Fruit: Sugary Snack or Nutritious Staple?

Alongside the anti-sugar craze that seems to be enveloping nutrition, fruit has suddenly come under fire by many people for being too high in sugar. The war on fructose, mostly due to high fructose corn syrup, has meant that people have started questioning whether fruit is a problem because of its fructose content. Fruit has been a staple of the generic "healthy diet" for years and years, the 5 a day scheme is built on portions of fruit and our school fruit scheme in the UK hands out a piece of fruit to every child aged 4-6 every day. So is there a problem with fruit? Have we been misguided all these years about an apple a day keeping the doctor away?

Fructose: the Basics

There are two main sugar molecules found in food: glucose and fructose. Glucose is the traditional sugar found in many foods and results in the traditional rise in blood sugar, release of insulin and then storage of glucose to be used for energy. Fructose on the other hand is mostly found in fruit and is often bound to glucose to form sucrose, so the two often exist together. Fructose cannot go the traditional route that glucose follows, instead it goes directly to the liver where it is converted in to part glycogen for energy storage and then most of it is converted to fat. It also does not raise the blood sugar nearly as much as glucose and does not stimulate insulin release. This is why people have been shouting from the rooftops about high fructose corn syrup - a large dose of fructose mostly ends up as fat and it does not stimulate our usual appetite regulation like glucose. 

Fruit & Fructose

Fructose is indeed called "fruit sugar" because that is mostly where we find fructose and after the last section you may be thinking "fruit is going to make me fat?!" Wrong. While fructose does have this effect, these studies are done using high fructose corn syrup which is a highly concentrated, pure form of fructose that is used as a sweetener because it is much sweeter than normal sugar. Alongside some fructose, fruit also contains glucose, lots of fibre and a wealth of vitamins and minerals. This means it is absorbed much slower and has a lower fructose content compared to high fructose corn syrup. So while fructose technically can have this effect fruit is not going to make you fat! 

Sugar Content of Fruit

The reason people have singled out fruit is because some fruits do have a high sugar content. Let's look at pineapple, one of the most sugar fruits, has 10g of sugar per 100g serving compared to raspberries which have around 4g per 100g. So yes if you eat a whole tub of pineapple you may be eating a semi-large of sugar, but you are also getting a wealth of vitamins, minerals and fibre! However a 100g bar of chocolate has 48g of sugar, lots of fat and nowhere near as many nutrients so I think it is safe to say that fruit is still a winner here! At the end of the day, some sugar is not a bad thing in the slightest and fruit is a key source of nutrients for many people so there is absolutely no need to cut it out of our diets over concerns of the sugar content. Fruit shouldn't be seen as a "treat", it is a staple part of our diets. If you want to aim for some lower sugar fruits, berries boast some of the lowest sugar contents and often have the highest levels of nutrients too. 

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