Is sugar in fruit actually bad for you? Here's what you need to know.
So what's the deal with sugar in fruit? You've definitely heard the buzzword fructose in the health world (maybe the dreaded additive high fructose corn syrup), and recognize that too much sugar can have negative effects on your body. But experts say it might be less about the fact that you're consuming fructose, the sugar in fruit, and more about how much. Here's the scoop on how you should view the sugar in fruit and how to incorporate it healthfully into your diet.
Can Fruit Be That Bad for You?
Some studies have found that fructose can be the most harmful type of sugar for your metabolism, compared to glucose, the sugar found naturally in our bloodstream; and sucrose, a combination of fructose and glucose. "Glucose doesn't metabolize the same way as fructose and deposits less fat than fructose," says Justin Rhodes, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Illinois Neuroscience Program and Institute for Genomic Biology. And while the sugar in fruit and in soda is essentially the same molecule, "an apple has about 12 grams of fructose compared to 40 grams in a serving of soda, so you'd need to eat about three apples to get the same amount of fructose as one soda," Rhodes says.
Plus, fruit contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are important for a healthy diet, while the sugars in soda or certain energy bars are just empty calories because they often lack other essential nutrients. "Fruit requires a lot of chewing so you'll likely feel more satisfied after eating it," says Amanda Blechman, RD, Scientific Affairs Managers at DanoneWave. "It's easier to drink larger amounts of soda (and therefore more calories and sugar) without feeling as full." Think about it, when was the last time you couldn't stop eating applies?
Your Fruit-Eating Action Plan
Cut the empty calories, but stop worrying about fruit. "Berries and fruits that you consume with the skin tend to be higher in fiber, which is important because a lot of Americans need more fiber," Blechman says. Fiber has some amazing benefits, like the ability to regulate your digestion and keep your energy up. "Plus, fiber can help slow down the rate at which sugar enters your bloodstream."
To keep yourself full and to make it to the gym at the end (or beginning) of your day, fiber and protein are the magic combo. Try swirling some nut butter into Greek yogurt and adding some fibrous fresh fruits to the mix, or throwing a handful of berries into cottage cheese for the same filling protein-fiber effect, Blechman says. While you should always double check the label on your energy bars to flag excess sugar content, experts agree that fruit and vegetables, regardless of fructose content, are what you want to snack on.