What’s the Deal With Fruit?
Angela Wallace is a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, and Family Food Expert specializing in women and child nutrition and fitness. She loves helping families get healthy together. Angela offers various nutrition and exercise consulting options including cooking lessons, meal planning, and weight loss programs.
Are you watching your sugar intake? Are you avoiding fruit because of its sugar content? Do you have clients asking you how much fruit they should eat? If you said yes to any of these questions, please read on.
Fruit does contain sugar, but the natural kind. That doesn’t mean you should eat a bushel of apples, but it also doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Fruit provides our bodies with sugar, but it also provides us with some of the most powerful nutrients.
Are some kinds of sugars better than others?
In short, YES! Natural sugars are better for us than added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables (fructose) and dairy products (lactose). Our bodies need sugar for energy and having some in our diets is necessary. Added sugars are anything sweet that has been added to a food or beverage item, for example adding sugar to your coffee or to baked goods, like cookies. ‘Natural’ sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup, are still forms of added sugars because they are not naturally occurring in foods. There is a common misconception that certain added sugars are better for us than others, but that isn’t true. Sugar is sugar. How your body physiologically responds to added sugar is the same, whether it’s white sugar or honey. I am not denying the potential health benefits of choosing a natural form of added sugar over a processed form, I am simply saying your body will respond the same way (your blood sugar will rise in response to any form of sugar, as it should).
The bottom line is that our bodies need some sugar and the sugars found naturally in foods are better for us. Sugar is sugar, no matter what type of sugar you consume. When working with clients who want to watch their sugar intake, make sure they understand the difference between natural and added sugars.
Fruits provide us with natural sugar, so what’s the deal?
Although fruit provides our bodies with sugar, it also provides us with minerals, vitamins (those powerful antioxidants), and loads of fibre. All of these powerful nutrients play an important role in both the prevention of chronic diseases (i.e., cancer, heart disease, diabetes) and weight maintenance and control. However, I often see people avoiding fruit because of its sugar.
- I would encourage you not to avoid fruit for a few reasons:As mentioned above, they provide our bodies with many important nutrients. For example having 1 cup of strawberries provides you with 3 grams of fibre and approximately 140 percent of your daily vitamin C intake. It would be extremely difficult to get that amount of vitamin C from a non-fruit or vegetable (unless you are taking a supplement).
- They make a great option for a healthy snack. Fruit is generally very low in calories. That 1 cup of strawberries is about 50 calories, an apple or banana is typically 80-100 calories. Fruit tends to be low in calories but filled with nutrients (therefore nutrient dense). In addition, because they are technically a carbohydrate (providing your body with sugar) they make for the perfect pre-workout snack. Fruit also pairs well with other healthy snack options such as yogurts, oats, nuts, and seeds.
- As Canadians we don’t eat as many fruits and vegetables as we should. In 2014, only 39.5 percent of Canadians, 12 years of age and older, consumed fruit and vegetables five or more times per day. This suggests that a lot of us have room in our diets for more fruits (and vegetables).
- Combining fruit with your snacks is a great way to eat whole foods (less processed, less added sugars). It is also a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth, in a healthier way.
Some fruits have more sugar than others. Most berries are low in sugar (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) and have anywhere from 5-7 grams of natural sugar per cup. Some of the medium sugared fruits include bananas, oranges, apples, peaches, cantaloupe watermelon, and pineapple and range from 9-16 grams of sugar per fruit or 1 cup serving. Fruits that are higher in sugar (more than 20 grams per cup or fruit) include cherries, mango, grapes, and pomegranate.
Bottom line: if you are really concerned about your sugar intake, don’t avoid fruit altogether, but perhaps limit your intake to 2-3 servings per day. You could also choose lower sugar fruits, like berries, more often.
Fruits are an important part of a healthy, well balanced diet. They provide our bodies with powerful antioxidants and other important nutrients to help prevent chronic disease, manage weight, and promote overall wellness. Unless you have a medical reason (i.e., allergy, following a special diet) to avoid fruit, you probably don’t need to. If you are concerned about your sugar intake, limit foods with added sugars instead (i.e., honey, pops, granola bars, cookies). We could all do with less of these foods and more fruit.
Cheers to happy and healthy eating.
Fruit and vegetable consumption, 2014,www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2015001/arti…