How to Digest Fructose

How to Digest Fructose

Written by Lisa Kunstler, FodShop Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor

What is fructose?

Fructose is a simple sugar naturally found in a variety of food groups. Humans are limited in their ability to digest fructose but this is heightened in fructose intolerance and malabsorption.

When fructose reaches the small intestine, it attracts water to the bowel, forcing its contents into the colon where it is fermented and produces gas. This may then cause symptoms of excessive gas and bloating, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. (1)


Foods with Fructose

Many different types of foods include fructose in high amounts, it's not just fruit! Whilst this is the stereotype, and it is true for fruits like mangos, watermelon, pears, and apples, fruit is not the only food group containing high quantities of fructose. (1)

Vegetables are also included in the high fructose foods list, with artichoke, asparagus, leek, mushrooms, peas, broccoli, red capsicum, onions, and tomatoes making the cut. Sweeteners like honey and high-fructose corn syrup, often found in flavoured milks, sweeteners, soft drinks, and yoghurts, and foods made of wheat, like pasta and bread, are also high in fructose. (1)

However, not all foods containing fructose are inedible to the average fructose intolerance. At an appropriate serving size, pineapple, mandarins, strawberries, bananas, avocados, lemon, lime, cantaloupe, and cranberries are some great low fructose fruit options. (1) 

Low fructose vegetables include carrots, sweet potato, white potato, parsnip, radish, rhubarb, kale, green capsicum, celery, and bok choy. Some more low fructose vegetables are brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce however, these are likely to induce flatulence. (1)

Most dairy products without added high-fructose corn syrup, plain unprocessed meats, legumes, and gluten free grains are appropriate low fructose options. (1)


Management of Fructose Intolerance

The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics suggests consuming foods with less than 3g of fructose per serving, less than 0.5g of fructose in excess of glucose per 100 g of food (free fructose), and less than 0.5g of fructan per serve. (1) One study showed that those compliant with these recommendations, showed significant improvements in symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain, and belching within a year. (1)

Sometimes though, fructose is difficult to avoid, especially when eating out of the home. In this case, a fructose-digesting enzyme xylose isomerase can be useful for dietary fructose intolerance. This enzyme is consumed at the time of the meal or drink and helps to break down fructose and avoid unpleasant symptoms. Intoleran fructase is a great option for those looking for an enzymatic-supplement to enjoy food anywhere you go.



1. Fedewa A, Rao SS. Dietary fructose intolerance, fructan intolerance and FODMAPs. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2014 Jan;16(1):370. doi: 10.1007/s11894-013-0370-0. PMID: 24357350; PMCID: PMC3934501.

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