Sugar is delicious – but too much of it is bad for your health. It’s the reason why so many diet programs are centered around eliminating or lowering sugar intake. Years of many research have proven that eating too much sugar too often won’t do anything good.
But table sugar is different from fruit sugars—isn’t it? And if that’s the case, getting your sugary fix from fruits shouldn’t be bad, right?
Why Sugar Gets a Bad Rep
Sugar in itself isn’t bad; like all things, it serves a purpose in the body. That purpose is energy. Sugar is carbohydrates in soluble form, and carbohydrates are what makes the body “go.”
The problem is the kind of sugar you consume and how much of it you consume.
When you think of sugar, the immediate thing that comes to mind is common table sugar, which is a kind of simple sugar. Simple sugars have either a single molecular chain, or double molecular chains.
When you consume sugar, the body goes to work into breaking it down. The simpler the molecular chain, the faster the body can break it down and digest it. The more complex the kind of sugar you consumed, the longer it’ll take your body to break it down.
You know how nutritionists often say to choose complex carbohydrates instead of simple ones? It’s because complex carbohydrates get digested slower, meaning your energy levels stay constant for longer, too. Simple sugars, because they’re broken down quickly, can give you an instant spike in energy levels that can get depleted quickly. This is why you crave more sugar shortly after eating some.
What’s worse, it’s so easy to over-consume refined sugar. It’s not heavy and filling as other complex carbs, because there’s no other nutritional content in table sugar. The sweet taste activates the pleasure center of the brain, too. This makes sugar such an enjoyable, and dangerous treat.
When you consume more sugar than what your body needs to burn for energy, the rest of it gets stored – as fat. Fat is the body’s emergency energy reserves, to be used in extreme cases of starvation. That means unless you’re starving yourself and your body has literally no other energy source it can burn, you’ll just be piling more and more fat to store.
To top it off, you don’t normally consume sugar by itself. Sugar is often paired with other foods. Usually, another form of carbohydrates, which doubles the sugar intake. Because of this, refined sugar has been linked to the risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases.
Fruit Sugar vs. Refined Sugar
So if too much sugar is bad for you, that should apply to all kinds of sugars, right?
Well—no. You see, there are many kinds of sugars, depending on where they’re from. You have table sugar, or sucrose, but you also have sugars from milk, which are lactose and galactose. You also have sugar from starchy carbs, which is maltose. And of course, you have sugar that comes from fruits, which is fructose.
Fructose is a simple sugar. But unlike refined or table sugar, there isn’t too much of it in the fruit, so you won’t over-consume even if you eat the entire fruit.
Unlike table sugar, fruit has lots of other nutrients and minerals. For example, while an apple has 23 grams of sugar, it also has water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
And fruit can be filling, too. Fruits have plenty of dietary fiber, and chew resistance. You can be satisfied after eating an apple, or two bananas, unlike ordinary table sugar that simply melts on your tongue.
This makes it incredibly difficult to consume natural fructose from fruits in excess. Compare that to drinking a can of soda, or snacking on an entire pack of cookies, which are mostly sugar and carbs.
The worst thing about it is that refined simple sugars are everywhere. They’re in bottled juices, sauces, ready-made condiments and dips, even prepared tomato sauce.
Is Fruit Sugar Bad for You?
On the whole, no—but for a select few, yes.
Even though sugars from fruits are worlds different from refined sugar and can be enjoyed with little to no guilt, some people should still be particular about the kinds of fruits they eat.
For instance, diabetics should still meticulously portion their share of sweeter fruits, such as ripe mangoes, dates, grapes, and figs. This is because even though their sugars are fructose, they can still give people with diabetes a blood glucose spike.
But for most people, they can enjoy fruits in moderation without any fear of ill effects. Even people with diabetes are encouraged to eat more fruit, provided they portion the sweeter ones accordingly.
Fruits are the Better Sweet Choice
Sugar is the body’s immediate source of energy. Without it, your brain won’t even function properly. But sugar gets a bad name because of the refined kind. They’re easy to get, they’re easy to consume in excess, they’re in everything, and they’re a reason why so many people in the world are obese.
But there are many kinds of sugars. Foods like milk, cheese, starchy carbs, and fruits have natural sugars in them. And out of all of them, fruits are the ones with a more pronounced sweetness in them.
Some people still need to watch their fruit intake—like people with diabetes. Sweet fruits like figs and mangoes can still send their blood glucose through the roof.
But for most, fruits are healthy and delicious. They contain lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water, and fiber. It’ll be difficult to consume fruit sugars in excess because of the satiety they can give.
And their benefits far surpass what you can get from refined sugars – which is none. While refined sugars can lead to a host of deadly and debilitating diseases, fruits can lead to a fitter, healthier body.
Moderation is key. Even good things, when taken in excess, can be bad. If you incorporate fruits into your diet, you’ll get balanced nutrition without sacrificing the sweet taste that you crave.