Understanding Sugar in Fruit

You’ve likely heard a lot of warnings about the dangers of consuming too much sugar – I’ve written about it a few times myself. Excessive sugar intake can lead to various diseases including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

But what about the sugar naturally occurring in fruit? Should you avoid it? Or is it somehow different?

All sugars are carbohydrates that help make food sweet. There are several different chemical structures of sugars including glucose, fructose and lactose.

But the fact is, no matter the name or source, all sugars are much the same. They all provide 4 calories per gram (16 calories per teaspoon), and are processed by your body in the same way.

So by simple definition, the sugar in fruit is no different than other sugars.

But does that mean that you should stop eating fruit? Definitely not!

In fact, Registered Dietitians – myself included – are often encouraging people to eat more fruit.

That’s because fruit contains many other nutrients including fibre, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Eating fruit not only provides you with energy, it helps protect you against chronic diseases.

Also, the sugar in fruit causes a lower, longer-lasting rise in blood sugar (lasting energy) than the rapid spike and drop caused by sugar alone. That’s because the fibre in fruit slows down the breakdown of the sugar, reducing its effect on your blood sugar levels.

But you can still overdo it with the sugar from fruit. The key is portion size!

One serving of fruit is about the size of a baseball – such as one medium apple or orange, one small banana or one cup of berries.

Bottom line: Don’t worry about the sugar in fruit, or even which fruit might have a little more sugar than another – watch your portion sizes and enjoy 2-5 servings of your favourite fruits each day.

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