Is the Sugar in Fruit Bad for You?

Natural Sugar in Whole Fruit

I spent my childhood living on the land that was originally my grandfather’s farm. By the time I arrived in upstate New York, my grandfather had died, and his land had been reduced to a small residential parcel. My family lived in a 400-square-foot duplex apartment. Those close quarters meant that the great outdoors equaled freedom. And fruit. Lots of fruit. Two pear trees. One apricot tree. And a trellis with grape vines that produced amazing grapes. As a result of being exposed to the freshest fruit imaginable, I love fruit. As did my grandparents and their six children. So . . . is the sugar in fruit bad for you? The short answer is no, but let’s dive deeper.

The Sugar in Fruit Is Not Bad

The sugar in whole fruit is natural. It’s totally different from the added sugars found in baked goods, ice cream, soda, and foods with hidden sugars

Unlike processed fruit products, whole fruit contains many healthful nutrients, including fiber which slows down the absorption of fructose, the main sugar in fruit. Berries – blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries – are especially beneficial.

Eating whole fruit helps you feel full due to its fiber content. This may help prevent overeating, and in turn, prevent weight gain.

Dr. Robert Lustig agrees. Known for his decades-long research on metabolic health, nutrition, and sugar, Dr. Lustig believes that eating moderate amounts of whole fruit is not problematic.

Disinformation on the Web – Sugar Challenges and Low-Carb Diets

Sugar has been vilified on the web, and rightly so. But I’ve noticed that numerous “Sugar Challenges” eliminate whole fruit during their 7-, 14-, or 28-day challenge.

This is incorrect.

Removing fruit from a “Sugar Challenge” implies that whole fruit is bad for you. And it’s not.

Very restrictive low-carbohydrate diets, such as the popular keto diet, also recommend avoiding most fruit.  Again, this makes whole fruit look like it’s bad for you when it’s not.

What Happens When You Press Fruit?

This picture visually depicts the pressed fruit story. Look at the “waste” or what’s extracted on the left side of the picture – it’s full of fiber and skin, and some nutrients. 

Drinking cold pressed juices, found in the refrigerated grocery case, is not the same as eating fresh whole fruit. You’re drinking your calories, without the accompanying nutritional benefits and satiety of eating whole fruit.

If you want an occasional fruit smoothie, it’s best to make it yourself. Offset the concentrated sugar rush by adding protein or fat. Also, be sure to use a blender, not a press, to retain all of the vital fiber and nutrients.

Where’s the Whole Fruit?

Don’t be fooled by Fruit Leather (also known as Fruit Roll-Ups or Fruit Jerky). It sounds like a healthy fruit-filled snack, right? In many cases, it’s not any better than candy.

Fruit leather is dried fruit minus the water content. But many commercial brands add extra, non-fruit ingredients.

Here’s one fruit snack example: Welch’s Berries and Cherries 

You’d expect the ingredient line to simply be berries and cherries. Yes?

But instead…

Ingredients: Fruit puree (pear, peach, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and cherry), corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, gelatin, citric acid, lactic acid, natural and artificial flavors, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), alpha tocopherol acetate (Vitamin E), vitamin A palmitate, sodium citrate, coconut oil, carnauba wax, red 40, and blue 1.

A tiny little pouch (less than an ounce) has almost 2 teaspoons of added sugar.

Bottom line: this is not whole fruit, and this is not good for you.

Fruit That’s Concentrated

Consuming any commercial juice made from fruit concentrate, fruit puree, or cold pressing is not the same as eating whole fruit in its natural form.

Even dried fruit is a concentrated form of fruit that’s not great for snacking.

Conclusion: Is the Sugar in Fruit Bad for You?

The whole fruit that you purchase at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market is good for you. 

But once fruit becomes pressed, processed, or concentrated, the health halo declines.

Please note that if you have a health condition related to blood sugar management, then it’s important to monitor your overall carbohydrate intake.

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