01 Sep Is Fruit Sugar Bad?
To fruit or not to fruit…. that is the question. We’ve all heard our parents and (probably ourselves) saying from time to time, “eat your fruits and veggies”, but moving into 2015 the low sugar craze continues to skyrocket and fruit has started to get a bad rap. Let’s see if we can uncover the hidden truth in the mess of information that has us either avoiding fruit altogether or eating everything in the produce aisle.
So, is fruit evil?
The question goes beyond simply eating in moderation, and really depends upon an individual’s goals and health strategy. There seem to be two problems.
- People deciding (with or without the help of so-called health experts) that there is no limit to the amount of fruits that should be eaten and that there are no adverse side effects to eating fruit.
- People cutting out fruits completely and avoiding them like the plague. Avoiding fruit may lead to “cheating” by indulging in sweets like candy, soda and other treats with refined sugar.
So there are the extremes, but which is right? Is fruit more beneficial than not? Now keep in mind that this is totally individual, but we are going to try to oversimplify a lot of complicated concepts for the sake of understanding the pros and cons of eating fruit.
When fruit is your friend…
Most people can achieve their health goals while eating fruit in moderation. But what about the sugar, isn’t it bad for us? Actually our bodies do need some sugar to function normally. The sugar in your body will produce glucose and if we don’t have any available the body is forced to be less efficient, converting fat or protein into sugar. Eating a few pieces of fruit per day is not bad for our health. The problem is, that generally speaking, sugar is much more available in our western society than our body likes.
If you are hanging on tight to the “no-sugar” band wagon you may find it useful to look into the amount of sugar in each fruit, rather than cutting out fruit as a whole. Not all fruits are created equal, and they don’t all have the same amount of sugar. For example, one cup of strawberries contains 7 grams of sugar, while a cup of pineapple contains 16 grams of sugar.
So why eat a piece of fruit instead of a donut with refined sugar? While refined sugar doesn’t provide much in the way of nutritional value (thus leading to the name ‘empty calories’), fruit contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients that are all contributors to a healthier you.
Some of the health superstars that are found in fruit are called antioxidants. Antioxidants are awesome little molecules that combat free radicals in your body. These antioxidants come from fruit and can show up in even higher doses in fruit that is ripe. Free radicals are reactive atoms that are naturally occurring in the body. If too many free radicals are allowed to run rampant, they can cause serious damage to your cells leading to symptoms like aging, immune system deficiency, heart problems and more. Antioxidants, like the ones you can find in fruit can help to create balance and minimize the negative effects of free radicals.
Some fruits have properties that can speed up your metabolism and prevent certain carbohydrates from slowing down your metabolism. For example, grapefruit reduces insulin levels, helping your body to metabolize fat better, and fruits that have vitamin C in them help the body oxidize fat. The higher your metabolism, the easier it will be for you to maintain a healthy weight. The most obvious component in fruit that supports your metabolism is fiber, but fiber helps out with more than just metabolism…
There are many benefits to the fiber that is found in fruit. Fiber helps you to feel satisfied longer, regulates blood sugar and supports bowel health. It can also contribute to a healthy heart, healthy digestive system, healthy cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure, just to name a few more benefits. As you can imagine, the amounts of fiber vary from fruit to fruit; here are some fruits that are high in fiber.
Fiber (content per 1 cup serving)
- Raspberries 8.0 g
- Lemon 6.0 g
- Kiwi 5.0 g
- Orange 4.3 g
- Pear 4.3 g
- Banana 3.9 g
- Grapefruit 3.7 g
- Blueberries 3.6 g
- Tangerines 3.5 g
- Apricot 3.3 g
- Apple 3.0 g
- Strawberries 3.0 g
- Cherries 2.5 g
- Peach 2.3 g
Fruit is loaded with minerals. Kiwi is a good source of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc. We know that not everyone thinks of an avocado as a fruit, but guess what? It is. It happens to be a wonderful fruit that is loaded with healthy fat, is low in sugar and has an amazing 975 milligrams of potassium. Dates are a great way to sweeten desserts without resorting to refined sugar and a cup of dates has a comparable amount of potassium to avocados. These are just a few examples of the minerals found in fruit, but you get the gist.
And of course fruits have incredible amounts of vitamins. Just to mention Vitamin A, both cantaloupe and grapefruits have over 2000 IU (over 20% of the daily suggested intake) of Vitamin A in just a cup. Vitamin A has many benefits including healthy vision, prevention of premature aging, and a healthy nervous system.
Phytonutrients are different chemical compounds, enzymes, non-essential amino acids, and generally ‘nutrients’ that are not considered essential for the body, but that support better health. There are literally hundreds of these, both discovered and undiscovered, and it may be decades before we discover every potential health benefit of the nutrients in fruit. The truth is, we don’t know all the good things that are in fruit yet. It seems like once or twice a year we hear about another terrific health-benefit found in one fruit or another. For instance, the fat in avocados combats bad cholesterol. Another example is gossypin (which is found in fruit and vegetables) halts the spread of melanoma. How many other benefits of fruit consumption are there that we don’t know about?
Sum-up of fruit benefits
Fruit does contain sugar, and if sugar weren’t so prevalent in our society today, this would probably be a good thing since your brain needs a certain amount of sugar to operate. As it is, excess refined sugars have led to an epidemic of health issues. That being said, there are lots of powerful antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in fruit that make it beneficial to grab fruit in moderation.
Are there situations where you should avoid fruit altogether?
Eating fruit while losing weight:
Healthy weight loss can be complicated for some people because there can be more at play than calories in and calories out. For example, if your hormones are out of whack, you can experience little or no weight loss even with a calorie restricted diet.
For the sake of trying to keep this simple, let’s say you are counting calories and attempting to have a calorie deficit. Fruit would absolutely not be “free” because it has calories and any excess sugar, particularly fructose, (as in our article: Give up sugar, it’s making you look old and ugly), can be converted into fat in your body. Therefore eating fruit in moderation is especially helpful while you are losing weight. It is possible to eat fruit while losing weight, especially if you are exercising.
So if eating fruit is so good for you, then what’s all this hype about cutting out fruit and does it hold any “weight”?
While we don’t think that it’s healthy to cut out fruit forever, you may have some short-term health goals that require you to eat a very low quantity of carbohydrates and depending upon how strict your plan is, this can include fruit.
We would like to note that many of these diets are too extreme and habitual dieters end up on a never-ending yoyo where they inevitably end up with more weight than they started with. Don’t just take our word for it, scientific studies show that dieting leads to increased cravings and decreased self-control which sounds like a recipe for weight gain!
It is possible to be on a healthy weight loss plan that includes ketosis. Ketosis is when your body is using fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. Ketogenic diets include Atkins, certain variations of the Paleo Diet, the South Beach Diet, and other lesser-known diets. Many people use ketosis to rid themselves of unwanted fat stores, although some people are sensitive to this kind of program. If you are on a ketogenic diet as part of a healthy weight loss plan, and it’s working for you, then you may wish you refrain from eating fruit until you transition back into normal, healthy eating. At the end of the weight loss phase, you can start adding starchy vegetables back into your meal plan, followed by fruit. This process is most effective while carefully monitoring your weight and with the support of a doctor, dietitian or coach who is knowledgeable in the transition process and can help you to avoid regaining your weight. In short, there can be valid reasons to cut fruit out of your meal plan for a short time in order to lose weight, but beware of the pitfall of yo-yo dieting and aim to get back to a healthy homeostasis where you can enjoy a normal and healthy meal plan which, of course, includes fruit.
So, if your main goal is weight loss, you may want to cut out sugar or drastically reduce the amount you consume temporarily. For the rest of us, is fruit sugar bad? Not in moderation. Let us soak in the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. We should know by now that “too much of a good thing” is a bad thing. Fruit for thought.
-The Nature’s Original Medicine Team