Fruits and sugar have long been linked in health and nutrition discussions. According to popular belief, the sugar level in fruits may offer hazards similar to those in sugary processed foods. A closer look reveals a sharp difference between the natural sugars found in fruits and the refined sugars found in industrial items. This article delves into the abundance of critical compounds found in fruits, dispelling myths regarding their health benefits. Investigate the nutritional discrepancy between fruits and industrial sugar, as supported by studies highlighting the health benefits of including fruits in your diet.
Fruits are healthy, even if they contain sugar
When it comes to fruits, there is often a great deal of uncertainty. For decades, it was believed that fruit was very healthy – and suddenly there are more and more claims that fruit is not as healthy as people thought. Fruits are said to make you fat, they contain far too much sugar, their fructose content promotes the formation of fatty liver and much more.
Of course, fruits contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar. Otherwise, they wouldn’t taste sweet. This is because low-sugar fruits, such as avocados and some berries, are known to taste almost never sweet. However, it doesn’t make much sense to put fruit in the same drawer as candy, milk slices, gummy bears or soft drinks because of a single nutrient and keep claiming: sugar is sugar. This has proven to be a fallacy.
Fruits contain vital substances
While fruits provide vitamins, antioxidants, fibre and secondary plant substances in addition to the fruit’s own sugar, these valuable substances are usually not found in sweets. Sweetened finished products also contain highly concentrated industrially produced sugars – either in the form of refined table sugar or, increasingly, in the form of glucose syrup or glucose-fructose syrup. It is not uncommon for other types of sugar to be added.
An unfortunate combination: sugar and fat
Most sweets, cakes and desserts also contain not only sugar, but also fat. And it is precisely this combination that is particularly unfavorable for health, as we have explained here, among other things: fat and sugar rob intelligence.
Perhaps you should take your cue from nature here. There are either high-fat foods (nuts, avocados) or there are sugar-rich foods (fruits). However, there is no food in nature that is rich in fat and sugar at the same time.
This principle is also followed by certain forms of nutrition – on the one hand, the low-carb/high-fat diet, in which you eat plenty of fat and protein, but hardly any carbohydrates, but on the other hand, the high-carb/low-fat diet, in which you can eat healthy carbohydrates ad nauseam, but stay very low in fat. This is one of the reasons why people who eat kilos of fruit on a high-carb diet do not experience any health disadvantages. This is because fruits are extremely low in fat.
Sugar content in sweets, sweet snacks and desserts
The sugar content of fruits is also often overestimated – see table below. 100 grams of most fruits contain less than 10 grams of the fruit’s own sugars. Conventional sweets, desserts and sweet snacks provide significantly more:
- With just 20 g of Nutella, you would consume 12 grams of sugar (4 sugar cubes) – and not natural sugar, but industrially processed refined sugar.
- A milk slice weighs just under 30 grams, but already contains more than 8 grams of sugar, which is 2.5 times as much as fruit.
- If you buy a carbohydrate-rich snail with icing at the bakery, it consists largely of sugar. It contains almost 60 g of it.
- Half a bar of milk chocolate (50 g) contains 33 g of sugar.
- Gummy bears are half sugar. So if you eat 50 g, these few bears already provide 25 g of sugar, as much as 8 sugar cubes.
- A cup of 100 g of jelly provides 20 g of sugar.
- Even probiotic products such as Actimel and Danone Activia, which are supposed to serve the intestines, contain over 10 g of sugar per cup.
- Typical breakfast cereals, such as Kellogg’s Frosties, will give you a whopping 17g of sugar per 40 g.
- And if you like Schweppes, then 250 ml of the lemonade consists of 35 g of sugar, almost 12 sugar cubes.
Fruit and Industrial Sugar – The Difference
Now you could say: If you like to eat fruit, a fruit salad made of an orange, 1/2 banana, a few grapes and an apple will quickly add up to impressive amounts of sugar or carbohydrates. Nevertheless, there seems to be a big difference between fruits and products with industrial sugar. Whether it is the richness of vital substances, the naturalness of the fruits, their low fat or a combination of these properties, cannot be said.
In any case, studies show with the most beautiful regularity that the consumption of industrial sugar increases the risk of disease, while this risk decreases the more fruit you eat.
The more fruit, the healthier the person
In a 2009 study, for example, nearly 3,000 women showed that the more sugary foods women ate, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Sweetened desserts apparently had a particularly unfavorable effect here ( 3 ).
In 2014, another study showed similar results, especially for women who were not physically active. At the same time, it was observed that high fruit and vegetable consumption reduced the risk of developing breast cancer ( 4 ).
A year earlier, it had been shown that industrially produced fructose, which is used to sweeten sweets, desserts and drinks, contributed to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but fruit consumption did not ( 6 ).
In March 2014, after analyzing several studies, researchers found that the more berries study participants ate, the higher bone density, suggesting that these fruits could prevent age-related bone loss (5).
In 2015, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that Alzheimer’s sufferers reduce the risk of death if they eat plenty of fruit ( 9 ).
In June 2015, a Chinese study was published in which it was found that the more fruit is eaten, the lower the risk of developing ulcerative colitis.
Also in 2015, Israeli researchers advised people to regularly drink a pomegranate and date shake, which could protect the cardiovascular system from arteriosclerosis. Pomegranate in particular is also considered to lower blood pressure and is said to reduce the risk of breast cancer. And although fruits are always discouraged for Candida infections, it is the pomegranate, of all things, that is hostile to candida ( 8 ).
In May 2016, an analysis of numerous studies found that the risk of pancreatic cancer decreases when plenty of fruit is eaten. It decreases even further if a lot of vegetables are eaten ( 7 ).
The fact that fruits do not have an above-average effect on blood sugar levels and that studies have also shown that the more fruit people eat, the lower the risk of diabetes, we explain here: Fruits protect against diabetes
There we also show that fruits are good for the intestines, that not only the pomegranate, but fruits in general help regulate blood pressure, support weight loss and also reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
If you are interested in the negative effects of sugar from processed foods, then please enter “sugar” in our search function.
Fruit is low in calories
You don’t have to worry about gaining weight from fruit either. Not only because fruits do not unduly stress blood sugar levels, but also because they are extremely high in water and low in calories.
Fruits usually only provide between 30 and 60 kcal per 100 g, while sweets, such as milk slices, yield over 400 kcal per 100 g and would thus cover almost a quarter of the daily energy requirement. Here, too, it turns out that a comparison of fruits and sweets – although both contain sugar – is not possible.
The Table: Sugar Content and Carbohydrate Content of Fruits/Fruits
An overview of the sugar content of some fruits is provided below. Of course, it must always be taken into account that the sugar content can differ depending on the degree of ripeness, region of origin and variety, so the values indicated can only provide a rough orientation. Basically, the riper fruits are, the richer they are in sugar.
- Yellow: low-sugar fruits
- Green: Fruits with a carbohydrate content between 6 and 10 g
- Blue: Fruits with a carbohydrate content of more than 10 g
The total carbohydrate content includes in particular sucrose (double sugar) as well as the two simple sugars fructose and glucose, starch and sugar alcohols (sorbitol). The information is in g/100 g.
The corresponding table with the sugar and carbohydrate contents can be found here under this link.
Low-sugar fruits at a glance
Strawberries – like most other berries – tend to be low in sugar. They contain only 5.5 g of carbohydrates per 100 g of fruit. At the same time, with over 60 mg of vitamin C (lemons 50 mg), they are a very good and delicious source of vitamin C. It is best to buy strawberries in organic quality and pay attention to regional origin. Apart from possible pesticide contamination, imported strawberries no longer taste aromatic simply because of the long transport routes.
2. Blackberries, raspberries and blueberries
Similar to raspberries, blackberries contain only about 3 g of sugar per 100 g, provide between 3 and over 6 g of fibre at the same time and have a protein content of 1.2 g per 100 g, which is interesting for fruits.
Blueberries, on the other hand, contain twice the amount of sugar. However, their exceptional antioxidant richness makes up for it. Many studies have already been conducted on the antioxidants typical of blueberries, which have shown amazing effects, such as how well blueberries can reduce cholesterol levels and thus the risk of atherosclerosis. Even the danger of Alzheimer’s can be reduced with the help of blueberries. And mental health is also extremely positively influenced by the delicious berries, which can by no means be said of sweets – on the contrary.
The fact that a high-sugar diet promotes Alzheimer’s disease, for example, was shown here: dangers of sugar. And that it increases the cholesterol level, whereby we talk about sugar in industrially processed products, so NOT sugar in fruits.
3. Peaches and apricots
With 8.9 g of sugar per 100 g, peaches are still a member of the low-sugar fruit group. The situation is similar with apricots, which contain only 8.5 g of sugar.
Apricot is a very good source of beta-carotene and therefore has an extremely positive effect on eye health and mucous membranes. At the same time, it is an excellent source of iron in dried form, with 4.4 g of iron per 100 g.
4. Lemons and limes
Of course, you don’t eat lemons and limes out of your hand like a delicious snack. Nevertheless, they belong to the fruits that are low in sugar. There are no more than 2 g of sugar in limes, while lemons provide significantly more sugar, which you can’t really perceive due to the acidity.
Both types of fruit are a popular source of vitamin C, which can be consumed in the form of lemon water, in homemade desserts or in salad dressings. If you put the freshly squeezed juice in carbonated water and sweeten the drink a little with xylitol, you can replace conventional soft drinks.
The star of the low-sugar fruit is, of course, the avocado with no more than 1 g of sugar. That’s why it tastes anything but sweet. It can therefore be used wonderfully in savory recipes, such as cold soups, dips, dressings and spreads. Avocados are satisfying due to their fat content of 15 percent on average. Similar to olive oil, avocado oil consists mainly of monounsaturated fatty acids and is therefore considered to be extremely well tolerated.
At the same time, avocado is a very good source of vitamin E, as just 100 g of avocado pulp with 2 mg of vitamin E cover one-sixth of the vitamin E requirement, which is 12 mg. Since the avocado contains over 500 mg of potassium, a quarter of the potassium requirement is also covered. Avocado is also one of the few plant-based foods that provides vitamin D – 3 μg (120 IU) per 100 g.
It is often claimed that the cultivation and transport of avocados is anything but environmentally friendly. The fruits would require a lot of water, be transported over long distances and ultimately lie in plastic packaging in the store. Here you should keep in mind that it is not much different with other tropical fruits, such as bananas. If you don’t want to support this type of fruit production, you should only use regional food.
Of course, coffee and chocolate would also no longer exist – not to mention meat and other animal-based foods, because the animal products industry is one of the most environmentally contemptuous industries of our time. If you look at the ecological footprint of a kilogram of beef, the avocado next to it almost looks like an angelic figure.
Papayas belong to the melon family and contain only about 7 g of carbohydrates. They also provide a whopping 80 mg of vitamin C per 100 g as well as a relatively high amount of beta-carotene. In addition, papayas contain minerals that are unusually high for fruits, such as 30 mg of calcium and 40 mg of magnesium. For comparison, an apple contains only 7 mg of calcium and 6 mg of magnesium.
In addition, always eat a few papaya seeds, because they provide you with many valuable properties.
7. Clementines, tangerines and oranges
These three citrus fruits contain between 9 and 10 g of sugar. If lemons are too sour for your salad dressing, then use tangerines or oranges for it. These also provide plenty of vitamin C and fruit acids. Both help to better absorb minerals and trace elements.
Oranges and tangerines also contain the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin. It is said to be able to protect the lungs from lung cancer.
8. Mangoes and grapes
Of course, mangoes and grapes are not low-sugar fruits. However, to show you how healthy even high-sugar fruits are, we mention the two here as representatives of all fruits with a higher sugar content.
Mango, for example, is an excellent source of beta-carotene and also supports weight loss. Grapes, on the other hand, are known to be THE source of resveratrol, the substance that protects against colon cancer and protects the nervous system. Yes, even raisins – dried grapes – which are even sweeter than fresh grapes – are not a danger to blood sugar levels due to their high sugar content.
Fruit juices – it’s all about quantity and quality
Fruit or fruit juices can be good too, for example, if you drink a small glass of maybe 150 ml of it per day (very slowly) and the juice is freshly squeezed. Consider such a fruit juice as a high-quality small snack, as part of breakfast, as an appetizer, but not as a thirst quencher.
Of course, there are also organic pre-prepared juices on the market. However, these juices are pasteurized, otherwise they would begin to ferment. In addition, most juices are packaged in white glass bottles, so that the juice constantly comes into contact with light during storage. Both – pasteurization and oxidation by light – have a reducing effect on the vital substances.
Even in small quantities, juices from the conventional trade, which are usually made from concentrates, are not recommended. These are often sugared or provided with sweeteners.
Fruits fit well into a healthy, wholesome diet
So it’s not worth giving up enjoying all the delicious fruits of this world. You wouldn’t gain anything from it. A healthy and wholesome diet also consists of fruits.
Depending on your tolerance, energy requirements and personal preference, you can vary the amount. Between 200 and 500 grams per day, anything is possible. We would not recommend larger quantities of fruits, as this would automatically reduce the consumption of vegetables, grains, legumes, etc. These foods, however, have a higher nutrient density than fruits. Therefore, their consumption must not be lowered because of increased fruit consumption.