When I began my NAFLD-busting journey (as I affectionately – wait, is that aggressively? – like to call it), I quickly found that substitutions were the way to go in order to lose the weight I needed to lose while still feeling full.
I substituted low glycemic index veggies for potatoes or rice, poultry for red meat, vinegar and salt for heavy salad dressings…actually, it’s amazing how many substitutions you can find.
But I made a few mistakes along the way. And one mistake was “substitution” natural sugars.
A Bitter Truth
I had heard quite a bit of hype about agave nectar, and of course, there was always honey, a naturally (if kind of disgustingly) produced product.
I’m not crazy about honey, for some reason. But agave nectar sounded like the perfect table sugar substitute. It comes from a cactus-like plant, the blue agave; the same one from which tequila is made, actually. First Nations people in the Americas called it “honey water” for obvious reasons: it’s a liquid, and it’s sweet.
Sweetness that comes directly from plants has to be healthy for you – certainly healthier than refined table sugar. Right?
Not so fast. Actually, plant-based sugars, usually fructose, could have just as much of an impact on your system as sugar from a Milky Way or from the bowl on your breakfast table. Here’s why fructose isn’t necessarily a healthy substitution when it comes to weight, weight loss, and NALFD.
Fructose v. Glucose
A very large part of the sugar in the average American’s diet comes from glucose (and glucose is what all foods are converted into in the system in order to be transported for use or for storage).
Sucrose, a refined form of sugar, comes from a combination of fructose and glucose.
But fructose alone, as, usually, fruit sugar (but also available from some other plants), is perhaps the most insidious form of sugar danger we consume in modern, first-world societies. Fruit was at one time a very minor part of the average diet. It was not available year-round except in certain areas; in those locales, supplementation with other foods was frequently also available as a temperate zone abundant in water came with not only growing plants but also the animals that came to feed on them and which humans traditionally hunted or used for milk.
Fructose today is available not only in fruits, which can be shipped globally and preserved with an astounding variety of methods, but is also used to sweeten some prepared foods and as noted above, is a component of sucrose, or table sugar.
And although the three sugars act slightly differently in the body, the result is generally the same – the body can only handle so much sugar, whether refined or “natural,” before it becomes not only overweight if an overabundance calorie-wise is consumed, but ultimately, ill.
Not Woo Science
The fact that fructose can negatively impact an NAFLD condition, or encourage one to develop, isn’t just the panic-button stuff of which “natural blogs” (not that we have anything against them) are made. Researchers agree that harmless as you might think it is, fruit sugar can in fact be bad for your liver.
Indeed, researchers at Harvard University agree that too much fructose can negatively affect not only your liver but your heart and arteries at well.
According to Harvard professionals, an excess of fructose:
- elevates triglycerides
- increases harmful LDL (so-called bad cholesterol)
- promotes the buildup of fat around organs (visceral fat)
- increases blood pressure
- makes tissues insulin-resistant, a precursor to diabetes
- increases the production of free radicals, energetic compounds that can damage DNA and cells
(The above information was obtained from this article.)
Emergency! (Or Not?)
With that said, there is an emphasis on the “too much” in those statements.
What is too much fructose, anyway?
According to experts, there’s no need to go running off in a panic throwing away all the apples in your crisper. However, you SHOULD be aware of how much sugar you’re eating in a day, including ingredients in prepared foods, added table sugar, and unrefined sugars such as honey, and fruit.
For the average man, no more than 37.5 grams of sugar (9 teaspoons) should be consumed daily; for women, no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons).
Start reading labels, understand where sugar can be hiding in foods, and count ALL your sugar each day if you’re monitoring or attempting to combat an NAFLD condition, and especially if you’re trying to control your weight.
Your liver will thank you.