Why Fruit Sugar Trumps Refined Sugar

Why Fruit Sugar Trumps Refined Sugar

The basic chemistry of refined sugar differs from fruits. Eating an apple, peach, or orange provides fiber along with sugar which aids digestion. Consuming a candy bar adds calories without nutritional value. While ingesting sugar provides quick energy, the "downside" of a spoonful of sugar-as added to most breakfast cereals and soft drinks-is that the energy boost is brief and the sugar is quickly converted to calories leading to weight gain. Fructose is the sugar naturally occurring in fruit, and it is sweeter than glucose or sucrose.

Benefits of Dietary Fiber

The fiber in plants (e.g., fruits) slows down the digestion of sugars in the body. It increases the feeling of satiation by adding bulk to the diet, aids the stomach in processing food, helps the colon to eliminate waste, and prevents constipation. The two different types of dietary fiber are termed "soluble" (attracting water) and "insoluble". Fruits with soluble fiber can make someone feel "full" faster because of the water-attracting property. Apples, naval oranges, and blueberries are three examples of fruits with a high "soluble" fiber content. Additionally, fruits with soluble fiber have been linked to blood glucose homeostasis-so are preferable for diabetics. Soluble fiber is also associated with lower blood lipid levels. Finally, fiber-both soluble and insoluble-has a low energy density so is recommended in dieting to achieve weight reduction.

Nutritional Value of Fruits

Vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (e.g., anti-oxidants and phytoestrogens) are abundantly found in fruits. These nutrients are important for health as well as the prevention of disorders associated with vitamin deficiencies. Fruits are higher in Vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid than most other foods consumed on a daily basis. In combination with fiber, the nutritional content of fruits is protective against coronary heart disease (especially as caused by hypertension). According to an article in 2012 in Advances in Nutrition [Slaven & Lloyd, 3:506-516], obesity risk is lower in those who consume on average more fruits and vegetables per day than those eating a low plant-based daily diet.

Recommended Daily Serving of Fruits

The adequate intake (AI) value for fiber according to the Institute of Medicine is 14 grams of fiber/1000 k calories (or approximately 25 grams of dietary fiber in a 2000 k-calorie diet). This exceeds the amount of fiber in the typical American diet. For women and men between 19-30 years old, two cups of fruit per day is recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (according to ChooseMyPlate.gov). After 31 years of age, the recommendation changes to 1.5 cups for women and 2 cups for men. Eating fruit uncooked is generally recommended to increase nutritional value.

Diabetic diets often limit daily intake of sugar to avoid a hyperglycemic reaction. Since lemons and limes have the least sugar content of all fruits, these are especially good in diabetic menus. Substituting vegetables for fruits (i.e., carrot juice instead of apple juice) can also help in reducing sugar intake.

Diets high in refined sugar have been linked to obesity as well as Type 2 diabetes. For this reason, it is a terrific idea to limit consumption of refined sugar as much as possible. Coffee shops that assume customers want sugar added-along with milk-should consider refraining from offering that sugar. In fact, coffee-drinkers who have to ask for sugar might think twice before shaking a packet of "empty calories" into their morning brew!