a cactus.
For more tips on weaning yourself off HFCS and adding in natural sweeteners, check out this blog written by a woman who swore off sugar for a year.