Fruit sugar is not the Big Bad Wolf from the Three Little Pigs fable. Yes, it is a type of carbohydrate and yes, it can make you fat if you consume huge amounts of it. But is eating fruit a good thing or a bad thing?
Sugar is a carbohydrate which is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sugars provide calories, also called ‘energy’ for the body. There are added sugars and natural sugars, found in fruit. Actually, fruit is usually relatively high in sugar compared to other whole foods, like vegetables and grains.
Fruit sugar is a combo of two simple sugars: glucose and fructose. While pretty much all of our cells can consume glucose as fuel, only our liver can metabolize fructose. That’s why fruit sugar, which is healthier, can influence our metabolism in a negative way, and that means sugar can be stored as unwanted fat. Still, this can only happen if you eat large amounts of high-sugar fruit.
If you’re not concerned about gaining weight, then you should know that multiple observational studies have shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of many diseases, according to Healthline.com. For example, one review of 9 studies found that the risk of heart disease was reduced by 7 percent for each daily portion of fruit. Also, a study on 9,665 adults in the U.S. found that fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 46 percent lower risk of diabetes in women, but there was no difference in men. Anyway, in general, these types of studies do not separate correlation from causation, so it’s not certain if the fruit caused the lower risk of the disease or only that people who eat more fruit are more health conscious overall and exercise more, eat healthier overall, don’t smoke, and that’s the reason they’re healthier than others.
Some people, like those suffering from diabetes, must pay strict attention to the number of carbohydrates in their diets. Still, for most people, eating whole fruit is not harmful, because it’s almost impossible to consume too much fructose.
More or less fruit sugar
Fruit means so many food items! There are hundreds of different fruits which – obviously! – have a different fruit sugar content. If you're watching your consumption of sugar for various reasons, note that some fruits are better than others.
Bananas, cherries, grapes, pineapples, apples, mangoes, kiwi, and pears are considered high-sugar fruits, having more than 10 grams per serving. One mango has about 45 grams of sugar, a cup of grapes has about 23 grams sugar, more than a cup of cherries which has 18 grams (this is also pretty high, especially if you fill up a bowl and end up eat finishing everything). Also, a medium wedge of watermelon has 17 grams of sugar.
In contrast, strawberries, raspberries, papaya, guava, and grapefruit, all contain less than 7 grams of sugar per serving. A cup of whole strawberries has only 7 grams, and one cup of raspberries has only 5 grams of sugar. Half of a small papaya has 6 grams of sugar, and half of a papaya is big enough for one person.
There are benefits of fruit, too
Although they contain fruit sugar, they also offer a variety of healthy nutrients. Fruits have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water and, maybe most importantly, fiber.
Why is fiber so important? Because it slows the absorption of sugar into the body. When sugar is absorbed slowly, you don't get a spike in blood sugar within the first hour after eating, like when you drink soda or eat chocolate. When sugar is absorbed quickly, our body releases so much insulin we became relatively hypoglycemic by the second hour, our blood sugars drop very low and, in response, our body dumps fat into our bloodstream as if we’re starving.
How to eat fruit to consume less sugar
Besides choosing low-sugar fruits, there also other things you can do to reduce your fruit sugar intake. First of all, eat whole fruit instead of smoothies and juices. Many people choose drinks like pomegranate juice or smoothies made of 2-3 different fruits (they may also add other caloric foods like peanut or coconut butter). But in fact, they consume drinks they think are healthy without realizing how much sugar they have.
Fruits are loaded with fiber and water and have significant chewing resistance. If you blend or press them, you break the fibers they contain. And usually you use more than one fruit for a glass of smoothie or juice, which means more sugar that absorbs quickly.
The time of the day when you consume fruit matters, too. It is not recommended to eat fruit in the evening, but to consume them before your more active hours of the day, usually in the morning. Most dietitians suggest eating fruit for breakfast (if possible, combined with other fibers, like oat flakes), or before a workout.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited amounts of fruit. Fruit does contain carbohydrates and when you eat more carbs than you can burn, the surplus can transform into fat cells. The impact of fruit sugar on your weight depends on when you consume it, and how much you eat. Regarding particular health problems, talk to your doctor about the recommended number of servings and the types of fruit you’re allowed to eat!
You might also want to know How Long Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Last.