If Sugar is Bad- Should I Limit My Fruit Intake?
This is a question that can be confusing right? We all know too much sugar is bad, but this is less of an issue when we are talking about whole fruits. Sugar by itself is not nutritious, meaning it adds “empty calories” to a lot of products we enjoy. Foods like mochas, ice cream, breakfast cereals, pastries, or sports drinks are common offenders. Since sugary foods provide little nutrition but do contain calories, these added sugars can easily lead to weight gain. However, naturally occurring sugars are a little different.
What Makes Fruit So Special
Fruits contain natural sugars, meaning the sugar was never added and occurs in nature. Fruit also contains valuable nutrients that we WANT to consume and that are necessary for supporting proper health. Despite the fact that fruits have naturally occurring sugar, our bodies thrive when we eat fruit. The key is that fruits (as well as vegetables and grains) contain fiber. Fiber is another type of carbohydrate that is not broken down, but instead adds to stool bulk and slows digestion. Even though fruits contain sugar fiber slows digestion, makes us feel full and prevents blood sugar spikes. If you remove the fiber, however; you lose many of those benefits. So while fruit juices contain the same natural sugars, we want to limit those because they lack the fiber to prevent blood sugar spikes and slow digestion.
Fiber is a huge part of nutrition that does not get enough publicity. Fiber is why the natural sugars found in fruit are okay for most people, and the lack of fiber is why fruit juices are not as good of a choice as whole fruits. Along those same lines, foods that contain ADDED sugars should be limited, even if the added sugar is from a natural origin. Foods like honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar may be natural, but they are not found naturally in most foods. Since added sugars were not originally in the product and are not adding any nutrition those extra calories are sometimes called “empty”. So if you have the choice between something like unsweetened or sweetened applesauce, the best choice would be unsweetened.
For the general public, sugar in fruit is not bad as long as you consume the whole fruit and not just fruit juice or products that contain sweetened fruit pieces. When we are seeking to limit sugars, added sugars are more of a concern. Sweetened foods using both natural and man-made sweeteners should be limited or eaten in moderation.
If you have a medical condition such as diabetes it is best to speak with your Physician or Registered Dietitian about how dietary choices can effect your lab values and health goals.