Is Fruit Sugar Bad?
The Short Answer:
No, you don’t need to avoid sugar in fruit , even if you are going for a sugar-free diet. Fresh fruits that come from the produce section opposed to the bagged or canned section should be a major part of most healthy diets. Fruits will generally provide more calories than vegetables, but there are essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found primarily in fruits that mean those calories are going to good use. Yes, fruits contain a lot of sugar – but they are also high in fiber content. Fiber helps slow the absorption of the sugars so there isn’t as much of a spike in blood glucose. So, no, you don’t need to worry about fruit sugar.
That being said…if you are a binge eater, it won’t matter what you eat, too much is too much.
The American Diabetes Association recommends, “Having a piece of fresh fruit or fruit salad for dessert is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and get the extra nutrition you’re looking for.” If you are looking for ways to avoid sugar – fruit is not a good place to start.
The Long Answer: Is Fruit Sugar Bad?
Some say that when first starting a healthy diet – you will need to stop eating all sugars. This will boost your fat-burning process (using stored energy / fat since there is no new input of fast energy / sugar). Also, some believe that in order to cut out bad sugars (processed and added sugar) that cutting out all sugars and sweet tastes will curb your appetite for more. There is a lot of merit to these beliefs. And, I have to say that I agree – for some, cutting out all sweets, including fruits, might be a good boost to your new, healthy eating plan. But, you need the nutrition found in fruits and shouldn’t go without for long periods of time. Vitamin C, electrolytes, anti-oxidants, fiber, Vitamin A, iron, folate, potassium…fruits are important to our overall wellness. Even fruit sugar is needed to operate our body – so to cut it out completely for long periods of time wouldn’t promote a healthy lifestyle.
And, don’t forget about phytonutrients. Nutritional science discovers something amazing about phytonutrients every day. One thing we know, though, is that they tend to be more effective when they are allowed to function synergistically with the other compounds in fruits and veggies. As Cornell University Professor of Food Science Rui Hai Lui points out in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Food provides not only essential nutrients needed for life but also other bioactive compounds for health promotion and disease prevention… Consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as grains, has been strongly associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, and age-related functional decline”
But, if you’re looking for ways to avoid sugar…
Currently, nutrition and fitness experts are touting the evils of sugar. Since fruit has sugar – people are assuming that fruit also needs to be avoided. All sugar isn’t terrible for you. This brings us back to binge eating and our sweet tooth. When you are wanting a sweet – go for an apple…not a candy bar. You don’t need to avoid fruit sugar, you need to avoid added sugar.
If the ingredient lists sugar, raw sugar, honey, molasses, agave, maple syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, malt, lactose…there are at least 57 other names for added sugar – that is what you need to avoid.
How Your Body Processes Carbs and Fruit Sugar
Our body really likes carbohydrates as a fuel source. When we consume carbs, enzymes in our digestive system break them down into their simplest possible form: sugar. Starches, or complex carbs, take some time to break down. Sugars, or simple carbs, are easy to break down, if they need breaking down at all. Either way, the carbs you eat all become sugars called glucose and fructose. At this point, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin, which does a few things with this blood sugar. If you’ve eaten fruit or complex carbs, insulin delivers sugar to the liver and muscles for use as fuel. If you’ve eaten simple carbs…or straight sugar, insulin converts the sugar to adipose tissue (body fat) to be broken down for energy at a future time.
If you continue to abuse this system – and consistently consume more sugar than your body can handle, insulin will not be able to do its job properly. Insulin resistance might occur – your body could start creating more insulin – but, eventually, your system will begin to fail. This leads to Type 2 Diabetes. Cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and obesity can develop.
Fats and proteins will help avoid blood sugar spikes, but the most effective way to temper your carb intake is with fiber. Fiber is extremely complicated and can’t be digested – so carb digestion is also slowed.
Fruits are generally rich in fiber – which makes the sugar content irrelevant. An apple has 25 grams of carbs – 19 of those are sugar. But – it also has 4.4 grams of fiber, which will drastically slow the sugar absorption down to a trickle.
Something else to consider – this works both ways. Even something with low sugar content – like a slice of bread that also has low fiber content – will result in a spike in blood sugar levels much higher than with an apple.
Fruit Sugar and Weight Loss
Obviously, you can overeat fruit. Eating six bananas or an entire bunch of grapes isn’t a good idea. But, you can overeat (or over drink) all kinds of healthy items: water, seeds, fish, watermelon.
Like most things in life, moderation is the key. The only exception to that rule is veggies…real veggies. Leafy greens. It would be extremely difficult to over-eat kale or spinach. But, I guess anything is possible. I believe that for the most part, we way under-estimate the serving size of veggies, much like we over-estimate the serving size of sugary / processed foods. For the average person, 2-3 servings of fruit per day is perfect. If you’re highly active, that number might double. Keep in mind, that variety is also key. Eating a well-rounded offering of fruits will bring you the most benefits.
Ways to Avoid Sugar
Basically – you should stay away from anything with sugar listed as an ingredient. Here is a link that lists all the different names that sugar is called…they are getting creative.
So, the bottom line is: no, you don’t need to avoid sugar in fruit.