Fruit is commonly linked in with vegetables as nature’s healthy food. It makes for a very convenient snack, as it’s easy to eat and its natural sweetness means it tastes good, too. It’s portable and, more importantly, it is not processed. It has often been seen as nature’s perfect food, but in recent years this belief has been challenged because of the amount of fructose (fruit sugar) it contains, in comparison to vegetables.
There are plenty of scientific studies showing that added sugar is very bad for us. The most common added sugars are sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, both of which are half glucose, half fructose. The health implications arise from the negative metabolic effects of fructose when consumed in large quantities. It is important to clarify here that high fructose corn syrup and fructose found in fruit are not the same.
When the whole fruit is eaten the amount of sugar consumed is less per surface area, as it will also contain fibre, water, pulp, along with vitamins and minerals. Because of all these components fruit takes a while to be eaten and digested so the fructose content will hit the liver more slowly. Fruit will also make you feel full whereas soda or candy will not; this is a good example of good calories, bad calories. Manufactured products will contain a much larger amount of fructose and will hit your liver much faster; additionally, these processed foods do not contain any real nourishment. In short, whole fruits contain a lot less fructose than manufactured products.
Overall, fruit in reasonable quantities has clear health benefits; the nourishment found in fruit has been linked to lowering the risk of serious illnesses, such as heart disease and stroke.
Even though fruit is healthy for most people, there are some who should avoid it. Fructose intolerance is very real and eating fruit can cause digestive symptoms in people with fructose intolerance.
People might who follow a very low-carb/ketogenic diet might also wish to avoid eating fruit. The main aim of these plans is to reduce carbohydrates sufficiently for the brain to start using mostly ketone bodies instead of glucose for fuel. For this to happen, it is necessary to restrict carbs to under 50 grams per day, sometimes all the way down to 20-30 grams. Since one piece of fruit can contain more than 20 grams of carbs, it would not be appropriate in such a diet.
Even though whole fruits are very healthy for most people, the same CANNOT be said for fruit juices and dried fruit. Many of the fruit juices on the market aren’t even “real” fruit juices. They consist of water, mixed with some sort of concentrate and a whole bunch of added sugar.
But even if you get 100% real fruit juice, it is still a bad idea. There is actually a lot of sugar in fruit juice, about as much as a sugar-sweetened beverage. There is no fibre and chewing resistance to slow down consumption, making it very easy to consume a large amount of sugar in a short period of time.
Dried fruits (like raisins) can be a problem as well. They are very high in sugar and it is easy to consume large amounts. Smoothies are somewhere in the middle. If you put the whole fruit in the blender, then it’s much better than drinking fruit juice, but not as good as eating whole fruit.
In summary eating one to two pieces of fruit a day, especially low-sugar high-nutrient fruits such as berries, is good for us. Too much fruit, and fruit that is not in its whole state, will add extra sugar to our system, which will be converted into fat by our liver.