Fruit sugar and your diet: should you stay away from it?

When many people hear something is high in sugar, they’ll try to veer away from it, or maybe just save it as a treat for special occasions. Well, what about apples? The fruit that, if eaten once a day is notoriously said to keep the doctor away, has 19 grams of sugar. Does this mean that an apple should be seen as a sugary treat? No, it doesn’t. There’s a difference between fruit sugar and refined sugar. Read on to learn the differences, and what role they play in your diet.

The most distinct difference is the source of these sugars. Fruit sugar, as you may guess, comes from fruit. It is naturally inside the fruit made by your local farmers and sold at the grocery store. No extra sugar is being added to your bananas or berries before you buy them, so all of the sugars are formed naturally. Refined sugars, however, are typically what we know as added sugars (1). These are added for taste in everything from sodas to sauces. The American Heart Association recommends that women don’t have more than 24 grams of sugar per day and that men don’t surpass 36 grams in a day (2). 

In all, it’s not really recommended that you have any added sugars in a day. However, added sugar is weaved into most packaged items you’d find at the grocery store, so it’s hard to actually cut them out entirely. Now, how about fruit sugars? How many of those can we have in a day, and should we have any at all?

Rather than counting sugars in each fruit or weighing your servings, it’s easier to just keep your diet to 2-3 servings of fruit per day (3). If you eat more than 2-3 fruit servings occasionally, it’s not a huge issue. The main reason you’d want to stick to having a few servings is so you make sure to reach your other nutrient requirements each day. If you’re overloading on fruit, you may not be hungry enough to have the vegetables, dairies, and carbs your body also craves.

You may be wondering what effect these different types of sugars have on your body. Well, the effects on your body are mostly based on how your body breaks down and utilizes these sugars (4). A study done by Harvard helps outline the key differences between different sugars (5). In the study, oranges, orange juice, orange soda, and diet orange soda were used to analyze blood sugar. When someone consumes an orange, their blood sugar will rise slowly as it reacts to the natural sugars. Then, when the body encounters added sugars in orange juice and orange soda, the blood sugar will spike quickly, then crash. (Important to note that orange juice, and other fruit juices, often have added sugars (6). With a diet soda, the drink may alter how your body reacts to sugar altogether. To break down what this study shows, fruit causes a natural, controlled reaction to your blood sugar, while all the other variables cause unnatural ones for your body.

At the end of the day, you should know that fruit is important to eat every day. It has key nutrients for your body and the sugars that are naturally made in them will not cause you harm. While you shouldn’t go overboard on your consumption of fruit, you never need to feel like you should cut fruit out of your diet. Added sugars don’t have added benefits for your body, but they’re inevitable. As long as you try to keep an eye on your consumption of added sugars, your body will be just fine.

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