By and large, sweet foods aren’t good for us. Sugar is implicated in plenty of health problems, and the World Health Organization recently spoke out against alternative sweeteners, too. So should we be eating fruit? Fortunately, fruit is a healthy food, and there is no evidence that we should not enjoy all those luscious sweet summer fruits!
Doesn’t fruit contain sugar?
Fruit does contain sugar. It contains fructose, a type of sugar that we might associate with high-fructose corn syrup. However, the sugar in fruit is balanced by the fiber. The fiber in fruit makes the fruit satisfying and filling. It also regulates your digestion and can even reduce your risk of chronic diseases. Most of us need more fiber in our diets than we get.
For example, an apple has 22 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fiber. A can of soda has 52 grams of sugar and zero fiber. Try eating an apple and notice how much more full and satisfied you feel than if you drank half a can of soda.
Beyond that feeling of satiety, fruit takes time to chew, swallow, and digest. That means that the sugar it contains reaches your body more gradually than when you eat sugary foods or drink a soda. This gives your system time to respond to it instead of getting hit with a wallop of sugar all at once.
Other fiber-rich fruits include raspberries (6 grams), blackberries (5 grams), pineapple (4 grams), pears (3 grams), and strawberries (2 grams) — actually, all fruit is high in fiber.
Fruit juice is another story. With the fiber removed, even 100% fruit juice is sugary. For example, 8 ounces of orange juice will have about 24 grams of sugar and little or no fiber. If you choose a fruit drink, you probably are drinking even more sugar and water mixed into the natural juice.
Fruit and blood sugar
Because of the fiber, fruit is less likely to cause blood sugar to spike than a sweet treat with added sugar like candy or cake. You should eat about two servings of fruit a day — that’s two pieces of fruit or two cups of small fruits or cut-up fruit. This amount of fruit should not have negative effects on your blood sugar. In fact, it would be difficult for most of us to eat enough fruit to be too much fruit.
If you’re careful about your blood sugar, have fruit along with higher fat or higher protein foods. For example, apple slices with peanut butter or berries with yogurt. You can also eat fruit for dessert or along with a meal to balance the carbohydrates.
Fruit is nutritious
Now that you know that you don’t need to worry about the sweetness of fruit, you can appreciate the nutrition fruit brings. Unlike candy or cookies, fruit provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Different fruits have different nutritional profiles. Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium. Guava is a good source of Vitamin C. Grapes contain Vitamin B6. The best plan, since different fruits have different benefits, is to eat a variety of fruits.
Benefits of fruit
Research suggests that eating fruit has some specific health benefits:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Weight loss
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of some cancers
Right now, your local farmers market, grocery store, or pick-your-own farm is full of delicious fruit. Take advantage of it!
Image courtesy of Canva.