There are a lot of people condemning fructose as an “evil” sugar, but the fact that it’s mainly found in fruits and vegetables tells you that it’s not necessarily terrible.
It’s true that fructose is hard to digest in large amounts, and that’s a big reason why high fructose corn syrup is so unhealthy, but most people don’t need to avoid natural sources of fructose.
With that being said, a sizable portion of people are at least partially fructose intolerant. They can absorb some, but large servings of fructose can cause side effects like gas and bloating.
We’re going to take a quick look at the research behind this, and then look at a list of foods that are high in fructose.
Table of Contents
Fructose Intolerance 101
Fructose is a monosaccharide, just like glucose. However, they are digested very differently, and fructose is much harder to digest than glucose.
Because of this, fructose can end up being passed to the large intestine before being absorbed, where it is then fermented by gut bacteria, which produces gas as a side product.
That’s why fructose is considered a FODMAP.
One study had subjects take different doses of fructose in solution at weekly intervals. They found that:
Healthy subjects have the capacity to absorb up to 25 g fructose, whereas many exhibit malabsorption and intolerance with 50 g fructose
Digging deeper, 10% showed signs of intolerance after consuming 25 grams of fructose, although it wasn’t a great sample size.
For people who are highly sensitive to fructose, keeping serving sizes below 25 grams typically makes sense. Most other people can tolerate up to 50 grams before experiencing side effects.
30 Foods Highest in Fructose
The data below was all obtained from the USDA’s nutritional database for 100 grams of each food.
There’s probably a few foods missing, but it’s a fairly complete list. Also note that different varieties of foods (and even different batches of crops) can have some variation of fructose as well.
|Food||Carbohydrate (g)||Fiber (g)||Sugars (g)||Fructose (g)|
|Red bell pepper||8.24||2.83||5.74||3.09|
|Green bell pepper||6.34||2.33||3.28||1.53|
Dates are an exception on the list since they are typically eaten as a dried food, so of course any sugars like fructose are concentrated.
Other than dates, people who are highly sensitive to fructose need to limit their serving sizes of most of those foods, especially:
Just 2-3 servings of those foods can start to cause stomach issues for some people.
Most other people really only need to worry about eating 4-5+ servings of any of those, which isn’t very common.
What About Other FODMAPs?
Some of the foods we looked at above may cause some people stomach issues, even when they only eat small servings.
It’s important to remember that fiber and other FODMAPs are often present in these foods, which can cause excessive gas as well.
For example, apples can cause gas because they are high in sorbitol. Eating too much sorbitol can even lead to diarrhea as a result of the osmotic effect that sorbitol has.