What Everyone Ought to Know about Fructose

Picture of a woman with a cup of coffee and sugar and honey in front of her

One of the hottest sweeteners on the market today is agave  (also known as agave nectar). Clever marketing touts that it has minimal impact on blood sugar (which is true), but does not give the full picture on this super harmful product. IT DRIVES ME NUTS.

So many believe agave to be the perfect low-glycemic replacement for sugar in a healthful diet.

I am not one of those people. I have been pretty vocal in my crusade against agave.  I believe it is the enemy of good health because it has such a high concentration of fructose (way more than the commonly demonized high fructose corn syrup), and the artificial chemical processes used to manufacture it.

What Is Fructose?

Fructose is a simple sugar that occurs naturally in very small amounts in fruit and some vegetables. It is also the main sweetener in honey, agave syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup.

Because of its structure, fructose adds sweetness with a much smaller impact on blood sugar than other simple sugars such as sucrose.

A Little Goes a Long Way

While fructose gives fruit its sweetness, however, it exists in fruits in very small amounts: a little goes a long way. When you eat whole foods like fruit, the fiber keeps you from overeating.

However in processed liquid products such as agave nectar (and in high-fructose corn syrup), you have an extremely high concentration of fructose.

Historically, humans didn’t have add sweeteners to foods. Our ancestors ate fruit in season- and depending where they lived, they ate it abundantly. They did not over-consume fructose. 

The human body can process these tiny amounts of fructose quite well. Unfortunately, fructose in HFCS and agave comes in extremely high amounts. HFCS is approximately 55 percent fructose.

Agave nectar is even higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup – anywhere from 65- 90+ percent. (Tell me again why agave is seen as a “healthy” sweetener option??).

Unfortunately, the human body is unable to process fructose at such high levels, and more and more studies are showing just how harmful large concentrations of fructose in the human diet can be.

  1. A 2012 UCLA study showed that a diet containing steadily high levels of fructose actually slowed brain function, hampering memory and learning.
  2. A 2010 Princeton University study demonstrated that fructose caused significant weight gain, increased levels of abdominal fat, and high triglycerides.
  3. A 2012 Duke University study showed that high fructose diets increased the risk of ATP depletion. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a co-enzyme necessary for cellular metabolism, and when it is depleted it may trigger liver injury including scarring. Inflammation, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  4. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that, along with ATP deletion, high fructose consumption can cause metabolic syndrome because it generates uric acid, can cause dysfunction of the endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels), can lead to the formation of fats (lipogenesis), and can cause oxidative stress and damage. They further report that fructose consumption may interfere with hormones that communicate satiety.

Fructose Intolerance

Some people have even more difficulty with fructose than the problems listed above. Some people are born lacking the necessary enzymes to break down fructose.

This congenital condition, known as hereditary fructose intolerance, occurs when someone is born without the enzyme aldolase B. People with this condition causes the build-up of dangerous substances in the liver and throughout the body.

Symptoms of fructose intolerance occur early – typically in babies who consume foods or formula containing fructose. The disorder persists throughout life, and people with fructose intolerance need to avoid fructose-containing foods including processed foods, fruit, honey, table sugar, agave nectar, sodas, and sports drinks.  

Consuming foods containing fructose can sustain damage to the liver and kidneys if they don’t eliminate the sugar from their diet.

Fructose Malabsorption

Another segment of the population may have a less serious condition known as fructose malabsorption. These people will have difficulty digesting foods that contain fructose, leading to gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea.

Avoiding Fructose

If you don’t have fructose malabsorption or intolerance, chances are you can eat a little bit of fruit and your body will tolerate it just fine.

In fact, fruit has many wonderful beauty properties including enzymes and vitamins.

If you don’t have fructose intolerance or malabsorption, I recommend eating a little fruit on an empty stomach so it doesn’t get stuck behind a heavier food and begin to ferment in your body. I also suggest adding fruit to your Glowing Green Smoothies to give it a hint of sweetness and lots more vitamins.

Picture of a baby eating a strawberry

Fruits are the most cleansing foods on the planet. But if you have fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption issues, I recommend avoiding sweet fruit altogether, as well as honey, fruit juice and some of the sweeter vegetables such as beets and corn I believe everyone should avoid foods containing artificially inflated levels of fructose vs glucose, or anything unnatural.

This includes all processed foods and beverages containing cane/table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, agave, soft drinks, fruit juice, and energy drinks.

Other high-fructose foods include:       

    • Beet sugar
    • Corn sugar
    • High-fructose corn syrup
    • Brown rice syrup
    • Agave
    • Brown sugar
    • Cane sugar
    • Date sugar
    • Fruit juice
    • Fruit sweetener
    • Grape syrup
    • Maple Syrup
    • Molasses
    • Polydextrose
    • Honey
    • Sorbitol
    • Turbinado




What Can You Eat?

As always, I recommend eating whole, natural, plant-based foods including dark leafy greens, whole grains, and raw nuts and seeds.

All of these foods are safe, healthy foods to eat and contain little to no fructose.

If you do need sweet, I recommend a little stevia or a sugar alcohol such as xylitol (consume moderately otherwise it can give you the runs).

  Picture of vegi's, nuts and seeds and grains

Closing words: Avoid agave! Spread the word! Please share this! Hopefully one day it will get pulled out of raw food products and recipes and so-called “health” products once and for all.





Last updated: Tuesday, January 5, 2016
  • http://www.etsy.com/shop/trueorganics Sierra


    I love reading your articles, they are so informative! 😀

    There is just one thing I couldn’t get.. How can agave be low-glycemic, yet extremely concentrated with fructose? I don’t understand how it could be both. If it contains so much sugar, why doesn’t the body recognize it as sugar?

    Thank You for all that you do!


    • Linda

      What’s your view on raw organic county nectar?

    • audrey

      Low glycemic means it does not increase your blood glucose, which is a different sugar from fructose. Fructose is actually absorbed in the presence of glucose, and not absorbed by itself. This is why diabetics were once told to eat fructose as a sugar and not glucose. Sucrose is a disaccharide (a combo of glucose and fructose). Potatoes and rice are high glycemic, because they are made of starch, which are long chains of glucose hooked together.

      Glycemic index is measured in the absence of other foods. If you eat a meal that contains all three macronutrients, you should be ok with regard to blood sugar (glucose).

  • Monica

    Though I agree with the content I feel the list has every sweetener in it. That makes it impossible for the regular individual to accomplish eating well. Though you do a great job at this most folks cannot follow such a rigid diet and end up quitting. I think there needs to be a compromise and provide people with options. Plus many many raw chefs still use agave which makes the info confusing. The way I see it give up fast food and keep the honey and an raw maple syrup.

    • Kimmy

      I think that the truth about sugar is finally out. You can either except it and change your lifestyle- at a cost to your convenience but a major improvement to your health and vitality- or you can compromise and just do better, which is at least improvement. BUT I would rather have Kimberly give the facts and be super honest than water down the truth or completely lie like our “health authorities” do. We have enough advertising and marketing trying to make things comfortable for the consumer- the reality is that it’s going to be a sacrifice and difficult at times to eat the way our bodies can thrive from, but it gets easier and is worth it when you feel awesome!

    • Ashley

      coconut sugar isn’t on the list. you might want to try some of that :) rapadura is also great it is really just ground sugar cane it even looks like it. There is no heat in the process. Both can be found at whole foods.

  • http://laurenroseburke.wordpress.com Lauren Burke

    Hi Kim!

    Thanks for this fabulous post!
    I actually have been wanting to ask you this for quite a while: I suffer from terrible fructose malabsorption! It’s quite debilitating at times!

    I am very, very interested in having a glowing green smoothie for breakfast daily, however apples, pears and bananas are all on my no go list! I actually avoid all fruits at the minute as this makes a huge difference to my energy and stomach bloating!

    I tried the GGS with the fruit, hoping the empty stomach, no food combining would do the trick, however it unfortunately did not work and I because very sick very quickly!

    Is there a fructose-free GGS recipe?! I tried just omitting the fruit and just having greens, but it was quite strong and not drinkable (and trust me, I will drink anything! I have noni and wheatgrass daily like it’s nothing so I am used to strong, earthy flavours!)

    I would really appreciate any options you are able to offer, as I don’t want to miss out on the Beauty Detox way of life, because my fructose malabsorption has already made me miss out on so many amazing things already!!

    Thank you in advance,
    Your fan,
    Lauren xxx

    • Lis


      Not Kim, but most days I include a green, all-veggie green smoothie that tastes great. I load it with dark, leafy greens and add things like tomato, a little raw sauerkraut, fresh lime juice, fresh & dried herbs and a little sea salt. Things like celery, fresh herbs and things on the acidic side as far as flavors, really make it taste good!

      Have you tried the GGS with more acidic fruits or a little liquid stevia? Maybe playing around with combinations will help you find something that works for your system.


    • Ashley

      I feel the exact same way. you’re not alone in this.

    • Katie

      I feel your pain!! I also have fructose malabsorption and its so frustration because all the food i love and want to eat, so much of it is restricted….
      It almost feels like i feel better from eating unhealthy food then the healthy food so sometimes i ignore it and eat the healthier option even if it contains fructose yet i am left in more pain…ahhh so frustrating!!! what kind of meals do you eat to stay well that are still full of nutrition?

  • Grace Linley

    Thank you for explaining the agave situation. Someone had warned me against using it, but had no idea why I shouldn’t. I’m new to “raw” and didn’t know who to ask. Thanks again.

  • http://www.skincandyvitamins.com Foods For Beauty

    Words to live by!! Agave is so bad, thanks for getting the word out. Nothing irks me more than finding an awesome new raw foods and finding out they use agave as a sweetener. When I consume a product with agave, it actually makes me grumpy. It does not matter if it is clear, amber or from a popular health food guru website, still bad :)

  • Larisa

    Hi Kim,

    This was very informative. I use Agave instead of sugar sparingly and do believe that eating whole fruits will satisfy my sweet tooth. I would love to know if you think Raw Agave is bad or only processed?

  • Luisa Esposito

    I am deeply thankful for your book and now this article. it will make all the difference in people lives if they can learn from the past and embrace new studies and practices in nutrition. After all this is the 21 Century… right?

    Thanks again,
    Luisa Esposito

  • Caroline

    The agave thing is disturbing. I do enjoy it on very seldom occasions (usually pancakes). I think I’m going to try unsweetened applesauce on them from now on. I mostly use stevia though. It’s been great. I follow a gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free regimen because of my autoimmune disease (and with a nutritionist’s help).

  • Francesca Burgess

    Do you recommend coconut nectar?

  • http://www.bloomhere.net Tammy

    Thanks for sharing. Very informative. I was wondering about yacon syrup. I have heard good things about this. What is your take on yacon syrup?

  • Benedictus

    Yikes! I am an agave nectar user (Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave) because I thought it was a healthier choice than regular sugar! I went to the Wholesome Sweeteners website (http://www.wholesomesweeteners.com/NWillertonAgaveStatement1.html) and feel good about it’s source – coming from the actual agave plant in Mexico – so I think the brand I’m using may not be the same as the “Florida Crystals” made by the Domino’s” brand I’ve seen at Walmart.

    But…I also have the same question as the first person, Sierra: How can it be so low on the glycemic level and not raise blood sugar, but be so high in fructose? I don’t understand how that works.

    If you have any info on that I would appreciate it! I may have to change my sweetener to something else.

    All this time I thought I was buying something good :(


  • carol

    Very interesting post,
    I’m opening a raw food restaurants next week and have been very confused about the sweetners. iI have decided to go with coconut sugar. What do you think of this sweetner..
    I like your website it seems to make a lot of sense to me

  • Courtney

    Kim, a quick question, after reading your article about birth control, my husband and I decided that it would be best for me not to take the pill anymore, I didn’t want those funky hormones but now my skin is a mess!! I don’t eat any meat, dairy isnt common and I do my best to not eat much sugary desserts( which is sooo hard!) I have GGS almost everyday, so what next? Do you maybe have a face wash you reccomend? Or maybe a good makeup? I can’t use products with much oils on my skin, it makes it much worse! I’m at a loss, it is so discouraging to look in the mirror! I avoid even leaving the house because of it! Help!

  • Lis

    Kim, are all-fruit meals okay? For instance, a large fresh fruit salad or a bunch of bananas or dates? How much fruit is okay?

    Thanks! <3

  • Abby

    Interesting article. I am finding it hard to keep up with the ever changing recommendations of what and what not to put in my body. I recently read that your sweetener solution, stevia, was believed to be potentially harmful to men’s and women’s reproductive systems. Yikes. They all sound like bad options.

  • Kathleen

    At one point I believe you recommended using raw coconut nectar if you needed a sweetner. Is this still the case because I thought it also is processed similar to agave?

  • http://hannahbeals.com Hannah

    Hey! Thank you so much! This is very helpful! I have a huge sweet tooth, and I am so thankful for Stevia! It keeps me in check for the most part. Gonna have to use less Honey.
    Your articles are always so helpful and encouraging! Thank again! ~Hannah

  • Pam

    Hey Kimberly,
    I have been doing the Paleo diet for 6 months how and feel great. I notice that you mention to eat whole grains which the Paleo diet restricts because of the harmful effects it’s has on the intestinal system . What is your take on whole grains and legumes as it pertains to your autoimmune system and intestinal health overall?

    Thank you,

  • Helen

    I have metabolic syndrome. I take 500 mg. of Metformin ( glucophage), 2x a day. I read that Stevia will interact negatively, and cause low blood sugar readings if one comsumes stevia. So I quit the Stevia, having had trouble with it, and use agave nectar sparingly in smoothies/ and tea thinking that was low glycemic. I really don’t know what artificial sweetners work with the medication I am taking. Need an alternative sweetner. I use fruit as often as I can. Thanks for your valuable info.

  • Laura

    Hi Kimberly, I am wondering why you deleted my comment on the Brown Rice Syrup? I was looking for a response.

  • Kathryn Mora

    Thanks for the Agave info. I have read other places that it is unacceptable because of the chemicals used to process it. Recently I had organic Agave thinking that’s okay because undesirable chemicals would not be used. Is that true?

  • Lis

    Hi Kimberly,

    My question is about natural sugar in fruit. I sometimes eat fruit only meals when on the go, such as 3 bananas or 5-6 medjool dates.

    Is it okay to do this?

    I thought I’d posted my question, but for some reason I don’t see the original here.



  • nina

    Could fructose malabsorption be a “good thing” when it comes to anti-aging? You mentioned in an earlier article that fructose forms AGE’s 10 times more efficiently than glucose. Maybe it’s a “good thing” if a person eliminates it rather than absorbing it.

  • Melissa

    You recommend whole grains often, and I was just curious why. Though grains tout some protein and fiber, they do serious harm to your gut, and overall health.

  • Shannon

    Hey Kim!

    I don’t understand whats wrong with Honey if its local and organic, Its naturally derived from bees. So why Is it a bad sugar can you explain this more. Honey has been used for over 6,000 years through out our generations. Please elaborate, I always thought Honey was the best sugar.

  • slee

    How much is too much Agave? I have two teaspoons a day in my coffee. Is that harmful<

  • Anisha

    Does anybody have any insight on whether it is alright to consume Goji berries/ground flaxseed with warm lemon water in the morning? If not, when is a good time to consume those items, if any? thanks

  • Milena

    Does anyone knows how much fructose there is in wheatgrass?

  • Katie

    Hi Kimberley, love your blog, you are such an inspiration. I have fructose malabsorption as well as a few other problems which makes my stomach so super sensitive to so many things including any garlic, onion, some veg, most fruits, fermented veg, raw veg, juices, gluten, and sometimes just any food in general, etc etc etc. I have tried a lot of different diets but nothing has seemed to improve it too much but i am starting your detox next year and really want to stick at it but wondering if my stomach is so sensitive and reacts to the food(as it usually does with most foods), should i continue as eventually my stomach will not be so reactive and start to heal? Also do you do consultations at all?
    Thanks so much

  • Laurel

    Hi Kimberly,

    I am interested to know what your thoughts are on organic coconut sugar, since I know you like coconut oil?


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  • Kim B.

    Great information! Thanks, Kim!

  • cindy

    Kimberly, Thank you so much for all of your great info and advice. I have been on you BDS for a year now and GLS for a month now and I am having incredible results following the “BUTTERFLY ” guidelines. Could you give me your take on the Master Cleanse Drink made up of water,cayenne, lemon. & organic 100% Maple Syrup? It is supposed to be very good for losing weight when done as a fast for 7-10 days. Thanks Cindy

  • Stephanie

    Lovely, informative article. What are you thoughts on Organic Coconut Palm sugar?

  • Patty B.

    Hello, Kimberly:

    Congratulations on your wonderful new book. I purchased several copies as gifts for my favorite people.
    My question about sweeteners is this: What about TRUVIA, STEVIA IN THE RAW, OR some of the newer ones that just hit the supermarket shelves! I don’t care for the bitter taste of STEVIA, but the TRUVIA seemed to be less bitter. I’ve also tried the one you recommend (NuNaturals), in your RESOURCES SECTION, but that seems bitter to me as well. I even tried SWEET LEAF from the Health food store. But, I can’t seem to transition from “Sugar in the raw” to pure STEVIA. Can you recommend one that doesn’t leave a bitter after taste in drinks?!

    Thank you.
    Patty B.

    • Zoe

      I have found Natvia is alot nicer tasting as Stevia. The Natvia sweetener is still made from the Stevia plant but I find the taste is more pleasant & easier to change from sugar to Natvia. You can purchase it in tablet form as well as powder form for cooking, etc.

  • Carly Bell

    In baking, what is a good substitute for agave nectar and or honey? I am currently using rice malt syrup (brown rice syrup) but you have also said that this is high in fructose.

  • Melodie

    Hi Kimberly,

    What is your view on what the “right” amount of sugar (natural, coming from fruits) is per day? Do you think there is a maximum amount someone should consume?

  • Caroline

    I had rapadura sugar and by process of elimination and numerous relentless tests including a Brain MRI and Neurologist Visits (AKA a lot of $$$) that the icepick headaches were from the rapadura.
    I switched to Coconut Sugar, and again through a processes of elimination I found out that the massive cramping I was having where I felt like I wanted to pass out from the pain was from the Coconut Sugar.
    I have been having stomach pains again over 6months down the path and thought what on earth is causing this ! Turns out that the Organic Drinking Chocolate powder I was putting on my Nespresso Caps (3 a day) has coconut sugar in it !!!! (which I didn’t realize)
    After doing some research it would probably appear that these products are extremely high in Fructose because they are completely unprocessed and my body can’t process such naturally occurring sugars
    So be mindful of these two sugars and any sudden change in your body

  • Maria

    Hey Kimberly!

    I love your books, articles, and youtube videos. I am learning soo much and I love the radical change in my body inside and out, and my mind as well!

    My question is in reference to sugar substitutes. When I get the occasional desire for something sweet I am using Yukon Syrup? The internet has so many combating articles on it and I wondered what yours or anyone’s thoughts on this substitute were? I don’t want to have an Agave situation ahah. My mother is allergic to stevia. I made the Coconut macaroons from the recipe book last night. I used Yukon Syrup instead of Stevia or the coconut nectar/maple syrup and the macaroons turned out perfectly. I just hope i’m not using something terribly unhealthy inadvertently? Thank you!

  • Jillianne

    Rice syrup, either white or brown, is pure glucose and therefore doesn’t contain fructose. Neither does barley barley malt syrup, which is the best replacement for brown sugar or molasses that we fructose malabsorbers have. Of course you still need to read the ingredient label to make sure the manufacturer hasn’t added anything to the rice or barley.

    With all the sugars we cannot eat, it’s critical to be correct about the few sugars we can have.

    The simple info below has been helpful for our family:

    Galactose + Glucose make a Lactose
    Glucose + Fructose make a Sucrose
    Glucose + Glucose make a Maltose
    (Glucose and dextrose are the same thing)

    So, the safe natural sweeteners that Hereditary Fructose Malabsorbers and severe fructose malabsorbers can safely eat are pure corn syrup (not modified to be HFCS), pure white or brown rice syrup and pure barley malt syrup.

    I think it’s a lot easier to remember what we can eat than all the things we can’t eat.

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Good information, thanks for this Jillianne!

  • Anita De Bauch

    is coconut nectar also high in fructose?

    if so, how does it compare to maple syrup and raw honey?