Q. My doctor says I have fructose malabsorption. There is mixed information on whether cane sugar/ syrup as a “safe” sugar for those with this problem. A lot of health food products seem to use it. Is it considered gut friendly, friendly in limited amounts, or to be avoided altogether?
A. While being diagnosed with a medical condition is never fun, finding out that you suffer from fructose malabsorption (or lactose intolerance, or Celiac disease…) can be a real turning point! The dietary changes that such a diagnosis triggers can finally bring relief from mysterious, long-standing, and sometimes crippling symptoms. Most people are so happy to finally feel better that they don’t even mind going without certain foods. And often, identifying the true culprit allows them to resume eating other “falsely accused” foods.
What is Fructose Malabsorption?
I talked in detail about fructose malabsorption in a recent Nutrition Diva podcast
As you’ll see in the chart below, cane sugar (aka white sugar or granulated sugar) is on the “safe” list because it contains as much glucose as fructose. (Glucose aids in the absorption of fructose.) If it were the only type of sugar or fruit listed in the ingredient list, you should be OK.
There are two reasons to consume even “safe” sugars in moderation. Although balancing fructose with an equal amount of glucose helps the body absorb the fructose better, it’s still possible to overload the gut with too much fructose, triggering symptoms.
Secondly, too much sugar can cause all kinds of other problems that have nothing to do with fructose malabsorption. Which is why I recommend that everyone limit added sugars (even the “healthy ones”) to 5-10% of calories.
Safe foods for those with fructose malabsorption
|More than 50% fructose |
|At least 50% glucose
(OK IN MODERATION)
Fruit Juice Blends
Sugar Snap Peas
|Most Other Vegetables|
Fruit Juice Concentrate
High Fructose Corn Syrup*
|*High fructose corn syrup can contain anywhere from 42% to 55% fructose. Although the 42% variety would not be a problem for those with fructose malabsorption, the 55% would. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell the percentage of fructose in corn syrup from the way it’s listed on the label. To be on the safe side, avoid all foods made with high fructose corn syrup.|