Is fruit bad for you? I get asked this question a lot and its something I have changed my mind about as I have learnt more about nutrition. I am taking more of an interest in sugar recently as I am trying to rid myself of my sweet tooth, which Im finding difficult. Sugar is my go to comfort food.
A quick answer to the question is no, yes fruit does contain sugar but it has a different impact on our bodies to sucrose. Fruit, vegetables and honey contain fructose and glucose. Fructose and glucose are simple forms of sugar.
Sucrose, table sugar, is also a simple sugar, sucrose is broken down into 50% glucose and 50% fructose in the body. Both fructose and sucrose require very little digestion and are absorbed rapidly in the bloodstream.
With todays food choices we now get naturally occurring fructose as well as fructose from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and sucrose.
HFCS is a sweeter and cheaper version of sugar and is in most processed foods and sugar sweetened products. In the process of making HFCS the glucose and fructose, which are normally bound together, seperate, enabling the fructose to head straight to our liver once consumed, which increases fat production. Having a fatty liver may lead to excessive weight gain, blocked arteries, heart disease and diabetes. HFCS also contains other chemicals which may have an effect on our health.
Here are some of the different names for sugar shown on our food packaging, they sneak it in everywhere!
- Agave nectar
- Barley malt syrup
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice
- Carob syrup
- Corn syrup
- Date sugar
- Dehydrated cane juice
- Demerara sugar
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Malt syrup
- Palm sugar
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum Syrup
The liver is only designed to use and store a certain amount of fructose (as glycogen), any excess is stored as fat. The problem with HFCS is that is doesn’t tell the body that you are full so you can easily eat in excess. I don’t know about you but when I start to eat sugary treats I cant seem to stop. One biscuit seems to lead to a whole pack. It’s quite different with say apples, its unlikely you will eat more than one apple at a time.
Back to the big fruit question, while both cola and fruit contain fructose, the impact they have on the body differs greatly. Fruit contains nutrients and fibre which assist the fructose when digested and absorbed. Naturally occurring fructose does not stimulate a substantial insulin release. It has been shown that those of us who eat a diet containing lots of fruit and veggies stay leaner, get leaner and are healthier. The fructose absorbed from fruit is unlikely to have a negative affect on our health. Eating fruit and veggies also helps with fighting diseases.
I believe that fruit isn’t the reason you are unable to lose those extra kg’s, it’s the fructose found in our sugary and processed foods. I don’t believe in complete restriction of these food items, think of them as sometimes foods rather than every day foods.
Aim for around 2 fruits per day and include a variety of types and colours to get different nutrients, aim to eat locally and seasonally. Fresh fruit is the better option over dried fruit, as it is a lot easier to over eat dried fruits as they do not contain fibre. Aim for actual fruits rather than relying solely on juices and smoothies.
I watched That Sugar Film the other day, an interesting look at how sugars affect our body, check it out, all based around the hidden sugars in our so-called healthy food.
Have a think of ways you can replace some of your sugary treats with fruits or reduce your sugar consumption. Maybe you could try giving up or reducing sugary drinks, removing sugar from your teas/coffees or by not buying those products in your weekly shop. Save your sometimes foods for when you go out for a nice dinner, or when you have an ice cream on a sunny day. After all everything in moderation, restriction is not the only approach and doesn’t work for a lot people.
Get in touch if you would like help improving your health and fitness.
- I am not a qualified nutritionist/dietician, the above is my findings from my experiences, if you are looking to change your diet or need extra support please contact a registered nutritionist/dietician.
- Some information sourced from Precision Nutrition