There’s no denying that humans love sweet things. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in foods such as grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. So one might think if sugar is naturally occurring then it must be healthy. Well, there is no simple yes or no answer here.
We are a society that has become increasingly reliant upon convenience foods and restaurants for our daily meals. This means more hidden “sugars” and other additives, due to the highly processed nature of such foods. These are major contributors to the increase in inflammation and disease we see today. Our taste buds no longer know what the true taste of food is. We must retrain them to taste the natural complexity within whole (real) foods.
This is what the New Year Revolution is all about – changing perspectives about what real food is and re-discovering the abundance of textures and flavors we have available to us in these whole foods.
But what does this have to do with fruit?
Fruits and vegetables are by nature, carbohydrates. They also contain water, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. We often find fruits and vegetables lumped into the same category on food pyramids. This can mislead people into thinking that eating 5 servings of fruits a day is the same as eating 5 servings of vegetables each day. BUT, fruit is significantly higher in sugar, mainly in the form of fructose, than its vegetable counterparts. Equally, while fruit obviously has more nutritional value than the empty calories we eat from the added sugars in anything from cookies to ketchup, all fruits are not created equal (in respect to sugar content).
Sugar Stacks has created an incredible visual aid to show the varying amounts of sugars in a number of common fruits:
“A strawberry may, in fact, be healthier than a grape,
even though they are both natural.”
Red Seedless Grapes Strawberries
1 serving (126g – 4% waste) 1 serving (147g)
Sugars, total: 20g Sugars, total: 7g
Calories, total: 88 Calories, total: 47
Calories from sugar: 80 Calories from sugar: 28
Another concern arises in the form of fruit juices and other sugar-laden processed fruit drinks. According to the Harvard Health Letter, in the early 20th century, Americans consumed an average of 15g of fructose, mostly from fruits and vegetables. In 2011, the average was a hefty 55g per day, due in large part to the increased consumption of sugary fruit drinks, sodas and other beverages.
“Pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, of the Bitter Truth, says that when you consume fructose in fruit, you’re fine, but he cautions against drinking juice and advises you avoid manufactured versions of fructose that is a part of so many soft drinks and other processed goods. Fruit contains fiber, which contributes to a sense of fullness; this is why fiber is called self-limiting. You can eat a little bit and be satisfied, which is not the case with beverages. Eating fiber also helps you absorb fewer carbohydrates, including fructose.” – Livestrong
Sugar, in its many forms, often travels through your digestive tract for processing. Fructose, on the other hand, skips a step by being routed through your liver, which has an effect on how that sugar is utilized… your bodily systems… obesity… insulin resistance… fatty liver disease… look at This Common Food Ingredient Can Really Mess Up Your Metabolism (Dr. Mercola)
Additionally, those with infections, parasites and candidiasis should absolutely avoid fruit all together as any form of sugar can hinder treatment and healing of such conditions.
Most fruits can be eaten raw; but for some people, certain fruits are easier to digest when cooked.
While fruit is certainly a good food to incorporate into one’s diet for the beneficial fiber and nutrient content (especially the antioxidants and phytonutrients), increased awareness is necessary regarding the sugar content and quantity of fruits eaten. Some fruits are lower in fructose, while others are markedly high. Tropical fruits and dried fruits typically have the highest levels. Check out the Fruit Nutrition Facts on Fruit Pages website.
Often those fruits lowest in sugar are some with the highest nutritional value. Berries like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are rich in antioxidants, and contain 5 – 11g of sugar per serving. Sour citrus fruits like lemons and limes are low in sugar at 0-2g per serving, whereas oranges are significantly higher at 14g of sugar per serving. Grapefruit has 11g of sugar per serving. Stone fruit such as peaches and nectarines have 11-13g of sugar per serving. Bananas on the other hand have a whopping 19g of sugar per serving. Don’t forget about the more obscure fruits like avocados (0 grams), coconut (15 grams+) and tomatoes (2 grams).
January Health Challenge:
Eat 1-2 fresh fruits per day (maximum), preferably from the low-sugar list (low-glycemic). Choose vegetables over fruit whenever possible.
A fantastic read: The Question of Seasonality in Fructose Availability