As sugar awareness increases, fruit has lately become more heavily scrutinized. Even though it offers vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, most of fruit’s is-it-good-or-bad debate stems from its fructose (the most metabolically damaging sugar) and overall sugar.
You might know fruit contains various amounts of sugar, but I bet you didn’t think could contribute to your sugar addiction or cravings, and your inability to drop that unwanted weight.
Let me be very clear: That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat fruit. I’m not here to deny fruit’s goodness, nor do I want you to give it up. Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach, with these 14 distinctions you can make more informed fruit choices:
1. Some fruits are better for you than others.
Higher-glycemic, sweeter fruits like bananas, mangos and grapes can raise blood sugar pretty quickly because they have more sugar and less ﬁber than fruits like berries. If fat loss or reducing your diabetes risk is among your health goals, stick with lower-sugar options like blueberries or raspberries.
2. Fruit can be a sneaky sugar source.
Fruits we’re told to eat every day like apples can actually be some of the worst offenders for sneaking more sugar into your diet than you ever imagined, especially because you’re probably giving yourself a pass to have an apple (it's healthy!) and a sweet treat later in the day. For future reference, one medium apple contains about 19 grams of sugar.
3. Though they contain sugar, they're full of the good stuff, too.
Nature packed blueberries and other fruits with nutrients, ﬁber, antioxidants and all kinds of other goodness that cumulatively lower their sugar impact. 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 for diabetes.
4. You can reduce fruit’s sugar impact with this delicious strategy.
Protein and healthy fat can help buffer out fruit’s sugar impact. So if you have apple slices, smear a tablespoon of almond butter onto them.
5. Not all fruits contain sugar.
Because of its sugar load, you probably classify all fruit as a carbohydrate. But a few anomalies including avocado, olives and coconut, are low-sugar impact and offer healthy fat.
6. Frozen is fine.
Especially during off seasons, frozen fruits can become more practical and last longer than fresh fruit. Just read labels for added sugars — make sure you're buying frozen versions of the real thing, and not pre-packaged processed fruits.
7. Fruit is not an all-you-can-eat food.
Certain meal plans claim fruit is a “free” food. Sorry to bust that myth, but gorging on bananas all day won’t do you any favors. Excessive amounts of any fruit — we’re talking more than a few pieces a day, and even less for sugar-sensitive people — can stall fat loss.
8. Dried fruit should be treated like candy.
Seemingly healthy foods like raisins or dates count as processed food. Why? Even if you get a little ﬁber in them, you’re not getting enough nutrients and antioxidants to offset the impact of concentrated sugar on your insulin.
9. No, fruit juice does not count as fruit.
When food is “unwrapped” from its ﬁber — and fruit juice most certainly is — it’s left without its protective phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and its sugar impact is exponentially increased. More processing is performed to make it into commercial juices and that just makes it worse.
10. Juicing creates a huge sugar surge.
Vegetable juice is fine, but juicing fruit strips most of its fiber, creating a huge sugar surge. Read those labels: You might become surprised to see how much sugar that “healthy” commercial juice contains!
11. 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 low-sugar impact coconut yogurt (if you are).
12. Any nutrient that fruit contains, vegetables do better.
Here is one of my favorite quotes on this topic: “If you put a gun to my head and made me choose one of the two categories, it would be no contest: Vegetables are the clear winner,” writes Dr. Jonny Bowden in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. “Almost all the nutrients found in fruits are obtainable in vegetables, and with substantially less impact on blood sugar.”
13. Fruit as a sweetener does not automatically entail healthy.
Health-halo sweeteners like fruit-juice concentrate aren’t any healthier than sugar. Doesn’t matter whether it comes from bees, fruit, or sugarcane— it still breaks down in your body as sugar.
14. You don’t always need to buy organic.
If you’re on a budget, don’t have availability, or just need help making choices, use these lists to guide your fruit purchases. The "Clean Fifteen" list covers the fruit and vegetables with the least amount of pesticides, so it's not necessary to purchase the organic versions. Alternately, the "Dirty Dozen" list covers the fruits and vegetables that you should purchase organic versions of — since they have the most pesticides.