Yes, fruit contains sugar. BUT there is no reason to avoid fruit unless medically advised. Here we explain just what sugar is and why it is not all created equal!
What is sugar?
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate. Because of its simple structure sugar is quickly converted into energy in the body. For this reason, sugar is a fast fuel. We use this to exercise, or store it in the muscles and liver ready for when we want to exercise. When these stores are full, any leftover sugar is turned into fat.
Natural Sugar Vs Added Sugar
Not all sugar is created equal. There are two types, natural and added. Knowing the difference between these helps to understand why there is no reason to avoid fruit just because it contains sugar.
Natural sugars are naturally found in food, this is the type of sugar in fruit.
Added sugars are added to foods during processing and preparation. Added sugars include refined white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup. These are added to foods such as biscuits, cakes, cereals, sauces, yoghurts, juices and fizzy drinks.
What’s the difference?
While both natural and added sugar provide the same amount of energy (4 calories per gram), they don’t offer the same nutrient benefits. Whole fruit is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Foods containing added sugars often lack these nutrients. Fibre is a star nutrient here, this takes longer to digest which keeps us feeling fuller for longer. Foods with added sugars such as biscuits and cakes tend to be low in fibre which means they are quickly digested and those hunger pangs soon return.
Have you ever eaten lots of cake or sweets then felt tired and sluggish? This is because foods containing added sugar lead to a sharp rise in blood sugar levels and subsequent crash which makes us feel tired. In contrast, eating fruit leads to a steady rise in blood sugars. This provides a slow release of energy and no sugar crash which would leave us reaching for the biscuit tin.
So, it doesn’t matter how much fruit I have?
Hold your horses. It’s great for us to eat fruit to make up our 5-a-day, but don’t forget to include veggies too! There is also some extra guidance around the type of fruit and portion sizes:
- One portion of any fresh, frozen or canned fruit is 80 grams (if canned make sure this is in natural juices, not syrup!)
- One portion of dried fruit is 30 grams.
- One portion of fruit juice or smoothie is 150ml (this only counts as one of your 5-a-day).
In summary, please don’t avoid fruit just because it contains sugar. Similarly, there is no reason to avoid all foods containing added sugar as they can form part of a healthy diet, its all about balance and moderation.