The Water Cooler: The Sweet Truth about Fruit

watercooler gossip

In various settings lately, I’ve overheard the comment that an otherwise healthy person is avoiding eating fruit because of its sugar content. This is precisely the wrong thing to do and a misunderstanding of nutrition information. While yes, we need to limit the amount of sugar we eat daily it is the ADDED sugar that we need to limit, not naturally occurring sugars in healthful foods such as fruit. 

fruits.vertical.compressedSo, let me set the record straight.

Yes, fruit contains naturally occurring sugars, primarily fructose. Fructose is a monosaccharide just like glucose, but with a different chemical configuration. It is primarily processed in the liver and does not have as big of an impact on blood sugar levels, particularly when eaten as whole fruit because fruit also contains fiber. Fiber helps slow down the absorption of food in the gut. (Juice is a different story as it is more concentrated and lacks fiber so it should be limited to no more than 8 ounces per day for most adults.)

Fruit contains so many wonderful vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, which makes it a nutrient dense food with relatively few calories. Fruit has many disease-fighting properties and  is essential for a healthy diet. Plus, the natural sweetness of fruit makes it nature’s dessert and can help tide cravings for less desirable forms of sugar such as those found in processed foods.

So how much fruit is enough? Current recommendations call for between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 cups of fruit every day for adults. One cup of fruit is about the size of a baseball. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans just released earlier this year recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. MyPyramid will be revised later this year as well that will further translate these recommendations into more specifics. But a good rule of thumb I tell people is to include a fruit with most meals and/or snacks (and a vegetable too!). Also, it is important to include as many different colors of fruit as possible in the course of a week. The different colors let you know that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals that you need.

fruits.appleshaped.compressedCan you eat too much fruit? As long as you do not have a health condition such as diabetes and are eating other foods besides just fruit, then I say no,  you cannot eat too much fruit. Fruit has so many wonderful benefits and as statistics show, the majority of Americans are not eating enough fruit.

Summer is upon us and so many luscious fruits are coming in season. There isn’t a fruit I don’t like (okay, I take that back, I can’t stomach durian – an Asian fruit). But I love most all fruits and am very much looking forward to my 3 blueberry bushes ripening soon.

So munch on fruit happily knowing that you are providing your body with the fuel it needs to be its best. The naturally occurring sugars in fruit will not have adverse affects or lead to weight gain in an otherwise healthy person if it is eaten as part of a well-rounded diet.

What are your favorite fruits?