From Nutritionist and Chef Mikaela Reuben.
Sugar is under attack in the media, and rightfully so, as diabetes and obesity climb and consumers do not understand what they are putting in their bodies.
But what about naturally-occurring sugars in fruit? Are they just as bad? And why is added sugar vilified if the calorie content is the same as their natural counterparts? It can become confusing to keep track all of the caveats involved with our diet.
In short, fruit can be quite high in sugar, yes – but it is important to note that natural sugars are healthier and better for our bodies than artificial, “added” sugars.
Fruits are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants and are powerful disease fighters. They are a convenient grab on the go snack and are wonderful in smoothies, salads, and complement many other meals and occasions.
Dense in minerals and vitamins, their high fiber content assists in proper, timely digestion. Consuming enough dietary fiber helps with many health issues, including high blood cholesterol levels and reducing risk of heart disease. High fiber foods also prevent us from overeating as they provide a longer-lasting satiety.
Luckily when we eat whole fruit, we receive the natural sugars alongside antioxidants, fiber and other phytonutrients. This makes fruit an excellent component of a comprehensive diet, albeit one that should be chosen with regard for sugar content.
Generally, 1-2 pieces or handfuls of fruit a day is a good amount, however this number can differ depending on the individual and fruit chosen. Most people will react more agreeably with fruit if it is consumed alongside some healthy fats. Fat slows the rate of digestion of the fruit, which allows sugar to gradually assimilate for benefit rather than spiking the glycemic index of our blood. It is also important to consume fruit in its whole form; fiber acts to slow digestion as well and contains valuable vitamins and minerals. If drinking fresh, cold-pressed juice, it is wise to stick to vegetables and consume them as a supplementation to a healthy, nutrient-dense diet of whole foods. As with all foods, eat a wide variety of fruit to ensure you are maximizing the benefits of the whole spectrum and obtaining a wide range of microminerals.
Fruits that are high in sugar are better before exercise, and considered more of a treat. If you live on Maui and are going for a beach walk, feel free to indulge in a mango, whereas if you are going to sit in the office for 10 hours opt for a lower sugared berry for your daily smoothie.
Fruits that are lower in sugar can be added daily to meals consistently. Here is a list of fruits with their approximate sugar levels.
FRUITS HIGHEST IN SUGAR (g of sugar per 100 g of raw fruit)
Date – 66.47
Fig – 16.26
Grape – 15.48
Mango – 14.80
Cherry – 12.82
Banana – 12.23
Tangerine – 10.58
Apple – 10.39
FRUITS LOWEST IN SUGAR (g of sugar per 100g of raw fruit)
Avocado – .66
Lime – 1.69
Lemon – 2.59
Cranberry – 4
Raspberry – 4.42
Blackberry – 4.88
Strawberry – 4.89
Papaya – 5.90
*Note: although there are some exceptions, citrus fruits and berries tend to contain less sugar.