- All fruits are not made equal – some have more sugar than others or higher carb content.
- Regardless of this, there is no fruit that is “unhealthy,” according to two dietitians.
- Rachael Hartley and Georgie Fear share why all fruits have health benefits.
Fruit is part of a balanced diet, but some varieties have a bad rap due to their sugar or carbohydrate content.
Read on to learn why there’s no such thing as “unhealthy” fruit.
Although certain fruits are higher in sugar than others, natural sugar is processed differently in the body than the added type.
According to Hartley, one of the biggest myths surrounding fruit is the idea that some kinds are unhealthy or bad for us to eat. For instance, mangoes and figs are naturally higher in sugar than cranberries and blackberries but that doesn’t mean you need to cut them out of your diet entirely.
“Fruits can certainly vary in their sugar content, but it’s natural sugar that’s processed differently than added sugar,” she told INSIDER.
Thanks to fruits’ fibre content, it’s easier for our digestive system to metabolize this natural sugar.
Fruit contains two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. These fibres line the small intestine and stop most of the fruit’s sugar from being absorbed during the early stages of digestion. Instead, sugar isn’t digested until it reaches the parts of the tract that contain microorganisms that can metabolize it.
But one fruit is an exception to this rule.
While fibre content makes up for sugar levels in most fruits, grapes are an exception.
“Grapes are outliers in terms of their sugar-to-fibre ratio,” Robert Lustig, professor emeritus of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, told TIME. “They’re basically little bags of sugar.”
So, basically, if there is one fruit to look out for, it is grapes, but they can still be incorporated into a healthy diet.
Some fruits are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients.
By eating fruit, we receive vital nutrients as well as antioxidants. Bananas are relatively high in sugar and carbs, yet they also contain potassium and vitamin B6.
“Besides certain fruits getting demonized because of their sugar content, some fruits are more nutrient-dense,” Hartley said, citing citrus fruits and blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries as examples.
Fruit intake has more of an impact on blood sugar for people with diabetes.
Hartley said, that generally speaking, no fruit is going to have a major impact on blood sugar.
However, people with diabetes or other conditions that impact how the body regulates blood glucose need to be careful of their sugar intake.
Fruit has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of some diseases.
According to a review of nine studies published in 2006 in The Journal of Nutrition, every daily portion of fruit that subjects consumed lowered their risk of heart disease by 7%.
In addition, a 2001 study published in Preventive Medicine found that diets rich in fruits and vegetables reduced the risk of diabetes in women.
Dried fruit and fruit juices can be higher in sugar than fresh, whole fruit.
“Fruit juice, even 100% juice, contains a lot of rapidly digesting sugars, with no fibre. It doesn’t fill you up or satisfy hunger as well as fresh, whole pieces of fruit,” Fear told INSIDER. “Dried fruits with added sugar contain more calories and the sugar doesn’t add any nutrients.”
But they’re alright in moderation.
Fear says that if you’re craving dried fruit or want a glass of sweetened fruit juice, it’s OK to enjoy these items in moderation.
“Most of the time, choose whole fresh fruit, but if you enjoy juice or sweetened dried fruit, stick to a small serving (four ounces of juice or one ounce of dried fruit) every now and then,” she said.
It’s important to take a “big picture” view of fruit and nutrition.
“It’s really important that we stop looking at individual fruits as good and bad and zoom out and look at the big patterns of our eating habits,” Hartley said.
What matters more is asking ourselves if our diets contain enough plants and produce overall.
A healthy way to incorporate fruit into a balanced diet is to pair it with fats and proteins.
An easy way to incorporate fruit into your diet is to eat it as a snack. For a more filling nosh, Hartley recommended pairing fruit with foods rich in fat or protein, such as cheese, nuts, and yogurt.
She also suggested adding fruit to savoury dishes such as salads and pizza.