Fruit contains important vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, but its fructose content can contribute to sugar addiction and cravings, and make it harder to lose weight.
So Should I Eat Fruit?
Let me be very clear: This does not mean you shouldn’t eat fruit!
Fruit is good for you, and you shouldn’t give it up. Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach, use this information to make smart fruit choices:
- Eat protein with carbohydrates (in this case, fruit).
Eating protein and/or fat is an important way to control the blood sugar spike from fruit sugar. Fruit (or any carbohydrate) eaten alone can raise blood sugar pretty quickly. One medium apple, for example, contains about 19 grams of sugar.
Eat a protein or fat source with fruit to slow down the sugar release. For example, put some peanut butter on that apple, or have a few tablespoons of cottage cheese with your blueberries. If fat loss or reducing your diabetes risk is among your health goals, stick with lower-glycemic fruits like berries and cherries.
- Fruit contains sugar, but it’s full of healthy stuff.
Blueberries and other fruits are packed with nutrients, ﬁber, antioxidants, and all kinds of other goodness that cumulatively lower sugar impact. The fiber and nutrients in blueberries are the reason they’re relatively low on the glycemic index, despite their sugar content. In fact, studies show blueberries can actually help normalize blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of diabetes.
- Not all fruits contain lots of sugar.
We generally classify all fruits as a carbohydrate source. But a few exceptions exist, including avocado, olives, and coconut. These are low-sugar low-sugar fruits that supply healthy dietary fats.
- Frozen is fine.
When fresh fruit isn’t available locally, frozen fruit can be a healthy alternative to fresh fruit. Read the labels to make sure you stay away from added sugars. Buy the frozen versions of real food, not pre-packaged processed fruits loaded with chemicals and sugar.
- Fruit is not an all-you-can-eat food.
Certain meal plans label fruit as a “free” food. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but gorging on bananas and mangoes all day won’t do your diet any favors. Excessive amounts of any fruit —more than a couple pieces a day (and even less for sugar-sensitive people) – will increase fat storage. Watch your fruit portions carefully.
- Dried fruit should be treated like candy.
Seemingly healthy foods like raisins, dates, or dried apricots count as sugar just like candy. Why? You’re not getting enough fiber and nutrients to offset the high calorie concentration, and the impact of concentrated sugar on your insulin response.
- Fruit juice should be treated like soda – it does not count as eating fruit.
When food is “unwrapped” from its ﬁber — and fruit juice most certainly is — its sugar impact is exponentially increased. Fruit juice has too much sugar to justify the nutrients it contains. Commercial juices that contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring and coloring, and preservatives are even worse.
- Fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt can have as much sugar as a candy bar.
Skip the sugar-loaded commercial varieties and stir real berries into unsweetened Greek yogurt (if you’re not dairy sensitive) or coconut yogurt (if you are).
- Vegetables are generally a better choice than fruit.
Almost all the nutrients found in fruits are obtainable in vegetables, and with substantially less impact on blood sugar. Eat a wide variety of organic vegetables in a wide variety of colors.
- Fruit as a sweetener does not automatically make it healthy.
Fruit-based sweeteners like agave, fruit-juice concentrate, and honey are still loaded with sugar. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from bees, fruit, or sugar cane. Be very judicious in your portions and use!
- Organic is best, but non-organic is way better than none.
If you’re on a tight budget, or don’t have access to local organic produce, conventional fruits and vegetables still contain vital nutrients. Be sure to thoroughly wash non-organic produce in a vegetable wash before eating or cooking.