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Is the sugar in fruit bad for you?


Is fruit bad for your health?

It has taken too long with far too many people suffering everyday with lifestyle related conditions such as, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Finally, sugar has been named as a major contributor to the problem. But are all sugars the same? Is natural sugar, such as that found in fruit, also bad?

We have asked Head Nutritionist, Gareth Nicholas, to uncover the good, the bad and the potential of fruit and whether it is now something that we should actually avoid, rather than stock up on.

Natural versus Free Sugar

Sugar is sugar, but not all sugars are created or metabolised in the same way. Free Sugars those purposefully added to foods, such as, cakes, biscuit and chocolate. Fruit juices, Smoothies, honey and syrups, should also be added to the list of free sugars, despite the sugar being naturally derived. The biggest downfall of free sugars is the impact this has on blood sugar levels. Glucose is a simple sugar that has a direct influence on blood sugar levels. Imbalances in blood sugar levels is a key driver towards obesity and diabetes. That said, the inclusion of sugar is still important in the diet, but free sugar should be limited to no more than 5% of the total daily energy consumption (that’s around 30g of sugar per day).

Sugar in fruitlady eating a bowl of fruit

Sugars in Fruit

Fruit contains two simple sugars – glucose and fructose. Unlike glucose, the fructose in fruit is metabolised in the liver and therefore does not have an immediate effect on blood sugar levels. What this doesn’t mean is that you should only every consume fructose. Fructose syrups are often used as a sweetener, as a free sugar, and can be more damaging than free glucose. However, research on whole fruit has shown that it is very difficult to eat too much fruit to see the same damaging effect. For more on sugar, click here.

Fruit is bad

Fruit is largely sugar based carbohydrate, but fruit should definitely not be considered the same as free sugary foods. Fruit consumption should be limited to 2-3 portions a day and the other 2-3 portions of your 5-a-day should be vegetables. Interestingly, figures from the UK government report that only 55% of all adults consumer 5 a day (2018), that figure is less than 10% for children. Your choices on fruit and amount should be more independently viewed based on you and your diet. However, fruit is packed with not only energy (carbohydrate) but also vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fibre and water. All of which are essential to healthy living.

Glycaemic Index

All carbohydrate foods are rated on the glycaemic index which categorise carbohydrate dominate foods based on the speed at which sugar enters the blood stream. Free sugars are more high glycaemic and should be reduced or avoided, whereas daily carbohydrate sources should come from more medium to low glycaemic foods. These will provide a slow, more constant supply of energy and avoid a sharp spiking of insulin to combat a high blood sugar levels. Too much of this yo-yoing leads to diabetes. For more information on the glycaemic index, click here.

Glycaemic Load and Fruit

Although fruit contains both glucose and fructose, the glycaemic index various from fruit to fruit. For example:

  • HGI Fruits: Watermelon (72)
  • MGI Fruits: Banana (54) - Pineapple (66)
  • LGI Fruits: Apple (38) - Orange (44)

The GI of foods are classed from 0-100, Low GI foods (0-55), Medium GI foods (56-69), High GI (70-100).

Juicy watermelon

But before you give up watermelon you have to consider the glycaemic load of these fruits. The glycaemic load is the result of the glycaemic index and the carbohydrate content that food provides. In the case of watermelon – 100g contains 8g of carbohydrate, compared with a LGI fruit, an apple which contains 14g of carbohydrate per 100g. What this suggests and to avoid over complicating things, in this instance, you can eat both an apple and watermelon, but limit your watermelon consumption based on the glycaemic index.

The British Nutrition Foundation state that eating fruit and vegetables is not only important on a macronutrient level (carbohydrate), and should make up around 1/3 of your daily food consumption, but fruits and vegetables provide vital nutrients, such as:

  • Vitamin C – that supports healthy body tissue
  • Vitamin A – that supports vision, skin and immunity
  • Folate – that supports healthy blood Fibre – that supports a healthy gut
  • Potassium – that supports a healthy blood pressure and the nervous system

Fruits are natures natural multivitamins and should be consumed on a daily basis. Your choices and quantities should be limited to keep both the carbohydrate and importantly the sugar content of your diet in check, but if you want something sweet, grab a piece of fruit before hitting the biscuit tin. Why not add a treat without the cheat and grab one of our all new protein bars