The pervasiveness of added sugar in our diets is linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But in the epic rush to avoid sugar, many health-conscious consumers and low-carb dieters are starting to avoid eating fruits because it contains natural sugar. Despite containing sugar, fruits are a part of a healthy diet when eaten in the right portions.
Superficially, it could make sense; if you were to look at certain fruits’ nutrition labels, they may boast over 20 grams of sugar.
But this sugar isn’t the same as the kind that’s used in candy bars and ice cream. Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition, and New York City-based celebrity dietitian and fitness expert, weighs in: “It’s key to look at added sugars differently than sugar in fruit.”
Countless studies have found that increased fruit consumption, regardless of the fruit’s sugar content, is tied to lower body weight and a lower risk of obesity-associated diseases.
Experts believe it’s because when you eat whole fruits, you’re also getting plenty of fiber. And this fiber helps you feel full while slowing the digestion of the fruit’s sugar (which keeps your blood sugar from spiking).
On the other hand, refined sugars are just empty carbs that lack these healthy nutrients, which is the reason why they’re metabolized quickly, lack the ability to make you feel full, and contribute to weight gain.
The old adage is still true: too much of anything isn’t a good thing.
While there are many benefits of eating fruit, “we still want to be mindful of how much fruit we’re eating because it does contain sugar,” explains Smith.
It’s not “added sugar,” but the sugar in fruit can still have the same blood-sugar-spiking effect if eaten in excess.
Smith usually recommends getting in 2-3 servings of fruit per day, and keeping it to a serving at a time.
And yes, that goes for smoothies as well. “Smoothies can be large whacks of carbs and sugar, especially if there’s no protein or healthy fat that acts similarly to fiber to slow digestion and prevent blood sugar from spiking,” she says.
As far as sugary fruits go? You can still eat the exceptionally sweet ones, but Smith recommends you eat these in smaller portions and pair them with extra fiber, a healthy fat like peanut butter, or protein such as a scoop of plant-based protein powder or Greek yogurt to slow digestion and blunt the sugar spike.
Total Sugar: 1 cup, chopped, 29.3 g
Fiber: 5.2 g