Author: Simon Hill, Plant Proof
Though we may enjoy indulging our sweet tooth from time to time, we all know that sugar is not great for us and we should do our best to limit our intake. However, we are sometimes mistaken to believe that his nutritional rule applies to fruit as well. Bananas, grapes and oranges are often demonised for their sugar content and actively avoided. Unfortunately, in trying to get the message out there that sugar is bad and to be avoided, the message that this rule does not apply to whole food natural sources of sugar somehow got lost in translation. Simon Hill from Plant Proof is here to clear up some confusion and establish once and for all that it’s time for us to stop fearing fruit and its sugar content!
The health risks of consuming too much sugar apply to refined sugars – not the sugars in fruit! When you see dietary recommendations inviting people to consume no more than 5-10% of calories from sugar, keep in mind this applies to processed and refined sugars – not the sugar in fruit. In fact, it’s important to distinguish that the term ‘sugar’ encompasses many forms of sugar. While some sugars naturally occur in foods such as in fruit, others, known as ‘free sugars’, are refined and added to processed or semi-processed foods to enhance sweetness and to deliver a more palatable food. Although all sugars deliver the same amount of calories in their natural or processed state, the health risks of eating sugars are linked to overconsumption of ‘free sugars’ – not the sugars naturally occurring in fruit.
The sugar in fruit is processed differently by our body. This is because fruit comes with much more than just sugar! Besides the sugar, fruits are also packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which are essential for good health. The fibre is really what separates naturally occurring sugars from ‘free sugars’: it has been shown to effectively slow down the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream. Some of the best sources of soluble fibre in particular, which help feed the healthy bacteria in our gut, include figs, apricots, pears and avocado – during this process short chain fatty acids are produced (e.g butyrate) which are the energy source for our colon cells and are linked to improved immunity, improved gastrointestinal function, lower levels of various cancers and less risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
Fruit has been shown to be healthy at almost any amount! Considering that one orange can pack 12g grams of sugar, many people see this as a reason to limit their fruit intake. However, evidence suggests that in almost any amount, fruits are not harmful and are even beneficial. When scientists had subjects consume 20 servings of fruit per day, not only did they find no adverse effects on weight, blood pressure, or cholesterol – they found an improvement all these markers. This even applies to Type 2 diabetics that adopt a low fat plant-based diet.
Overall, the data is clear. Fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods on the planet – their consumption has been inversely associated to mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease. In short, as long as we’re eating a balanced and varied diet, there is absolutely no rational reason to limit fruit intake – yes, even bananas!