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IS SUGAR IN FRUIT REALLY BAD FOR YOU?

Common misconceptions about sugar.

by Kim Baram | January 30, 2016

Is Sugar in Fruit Bad for You? Of course not. Everybody knows that fruits are healthy because they come from plants and are nature's fast food. "Do you know of anyone who has ever gotten fat from eating fruit? I didn't think so. Kim Baram, Personal Trainer | Amore Fitness, Brisbane, Qld.

 
 

There's been a lot of talk about fruit lately and whether fruit is good for you because some have more sugars in them than others as well as being relatively high in sugar compared to other 'whole' foods.

 

It concerns me when I read or hear people talk about the sugar content in fruit and almost anyone who has a blog can say they're an expert on such topics without doing any real research based on food science and fact. I wish to dispel that notion altogether. Is fruit good for your health? Absolutely!

 

Just like I say to my clients, “Do you know of anyone who has ever gotten fat from eating fruit?” Of course not. Everybody knows that fruits are healthy because they come from plants and are nature's fast food. Fruits are also an entire food group on their own which is necessary for our health.

 

However, there is a lot of evidence which states that ‘added’ sugar is harmful to most people, e.g. table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup which are both about half glucose, half fructose. The main reason these are harmful is due to the negative metabolic effects of fructose when consumed in large amounts. It is because of this, that many people now believe that as ‘added’ sugars are bad for our health, the same must apply to fruits as well, which also contain fructose.

 

They couldn't be more wrong.

 

Fruits are real, whole foods and humans have been eating them for a very long time. Our bodies are well adapted to the small amounts of fructose found in nature.

 

Fructose is only harmful when consumed in large amounts, but it is almost impossible to over-eat fructose by eating whole fruit! Whole fruits contain a relatively small amount of fructose and take a while to eat and digest, which means the fructose hits your liver slowly.

 

As well as being incredibly fulfilling, fruit also contains fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, which a lot of people just don't get enough of.

 

Eating fruit can also help you lose weight as the ‘fiber’, water and all the chewing, makes fruit very satiating, calorie for calorie. Fruit also have a high water content which keeps you full for longer and as they have more bulk and lower density this means you get more food for less calories.

 

If you increase your consumption of fruit like apples or oranges, you will feel less likely to eat ‘other’ foods because you will be full.

 

Replacing ‘other’ (junk) foods with fruit could help people lose weight over the long term as this should lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.

 

Most people would feel satiated after one large apple for example, containing 23 grams of sugar, (13 of which are fructose). Compared to that of a 16oz bottle of coke containing 52 grams of sugar (30 of which are fructose).

 

While one apple would make you feel quite full, making you feel less likely to eat other foods, a bottle of coke does quite the opposite, making you compensate for the sugar by eating more of ‘other foods’. Then, when the fructose hits your liver fast and in large amounts (like the coke and ‘other foods’ such as a chocolate bar) this can have disastrous consequences. However, by eating an apple, the fructose hits your liver slowly and in small amounts so that your body is able to easily take care of the fructose.

 

The 'fiber' in fruit is what slows the absorption of sugar into your body, which means you don't get the spike in blood sugar that comes with consuming sugar in 'other foods' because fruit typically contains less sugar by volume when compared to sugary treats like chocolate and ice cream.

 

While large amounts of added sugar are harmful to most people, the same cannot be said about fruit.

 

There are also significant health benefits to eating fruit. Many studies show that fruit consumption is associated with a lower risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes and can lower blood pressure.

 

When to avoid eating fruit

 

Fruit is perfectly healthy for ‘most’ people, but some people can have some sort of fructose intolerance which can cause digestive symptoms, whereas others might be on a very low-carb/ketogenic restrictive diet where they avoid fruit.

 

The main goal of these diets is to reduce carbs sufficiently for the brain to start using mostly ketone bodies instead of glucose for fuel. This means it would be necessary to restrict carbs to under 50 grams per day, sometimes down to 20-30 grams and one piece of fruit can contain more than 20 grams of carbs so even one piece of fruit per day could easily knock someone out of ketosis.

 

Why fruit juices are a bad idea

 

Unfortunately, most fruit juices at the supermarket are not ‘real’ fruit juices. They contain water, ‘concentrates’ and a large amount of ‘added’ sugar.

 

Even if they say they are 100% real fruit juice, it is still a bad idea because they still contain a lot of sugar. Just check the label. Another reason is that they don’t contain any fiber and the chewing resistance to slow down consumption, which makes it very easy to consume large amounts of sugar very quickly.

The same can also be said for smoothies. You are better off putting ‘whole’ fruits in the blender than buying a smoothie which has ‘added’ sugars in them, but then again, nothing is as good as eating whole fruit.

 

So what are the best fruits to eat?

 

As the nutrient composition of fruit varies greatly between the different types of fruit, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of fruits as they all contain different nutrients. Fruit that are lowest in sugar have some of the highest nutritional value, including antioxidants and phytonutrients.

 

If you're watching your consumption of sugar, some fruits are better than others.

 

Choosing low-sugar fruit can be confusing for low-carbers and diabetics. Some people handle sugars better than others and if you respond well to a low-carb diet, it pays to be careful. If possible, check your blood glucose to see how the fruit (or any food) affects it.

 

Fruits lowest in sugar:

 

  • Blackberries

  • Cranberries

  • Gooseberries

  • Lemon or Lime (in small amounts)

  • Mulberries

  • Raspberries

  • Rhubarb.

 

Fruits low to medium in sugar:

 

  • Apples

  • Apricots

  • Blueberries

  • Cantaloupes

  • Casaba Melon

  • Elderberries

  • Grapefruit

  • Guava

  • Honeydew melons

  • Nectarines

  • Papaya

  • Peaches

  • Strawberries

  • Watermelon.

Fruits fairly high in sugar:

 

  • Kiwi fruit

  • Oranges

  • Pears

  • Pineapple

  • Plums.

 

Fruits very high in sugar:

 

  • Bananas

  • Cherries

  • Dried fruit (dates, raisins, dried apricots and prunes)

  • Figs

  • Grapes

  • Mangos

  • Pomegranates

  • Tangerines.

 

At the end of the day, fruits are ‘real’ foods. They are highly nutritious and fulfilling that eating them can help you feel more satisfied with less food. The good news is that the more you eat fruit, the more health conscious you generally are overall, which means you’re less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise. How good is that?

 

- Kim

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Amore Fitness is a professional mobile personal training fitness business based in Brisbane, Queensland. We offer a premium, personalised health and fitness service with advice, motivation and support to help you lead a fitter, healthier, more active lifestyle.