Fruit & Sugar...and the link to a healthy diet

Thursday, September 13, 2018

(Note: This piece, written by helper Devin, is based on his understanding of the current knowledge base about the health effects of sugars and fruits, and should not be taken as actual medical advice. Please talk to your doctor or nutritionist and/or research journaled articles and studies for the most current and best-for-you recommendations)

Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are recommended as part of a healthy diet, but it seems that vegetables are emphasized most of all. We tend to see green food as especially healthy, and often correlate bad taste with good health. Sweeter food means more sugar, and we’ve been told time and time again that sugar is a treat, only to be eaten in moderation. Excessive sugar intake can cause cravings and weight gain. However, fruit can be every bit as healthy as those bitter greens, despite its high sugar content.

First, let’s get things straight on sugar. Industrial sugar, namely sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are approximately half fructose and half glucose. HFCS has been identified as especially harmful, being linked to obesity, diabetes, and liver disease. Fruits have a surprisingly similar sugar ratio, about half fructose. However, the negative health effects of fructose are only see from industrial sugars. What’s the difference?

Fruits are whole foods with a myriad of other vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. It turns out that the phytonutrients in fruit may lower the rate at which fructose is absorbed by your body. In contrast, a sugary beverage packed with high fructose corn syrup contains no such nutrients, and the sugar is absorbed extremely quickly. This difference accounts for much of the important health difference of natural sugars and industrial sugars. In whole foods, natural sugars will not cause the deleterious metabolic effects connected to industrial sugars (in otherwise healthy bodies). Not only will these natural sugars not promote weight gain, but some studies have even shown that fruit in the diet can help with weight loss.

A word of caution: (drinking a lot of) fruit juice is not a healthy choice. Juicing a fruit (or a vegetable for that matter) teases out the sugar and leaves behind many of the important nutrients and fiber that makes whole fruit healthy. While fruit juice may seem like a healthy choice, make no mistake: it should be considered a treat (especially in children, with their lower body mass). 

Let’s end on a high note and talk about all the really good stuff contained in fruit. Apples contain a high amount of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting and bone health. Grapes are especially high in antioxidants, protecting your cells, promoting heart health and fighting cancer. Both European and Asian pears provide lots of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and copper, boosting your immune system and helping form red blood cells.

In summary, fruit is a valuable and important part of a good diet. Although high in sugar, the natural sugars of a whole fruit show none of the negative consequences of processed sugar. The same cannot be said for fruit juices, which are far more similar to other sugary beverages such as soda than they are to whole fruit. Whole fruit can provide a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can help you and your family be healthy.

Enjoy as a part of your balanced daily diet in all the wonderful flavors which are available!