Sugar Content of Fruit: The Truth
FACT: Yes, there is sugar in fruit. No, it is not the same as sugar found in candy, cake and ice cream!
While it makes my heart happy when clients ask nutritional questions and want to learn more, it kills me the amount of misleading information that is out there. Somewhere out there, people are thinking fruit is bad for them because it has sugar. So I'm here to set the record straight!
The nutritional benefits of fruit outweighs the sugar content. Sugar found in fruit is made up of two sugars, fructose, glucose and a combination of the two, called "sucrose". Sucrose is also known as table sugar (1). The sugars found in fruit are not packed in the same way as processed foods and beverages. The sugar content is much lower in volume than the sugar found in pop or a candy bar. Fruit is unprocessed, which means its sugar occurs naturally.
Sugar is sugar, no matter where it comes from. What makes sugar found in fruit different is the ratio of the components, fructose and glucose, and how our body digests it. As I mentioned, table sugar, also known as sucrose, is made up of a 50/50 ratio of fructose and glucose. But the ratio of these sweeteners found in fruit is much different. On average, most fruits are made up of 40-55% fructose, with some having much lower or high amounts (2).
Fructose is broken down in the liver and does not require an insulin response. Glucose, on the other hand, does. You might have heard the word glucose before in relation to diabetes. Glucose is what our bodies utilize as energy, coming from most sources of carbohydrates. Digesting glucose starts in the stomach and requires an insulin response in order to metabolize it correctly (2). Insulin aids in blood sugar regulation so our bodies can properly use glucose for energy.
While fruit contains some sugar, our bodies understand how to break it down to utilize for energy and other functions. Not to mention, fruit serves multiple nutritional purposes. It contains vitamins and minerals crucial for bodily functions, antioxidants to fight off free radicals, and fiber to aid in digestion. Another perk about fiber, it helps in slowing the breakdown of glucose, which prevents a strong insulin spike. When we have sugary beverages or snacks, our insulin spikes in responses to the glucose. Cake and sugary beverages have little to no fiber, allowing this spike to occur. This can then lead to that sugar crash later on that we have all experienced at one point or another.
The nutritional benefits of fruit outweigh the sugar content, bottom line. It's the same as the debate of carbs, to eat or not to eat? Eat! There are good carbs and bad carbs. Fruit is one of those good carbs that can bring optimal nutrition to your body. The USDA recommendation for servings of fruit for adults is about 2 cups per day. One serving of fruit looks like 1 piece of fruit (medium apple, banana, etc), 1 cup of 100% juice (no added sugars) and 1/2 cup dried fruit (3).
Fruit is without a doubt a part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Enjoy is fresh, frozen or in a smoothie. Too much of anything is not good, but cutting out fruit from you diet because you think it has as much sugar as a Snickers bar is more detrimental to your health.
1. Jacewicz N. Gnawing Questions: Is Sugar From Fruit The Same As Sugar From Candy? NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/08/08/540923229/gnawing-questions-is-sugar-from-fruit-the-same-as-sugar-from-candy. Published August 8, 2017. Accessed August 9, 2017.
2. Woodruff C. Is Sugar From Fruit Better For You Than White Sugar? The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/29/fruit-sugar-versus-white-sugar_n_3497795.html. Published June 29, 2013. Accessed August 9, 2017.
3. All About the Fruit Group. Choose MyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit. Published April 5, 2017. Accessed August 9, 2017.