In general, sugar in fruit is not bad for us. As a matter of fact, fruit contains a natural sugar, fructose, that is better for you if you are diabetic. That's because the body digests fructose slower than it does sucrose or table sugar. Because of the slower digestion, fructose doesn't cause the same high glycemic swings as other types of sugars. In 2008, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition advised diabetics to use fructose instead of sucrose based on research studies.
Few fruits contain enough sugar to make them bad for you.
Consider this a 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 225 calories, 60 grams of added sugar, (usually high-fructose corn syrup), and few nutrients. On the other hand, a cup of strawberries has 50 to 60 calories, about 7 grams of natural fructose, 3 grams of fiber, and loads of vitamin C and minerals — all good for you.
But you do have to watch which fructose you are getting. There is natural fructose and high-fructose corn syrup. The latter is not natural and will cause your blood sugar to spike. This is something you also have to watch out for when buying canned fruit. Much of it is packed in that high-fructose corn syrup. If it doesn't say packed in natural juices, buy your fruit either fresh or frozen instead.
You still have to keep track of how much sugar you're consuming, even if it's largely fructose containing fruits. The American Heart Association recommends up to 24 grams of sugar per day for females and 36 grams for men. But you can easily exceed that if you don't make the right selections. For example, two cups of sliced bananas has 36 grams of sugar by itself. If you add in the sugar you are getting from the rest of your food, you are probably far in excess of what you should be eating each day.
Why is excess sugar bad for you? Obviously, as we've known since elementary school, it can cause tooth decay. But it also causes weight gain and increases the triglycerides in your blood stream. That has been shown to increase your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke.
Strawberries, bananas, oranges, kiwi… the healthy list goes on and on. Fruit is touted as a super-healthy snack option, but while the fiber and other nutrients found in fruit are a great part of any diet, many varieties can also be very high in sugar. Too much sugar, regardless of where it comes from, can have some serious negative effects. (Yes, even sugar from fruit if you eat too much of it!) Does this mean you're not even safe in the produce aisle? Well, you're definitely safer. But it might be smart to limit your fruit-based sugar consumption.
by A B Fraser, MD