With documentaries like Fed Up and That Sugar Film gaining views by the thousands, sugar seems to be the newest craze. All too often we find ourselves falling into the diet trap of categorizing foods as either good or bad for us, especially when looking at sugar content, but there is much more to it than that. There are various forms of sugar we consume, including simple sugars or “monosaccharides” made up of glucose, fructose and galactose as well as granulated table sugars known as sucrose or “disaccharides”. Our bodies process these varying sugar forms differently. When we consume glucose it becomes broken down by our stomach causing insulin levels to spike in our bloodstream for proper metabolization. Fructose however is broken down by the liver, where it is digested much slower, thus preventing such an insulin response.
Although fruits have very similar sugar ratios to that of our favorite sweets and sodas, they have a much different effect on our overall health. Whole fresh and frozen fruits are high in many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, folate, antioxidants and phytonutrients. They also contain high levels of soluble fiber, which helps in reducing cholesterol levels, increasing satiety and contributes to weight loss. (¹) Also, the high fiber and water content of most fresh and frozen fruits drastically slows the digestion time, making it nearly impossible to consume enough fructose to cause any harm. Studies have also found that people who consume at least the recommended amount of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily are at lower risk of developing diseases like diabetes, coronary heart disease and strokes (²)(³) (4).
That being said as with most things in life, fruit should be consumed at a sensible level if you are watching your weight. When trying to cut back on your sugar intake it’s important to consider the source of the sugar. Is your sugar consumption of fruit natural or refined? i.e. are you eating real raw fruits or are they canned or dried ? Canned and dried fruits are preserved by adding syrups, chemicals, and sometimes even pure table sugar, making them comparable to wolfing down a bag of gummy worms. It is also important to consider if your fruit intake is adding empty calories to your diet. If you’re consuming your fruit through a smoothie make sure to avoid things like fruit juices, low-fat milk or yogurt, ice-cream/sherbet or store bought honey/agave nectar. These products are often high in refined sugars and add empty calories which can result in insulin spikes, taking away from the nutritional benefits of the raw and natural fruits.