Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about fruit!
I think we can all agree that fruit is healthy for us. It does contain a bunch if antioxidants and fibre which are essential for health. But what about it’s sugar content?
When I was following the 21 day fix way of eating, I used to be able to have 4 servings of fruit per day! To me, that was awesome. It was easy for me to consume fruit. It is sweet, delicious, and you can get it pretty much anywhere.
I would have my customers ask me if it was okay to eat that much fruit in a day. Back then, my answer was always, “I’ve never known anyone to get fat from eating too much fruit!”
Fast forward a year and my stance has changed on fruit.
After switching to a low carb, high fat way of eating, I’ve been reading a lot about fructose, the sugar found in fruit. I’ve heard and read multiple times that fructose can actually induce fat storage, and also puts a huge strain on the liver.
What Is Fructose?
Fructose is a simple carbohydrate that, together with glucose, makes up sucrose (table sugar). It’s found in many plant sources like honey, fruits, flowers, and root vegetables, and is one of the three basic forms of sugar that our body can use as fuel (the other two are glucose and galactose). It is also added to many processed foods in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, agave, etc.
Table sugar contains 50% glucose and 50% fructose, honey 38% fructose, agave 90% fructose.
Fructose is metabolized 100% by the liver, compared to glucose where only 20% is metabolized by the liver.
When you consume glucose, it is used as energy by your body. When you consume fructose, it is metabolized by the liver into free fatty acids, VLDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, all of which are stored as fat.
Consuming too much fructose has been shown to cause:
- Increased amount of visceral fat (the fat around our belly.)
- Increased fat production in the liver.
- Decreased insulin sensitivity.
- Elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Increased triglyceride levels.
Another issue with fructose is that it does not affect our appetite. After eating fructose, our hormone leptin, which is responsible for us feeling satiated, does not get stimulated and our hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for us feeling hungry, keeps rising. Basically, we still feel hungry and not satisfied after consuming fructose.
Fructose And Fruit
Like I was mentioning earlier, when we consume fruit, we consume fructose. However, when we consume whole fruit, we also get water, fibre, antioxidants, and other nutrients that our body can use. The fibre in fruit also allows our body to absorb the sugar at a slower rate.
The problem however, is this: we are not typically just consuming one serving of fruit! Most people have 3 – 4 servings of fruit per day. And today, our fruit has been bred to be sweeter and larger than ever! Then add on top of that all of the high fructose corn syrup and other sugars added to packaged foods and you have a recipe for disaster.
And let’s not forget about the amount of fruit juice that many people consume each morning with breakfast.
Our body can’t tell the difference between fructose from fruit or fructose from honey, agave, table sugar, etc. It handles it all the same – it gets stored as fat.
Should I Eat Fruit?
My answer is YES! Whole fruits should be eaten because of their water, fibre, and antioxidant content.
However….it’s important to limit our fruit intake and try and choose the low sugar, low carb, nutrient dense fruits.
Here’s a list that may help you see which fruits contain the least sugar and which contain the most:
Consume high nutrient dense fruits such as berries.
Avoid or limit high sugar fruits such as bananas, pineapple, grapes, and dried fruits (dried fruit is incredibly high in sugar, doesn’t contain water, is quickly absorbed, and it’s easy to consume far more dried fruits than whole fruits.)
Never consume fruit juice. ALL fruit juices contain 3-4 times the amount of fruit in one glass than you could possibly eat as whole fruit. Most fruit juices have added sugars and have to be fortified with nutrients because almost no vitamins are left once it has been juiced, processed and preservatives added to extend its life for sale in the store.
As for children I think fruit is a healthy option for them! However, I am mindful of how much fruit my children are consuming. I used to give them 3 servings of fruit per day PLUS fruit juice in their lunch. I cringe now to think how much sugar I was giving them in day. Now, they have a couple servings of fruit per day and no more juice. I’m also much more aware of the sugar lurking in products such as granola bars, crackers, etc. I now make 90% of their snacks from scratch.