At some point, it feels like sugar became public health’s number one enemy. Governments plaster campaigns to take action against sugar consumption.
But, is fruit sugar bad? While all sugar contains calories, the type of sugar you eat makes a difference.
Most of us don’t think of sugar when talking about eating healthily. Yet fruits are relatively high in sugar. That’s where the confusion comes in; it’s easy to believe that fruit sugars are bad.
Fruit contains naturally occurring sugars like sucrose, fructose, and glucose. These sugars don’t come from any process; they are 100% natural.
So, is natural sugar bad for you, and can you eat too much?
Fructose can be harmful in large amounts, but not from fruit. Eating too much fructose from whole fruits would be very hard. When we eat natural sugars, we benefit from the nutrients and fiber from these whole foods.
The other type of sugar we will be talking about is added sugar. So, these are the same sugars in fruits, but they are added to foods and drinks. Manufacturers take sugar from its natural source and add it to foods and beverages.
On average, Americans eat 77 grams of sugar per day, about three times the recommended amount. Over the year, that adds up to about six ten-pound bowling balls worth of sugar.
Too much added sugar may increase the risk of conditions like developing heart disease and tooth decay.
Almost half of all added sugar in the American diet actually comes from sugary drinks. Sugar intake comes from ultra-processed foods like:
The problem with added sugars is that they are super easy to consume in large amounts. They are lurking in foods that most people don’t even realize contain high amounts of sugar.
For example, a cup of low-fat yogurt can contain over 45 grams of sugar. That’s about 11 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than our daily limit.
So, are natural sugars bad for you? When foods are sweet from natural sugars (like fruit and milk), they contain other stuff our bodies love. Fruit has plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which we need for good health.
Is sugar from fruit bad? The fiber in foods with natural sugars like fruit helps slow down how quickly our bodies digest the sugar. This is what stops a quick spike and crash in blood sugar.
Eating foods with a lot of added sugar makes our insulin levels go up and down. There’s too much sugar quickly coming into the bloodstream.
In the health world, separating fact from fiction is tough. That’s especially true for sugar. The main difference between natural and added sugars is that natural fruit sugars have additional health benefits like antioxidants and fiber. Sugar added during the processing stage doesn’t provide extra nutrients.
From a young age, we hear that we must eat five portions of fruit and veggies daily. (If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you still hear this plenty often – “we make it easier to get your five-a-day!”) But most of us don’t always follow this advice. It means that we should eat 400 grams of fruit and veg daily to help lower our risk of serious health issues like heart disease.
Fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals and have zero cholesterol. Most people don’t get enough of the nutrients in fruits like:
Dietary fiber: a high-fiber diet supports a healthy digestive system, regulates bowel movements, controls blood sugar levels, and lowers cholesterol. Fiber also helps you to feel fuller for longer. Because fiber slows down digestion, it helps prevent sugar spikes and crashes. Dietary fiber is in whole or sliced fruits, not so much in conventional fruit juice.
Vitamin C: vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in certain foods, especially fruits and vegetables. The antioxidant plays a role in immune function and oral health. It also helps repair the body’s tissues.
Folate: also known as folic acid, is often added to foods like bread and grains. Fruits naturally contain folate. The vitamin supports red blood cell production. It’s also crucial to reduce the risk of congenital disabilities during early pregnancy.
While fruits contain sugar, they also have many other great things like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that our bodies need to thrive.
If fresh fruit isn’t always an option for you, canned, frozen, and dried fruit also contain plenty of nutrients. Just be careful with the added sugar content. Foods like dried fruit can be high in sugar.
To up your fruit intake in the easiest way possible (and the most delicious way possible, if we do say so ourselves), try our gumdrops. They taste just like candy but with no refined sugars for a quick, natural pick-me-up.
No, all fruits contain different amounts of sugar. Super sweet fruits like mangoes and watermelons have a pretty high concentration of natural fruit sugars. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid eating those high-sugar fruits because they are bad for you. (Watermelon, for instance, also contains a ton of water which is ideal for staying hydrated on a hot summer’s day.)
In general, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of fruits to get the most out of the nutrients and health benefits.
Fruits with a lower glycemic index (GI) are less likely to create spikes in blood sugar levels. Lower GI fruits include:
“Everything in moderation,” or so the saying goes. You can eat way too much of most things. But, can you eat too much fruit?
The truth is that it's hard to eat too much fruit, and most people don’t eat enough.
About 90% of American adults don’t eat enough fruit. Adults should be eating 1.5-2 cups of fruit each day. When it comes to a healthy diet, balance is everything.
For example, a fruitarian diet where you eat only fruit can stop you from getting all the nutrients you need from other non-fruit foods. While you get nutrients from fruit, you miss out on healthy fats, protein, and vegetables which are also crucial for good health.
Nutrition experts suggest that fruit should make up 25-30% of your diet. Because fruit contains fiber, your body breaks down its sugar slightly differently.
Sometimes it can feel like you need a degree in chemistry to read food labels. Food manufacturers don’t make it easy for us to spot things like added sugar. As you read the ingredients list, it’s important to note that sugar can go by many names like:
High-fructose corn syrup
Learning the sugar lingo can feel like a big task, but it helps us understand what’s really in our food. Fancy packaging and technical language can make it hard to know what’s healthy and what we should avoid if we are trying to cut down on added sugars.
Making small changes and taking it one step at a time can help you cut down and avoid sneaky added sugars.
Here are our top tips for eliminating added sugars:
Check the sugar content per serving on the food label – the Nutrition Facts label should tell you exactly how much sugar is in your food.
Limit soda, energy, and sugary drinks – swap out sweetened beverages for water and unsweetened drinks.
Choose foods with few or no added sugars.
Create your own snacks and desserts using fresh fruit at home.
Limit or avoid processed foods like cookies, cakes, pastries, and candies – processed foods are typically higher in sugar, so eat them in moderation.
Include more whole fruits and vegetables in your diet – high-fiber foods help you feel fuller for longer.
Try snacking on fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables instead of processed snacks like chips.
Stock up on kencko smoothies for a quick and easy way to increase your fruit intake without unnecessary added sugars.
So, is sugar in fruit bad for you?
Although all sugar gets a bad rep, some of it is warranted, and fruit is not bad for you. Naturally occurring sugar in fruit isn’t something any of us need to avoid. When we eat fruit, we get fiber, vitamins and minerals, and all that good stuff.
Consuming excess sugar is incredibly easy to do in the form of added sugars in processed foods and sugary drinks. When we talk about cutting down on sugar, it doesn’t mean you should avoid that slice of watermelon. Instead, try swapping out soda for water. As long as we’re eating a healthy and balanced diet, there’s no reason to limit our fruit intake.