When to Give in to Your Sweet Tooth

Let's face it — life would be dull without the occasional sweet treat. Here's how to indulge without affecting gut health.

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Researchers at Princeton University have discovered that small to modest amounts of fructose, a sugar found in fruit, are processed primarily in the small intestine and not by the liver as previously believed. Although the study was conducted in mice, the findings give insight into how your body may process sugar and how simple modifications to how and when you munch on the sweet stuff could affect your microbiome. 

THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR MATTERS: This means that the majority of fruit-based sugars ingested may not reach the liver and lead to chronic diseases such as cirrhosis or liver cancer. However, excess sugar intake can still negatively impact gut health and spill over to the liver and colon, especially if eaten in between meals. “These observations suggest that fructose can be safely eaten in moderation, especially after a
 meal,” said Joshua Rabinowitz, MD, PhD, of the Lewis- Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, adding that it’s also best to avoid eating sweets on an empty stomach. “Eating fructose in a fed state rather than a fasted state may be better to prevent fructose spillover to the liver and microbiota,” he says. 

DOCTOR’S ORDERS: Rabinowitz suggests avoiding fructose in the morning when the body is least able to process it and start the day instead with a balanced breakfast containing complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal and/or protein such as eggs. If you want to indulge your sweet tooth after a meal later in the day, go for dark chocolate or a small serving of berries instead of a sugary cookie or chocolate bar. 

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