Think fruits are unhealthy and can cause weight gain? Worried about the sugar content in fruits? Don’t be!
When consumed as the whole fruit, and not isolated fruit sugar, the sugars in fruit are much better, and even beneficial.
Several studies have established that eating fresh, whole fruits do not cause obesity and high blood sugar levels (even in diabetic patients), despite their sugar content. In fact, eating more fruits is actually recommended (along with vegetables, whole grains and good fats) in preventing diabetes type 2.
When the natural sugars in fruit – fructose, sucrose and glucose – are consumed as part of the whole, unprocessed fruit (peel included, not juiced), the sugars do no harm. This is because nature, in her infinite wisdom, included in whole fruits all the goodness that goes together with the sweetness of the fruit – water content, fibre, and a multitude of vitamins, minerals and flavonoids. These nutrients work together synergistically to prevent the sugar in the fruit from being absorbed too quickly into the bloodstream.
When the sugars are absorbed slowly, blood glucose does not spike. Refined sugars found in processed foods behave quite differently because all the added sugars in refined foods are quickly absorbed into the blood, causing a sudden spike in blood sugar, which, in the long run, causes insulin sensitivity and increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer as well as obesity.
Whole fruits (for that matter, any whole food) provide more satiety than refined, processed foods because of all the water, fibre, and the other nutrients – and it is this feeling of fullness and satiety that makes it quite impossible to overeat fruits in their whole, unprocessed form and cause harm. Fruits are super healthy, really.
However, if the fructose is isolated, and added to processed foods as a sweetener, then it behaves in the same way as refined sugar, creating blood sugar fluctuations, addictions and cravings. This is because when the fructose is isolated, the synergistic nutrients are left out. Fruit juices and dried fruits are not whole foods, i.e.they have been changed in some way and hence aren’t as healthy as whole fruits. Even with no added sugars, fruit juices are usually strained to remove the fibre, and the process of juicing tends to concentrate the natural fruit sugars. Similarly, dried fruits also concentrate the sugars since water is removed. Dried fruit, however, are a healthy option as snacks because they do have all the fibre intact. Dried fruits are also much better as sweeteners for home-made desserts, such as desserts sweetened with dates.
Please note, however, that studies do not recommend the consumption of fruit juices and canned fruits in syrup because they aren’t healthy based on the reasons mentioned above. Just eat fresh, whole fruit and you won’t need to worry about calories or sugar content.
I can give you more reasons why you should embrace fruits, with their natural sweetness and all. In general, people who consume more fruits (and also vegetables) are much healthier and have a lower risk of dying from heart disease and cancer, two major killers in modern society.
Studies have also shown that including more fruits in the diet actually has an anti-obesity effect, which means eating lots of fruits actually prevents weight gain – and that’s despite the natural sugars present in fruits. One of the reasons for this is that people who eat lots of fruits (either as snacks or as part of a main meal) would typically not be eating a lot of processed or junk foods which are much higher in calories. (Not surprisingly, as I had mentioned above, fruit juice is another story and it can cause obesity and high blood sugar).
Hopefully I’ve been able to convince you not to fear fruits – in their whole form. Despite the natural sugar content, fruits have tremendous health benefits and you would be missing out on those if you don’t include fruits in your diet.
So is fruit sugar better than white sugar? Yes!!! When eaten as part of the whole fruit, fruit sugar is completely harmless. White sugar, on the other hand, is just added sugar with no other nutrients or fibre. However, when the fruit sugar is isolated and added to processed foods without the whole fruit, that fruit sugar would also count towards added sugar and is not much different from white sugar. Unless you use more parts of the fruit to sweeten a dish (such as dates), isolated fruit sugar is not healthy.