Is Fruit Good or Bad For You? (It does have fructose in it.)

Riddle me this: If fructose is bad for us and fruit contains fructose, is fruit bad for us?

This is a follow-up post to the recent article I wrote, “It’s True.  Fructose is Worse For Us Than The Other Sugar”.  The post seems to have opened up the question about fruit and its role in a low-sugar diet.

Don't write off fruit even if you've decided it's time to reduce the sugar in your diet.

Don’t write off fruit even if you’ve decided it’s time to reduce the sugar in your diet.


Why We Need To Look At Our Sugar Consumption

Two hundred years ago, the average American consumed about two pounds of sugar a year.  The primary source of sugar was fruits and vegetables.  Today, the average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar a year.  This is an average of 3 pounds of sugar a week! (You guessed it. Fruits and vegetables contribute minimally – if at all – to this incredible figure.)

In the “It’s True. Fructose is Worse For Us Than The Other Sugar”, I mentioned that the World Health Organization recommends that no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar which amounts to about 35 grams for the average female and 45 grams for the average male. The American Heart Association is less lenient.  The AHA recommends no more than 30 grams a day.

Below are some everyday (processed) foods and beverages on the market.  Looking at this list you can see how easy it is to eat more sugar than we need each day by consuming just one or two of these items:

  • DelMonte Diced Pears or Mandarin Oranges in light syrup: 1 small serving cup = 17 grams sugar, 70 calories
  • DelMonte Fruit Chillers Frozen Fruit Sorbet: 1 small individual cup = 26 grams sugar, 190 calories
  • Jell-O Fat Free Pudding Snacks, Chocolate Vanilla Swirls 100-Calorie Packs: 1 small cup = 17 grams sugar, 100 calories
  • Little Debbie Swiss Rolls: 2 cakes (61 g) = 27 grams sugar, 270 calories
  • Pop Tart, Frosted Blueberry: 1 pastry = 18 grams, 200 calories
  • Quaker Oatmeal to Go, Brown Sugar Cinnamon: 1 bar = 19 grams sugar, 220 calories
  • Newton’s Minis, Strawberry “baked with 100% whole grain”: 1 package = 15 grams sugar, 130 calories
  • Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart, Toasted Oat: 1 1/4 cup = 17 grams sugar, 220 calories
  • Frosted Mini-Wheats (all the different flavors are pretty much the same): 1.8 ounces = 12 grams sugar, 180 calories
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce: 2 tablespoons = 15 grams sugar, 70 calories
  • Nesquick Fat Free Chocolate Milk: 16 ounces = 54 grams sugar, 300 calories
  • V8 Fusion Vegetable Fruit 100% juice, Peach Mango or Acai Mixed Berry: 8 ounces = 26 grams sugar, 110-120 calories
  • Capri Sun 25% Less Sugar, Wild Cherry: 1 pouch = 18 grams sugar, 70 calories
  • SoBe Green Tea: 16 ounces = 50 grams sugar, 200 calories
  • Arizona Iced Tea: 16 ounces = 48 grams sugar, 180 calories
  • Snapple Antioxidant Water, Agave Melon: 20 ounce bottle = 32 grams sugar, 140 calories
  • Skinny Cow Low-fat Ice Cream Cone (different flavors): 1 cone = 19 grams sugar, 150 calories
    *Source – WebMd

These high sugar foods have led the United States to where it is today.  We have an obesity problem that has led to a chronic disease epidemic that continues to lower both the expectancy and quality of life for 190 million Americans.

What About Fruit?

Some of our favorite fruits are high in sugar.  A banana has 10 grams, an apple has 8, and a peach has around 7, depending on its size. If, over the course of the day, you eat all three you will consume about 25 grams of sugar which is equal to five teaspoons.

But, when you eat three pieces of fruit – even though you do consume about 25 grams of sugar – you also ingest generous amounts of fiber, vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and various forms of cancer.

Dr. Michael Goran wrote an publication for Science20.  In the article he said that “Fructose is often called “fruit sugar” and is perceived as healthy because it naturally occurs in most fruit. But fructose from fruit is encased in fiber-rich flesh that slows and reduces its absorption in the body and its metabolism in the liver, serving as a sort of antidote to the negative effects of fructose metabolism.”

Now, pick any three of the products from the above list and see what you come up with.  If we have the Del Monte sliced pears for lunch (17 grams), the Little Debbie Swiss Rolls for our afternoon snack (27 grams), and a seemingly harmless Skinny Cow low-fat ice cream cone after dinner (19), we’re up to 63 grams without adding in any other sugar we’ve consumed that day.

The kicker is none of these products contain any fiber or nutrients to speak of. They are high calorie, low nutrient foods that, when consumed over the course of several years, lead to weight gain and secondary health problems.

Hold The Juice

Fruits might be good for us, but the story changes once we remove the juice from the fruit.  Many fruit juices are just as high in calories and sugar as high-fructose corn sugar beverages.

It’s best to skip the juice and stick with eating the whole fruit. One orange has 3 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar and is about 65 calories.  One cup of orange juice has 0 grams of fiber; 23 grams of sugar and 112 calories.  Most dieticians and nutritionists would agree that drinking fruit juice isn’t much better for you than soda.

Check out this move trailer from the HBO documentary “The Weight of the Nation”  that talks about happens when you replace soda with fruit juice.

The Worst Offenders

Unlike fruits, most non-fruit, high sugar foods are very low in nutrition and fiber, and are high in calories and fat.  The worst high-fructose product is soda. The average 12-ounce soda has about 33 grams of sugar and zero nutrition. The 16-ounce has 44 and the 32 ounce has about 65 grams of sugar. Other popular beverages are not any better.

Coming in a close second to sodas are processed sauces and salad dressings.  Barbeque sauces, catsup, steak sauce and salad dressings all contain high amounts of high fructose corn syrup.  Remember Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ Sauce with the 15 grams of sugar in 2 tablespoons from the list above?

Commercially prepared baked goods like donuts, coffee cakes, and muffins will put you over the daily recommended amount as will many breakfast and granola bars.

The key is to read the label for sugar content.  Fructose isn’t listed by itself but it is part of the total sugar count.  And fructose isn’t the only sugar that’s a problem.  All sugars are high in calories and have no nutritional value. If you’re the average American and are eating 152 pounds of sugar a year, lowering that amount by reading labels and tracking your sugar intake is critical to your health.

If you’re going to track sugar intake, you need to include all sugar so you will have an accurate daily total so be sure to put in the amount of sugar that you get from fruit.  Fit Sugar has a table that provides sugar content for about 25 different fruits.

Fruits Are Your Friend

If you’ve decided to cut back on sugar, you don’t need to eliminate fruits.  A juicy, crisp apple or fresh blueberries on un-sweetened yogurt will help you get through a sugar craving without sabotaging your diet or ruining your health.  Apples, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, and kiwis are just a few examples of superfoods found in the fruit family that have an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants.

Eating three servings of fruit a day along with a variety of vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, and moderate amounts of physical activity will help you get to your desired weight, or maintain the healthy weight that you’re at now.

What’s your favorite fruit? Be Social! Share!