Some people think fruit causes metabolic problems and should be avoided when dieting. Here's the real story.
Just Eat Doughnuts?
On a gram-for-gram basis, bananas contain just about the same amount of sugar as doughnuts. It's true. A cup of mashed banana contains about 28 grams of sugar and a cup of chocolate doughnuts contain about 27 grams of sugar.
Let me quickly say that I'm not trying to establish a nutritional equivalency between bananas and a cinnamon bombolone. Clearly, the banana has plenty of nutritional advantages over the doughnut. However, when it comes to sugar, they're pretty much on equal footing.
Plenty of other varieties of fruits also carry a fairly heavy sugar payload. Unlike doughnuts, or practically any other pastry, dessert, or man-made confection, a lot of that sugar is fructose, but depending on your nutritional leanings, you might consider fructose to be even more sinister than sugar when it comes to adding a little filling to your waistline.
All of this begs the following questions:
- Can fruit be part of a fat-loss diet?
- Does fructose present unique metabolic problems?
- If dieting, are there certain fruits to avoid and certain fruits to embrace?
Relax, Dietary Snowflakes
Fructose isn't the only sugar found in fruit and oftentimes it's not even the main sugar found in fruit. Others include glucose and sucrose, along with teeny amounts of other unheralded sugars.
But the one that freaks out dietary snowflakes the most is fructose, and that's because it's metabolized differently from glucose. Whereas glucose zips right into the bloodstream, fructose takes a more circuitous route, first stopping off at the liver for some processing and maybe some chitchat, and therein lies the problem, or at least the perceived problem.
Most people seem to believe that the liver turns fructose directly to fat, but that's largely situational. If you're using up more energy than you're taking in, much of the fructose is converted to glycogen, which is just a stored form of carbohydrates to be drawn on by the body when energy reserves are low.
No harm, no fat-gain foul if you're active or you're eating less than you require for daily activities, but if you're eating more calories than you need, the fructose will indeed get converted to fat (once glycogen stores are full) and stored, eventually making you look lumpy in a tight T-shirt.
Likewise, eating a LOT of fruit, particularly those fruits that contain a lot of fructose, can circumvent the normal flow of things. Not only can it be stored as fat, but it might also cause some liver damage.
Still, eating those amounts of fruits every day is unlikely unless you're marooned on a South Pacific Island where it's nothing but mangos and a little bit of gecko for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacky time.
Regardless of all that, maintaining a svelte body all comes down to calories, and whether they come from eating high-fructose fruits, low-fructose fruits, doughnuts, oatmeal, or even an f-ton of Swiss chard doesn't much matter in the long run.
That's why it makes sense for dieters to watch overall fruit intake a bit and to know which fruits contain more sugars than others.
How Much Sugar Do Fruits Contain?
Here's a list of common fruits with their total sugar content and their fructose content:
|Food (1 Cup)||Total Sugars||Fructose||Food (1 Cup)||Total Sugars||Fructose|
Clearly, the tongue isn't a reliable barometer as to the sweetness of a fruit. Hell, if your tongue were calling the shots, you'd assume watermelons were near the top of the list in sugar content and that grapefruit was near the bottom. Instead, watermelon and grapefruit share fairly equal status, somewhere in the next-to-bottom quadrant of overall sugar content.
What you should notice, though, are where the various berries on this sugar train sit – they're all back in the caboose.
How to Use This Fruity Info
Anyone that eschews plants and the polyphenols, nutrients, and fiber they contain, even for the sake of a diet, is a melon head with peach pits for brains. However, when dieting, you can achieve fruit détente by following these guidelines:
1 – Don't pay attention to the fructose content of fruits, but do pay attention to the overall sugar content.
Stick with the fruits that are lower in overall sugar like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries, which, in addition to being low in sugar, contain some of the rarer carotenoids like cyandin 3-glucoside which increases insulin sensitivity.
2 – Eat whole fruits, not dried fruits.
Dried fruits don't contain any water, so they don't fill you up as well as whole fruit. You could probably easily eat a dozen dried apricots, but you likely couldn't eat a dozen whole apricots. That would make you a frugivore on par with a Bornean orangutan. It would also eventually make you as fat as one.
3 – Don't fall prey to the juice craze.
You know what they call people who drink lots of trendy juices? Diabetics in training. That, or fat bastards.
By blending fruits into a juice, you reduce the satiety factor. You end up drinking an amount of fruit you could never eat. Plus, you pulverize all the fiber, making the fruits really easy to digest, which skyrockets insulin levels. The metabolic effect is largely indistinguishable from drinking a can of Mountain Dew.
4 – Limit your fruit intake to 2 to 3 servings a day, preferably berries.
If berries aren't an option, choose vegetables instead. The nutrient benefits are largely the same but you'll get far fewer calories.