“Can I eat fruit?” “Will fruit sugar make me fat?” “I’m on a low carb diet so I cut out fruit because it’s fattening.”
I hear questions and comments like these on a regular basis during consults. “Carbohysteria” has gripped the world and created so much anxiety around food that people are confused about which foods are “good” and which are “bad.”
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Fruit sugar is not bad for you (and won’t kill you)
To put you at ease, rest assured, you can eat fruit and it will not kill you or make you unhealthy. Let’s dig a bit deeper.
Fruit contains fructose commonly referred to as fruit sugar.
Enter the food industry chemists. They’ve found creative and clever ways to refine fructose from its natural sources and pack it into very concentrated forms in junk foods like colas, candies, and ice cream. This means lots of calories and minimal nutrition packed into small packages.
Unfortunately, the message the public is getting is that all fructose is created equal and will ultimate make you fat in any dose – including naturally occurring fructose found in fruit.
Fruit’s wholesome goodness
It’s important to remember that fruit is packed with much more wholesome nutritional goodness than a candy bar.
Fruit has volume and bulk in the form of water and fibre, not to mention it provides you with valuable vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (i.e., plant pigments that give the food its colour and also have health-promoting properties).
Also remember that fruit’s digestive profile in the body is different than refined junk food.
Fruit, because it’s in its natural whole food state, will take your body a bit more work to break it down, leaving you feeling fuller for longer and less likely to overeat.
The candy bar, on the other hand, is mostly refined sugar and passes through you much quicker (i.e., the hard digestive work has been done), leaving you feeling less satisfied and more likely to reach for the next cola or candy bar.
Orange vs. Snickers bar nutrition cage fight
To illustrate, let’s compare nutrition labels between a navel orange and Snickers bar.
To be fair and keep the comparison realistic, I will adjust the navel orange’s weight to the same amount as the Snicker’s bar (58.7)
A side by side comparison (below) shows that per equal weight, the Snickers bar has nearly 10 times the amount of calories as the orange (280 vs. 29 calories, respectively), with most of these calories comprised of fat (126 cal) and refined sugar (120 cal).
|Navel Orange||Snickers Bar|
|Weight||58.7 g||58.7 g|
|Total fat||0.1 g||14|
|Saturated fat||0 g||5 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||5 mg|
|Potassium||97 mg||Not provided|
|Total Carb||7.6 g||35 g|
|Dietary Fibre||1.3 g||1 g|
|Sugar||4.7 g||30 g|
|Protein||0.5 g||4 g|
The orange, on the other hand, has virtually no fat calories and about 18 calories from fruit sugar. Not only that, you get plenty of vitamin C to stave off scurvy (argh, ye limeys!).
So you can see that, theoretically, even if you were to gorge yourself on navel oranges, you’d still have a hard time getting close to the equivalent calorie or refined sugar load as the Snickers bar.
And for all the sugar phobes reading this, the 4.7 grams of naturally occurring fructose is so small (not to mention digested and released slower) that it is highly improbably it would do you any harm.
In the obesity game, if you were to eat two (2) Snickers bars per day over the course of a month, you will have eaten the equivalent energy stored in 2 kilograms (4.5 lbs) of body fat. Snickers loses this match based on a very high calorie density with little redeeming nutritive value.
Moral of the story: eat fruit….or throw it at the person who keeps telling you it’ll make your ass bigger than a bus!