These days it is common for people to be confused about the effects of sugar in fruit! There is a lot of science-based evidence that show eating sugar in excessive amounts is harmful. his includes table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup, both of which are about half glucose, half fructose. One reason that excessive added sugar intake is harmful is the negative metabolic effects of fructose when consumed in large amounts. Many people now believe that because added sugars are bad, the same must apply to fruits, which also contain fructose. However, this is a misconception. Fructose is only harmful in large amounts, and it’s difficult to get excessive amounts of fructose from fruit.
Eating whole fruit, it is almost impossible to consume enough fructose to cause harm. Fruits are loaded with fiber, water and have significant chewing resistance. For this reason, most fruits (like apples) take a while to eat and digest, meaning that the fructose hits the liver slowly. Plus, fruit is incredibly filling. Most people will feel satisfied after eating one large apple, which contains 23 grams of sugar, 13 of which are fructose. Compare that to a 16 ounce bottle of Coke, which contains 52 grams of sugar, 30 of which are fructose and no nutritional value. A single apple would make you feel quite full and less inclined to eat more food. Conversely, a bottle of soda has remarkably poor satiety and people don’t compensate for the sugar by eating less food. When fructose hits your liver fast and in large amounts as in the case when you drink soda, it can have adverse health effects over time. However, when it hits your lives slowly and in small amounts, as in the case when you eat an apple, your body is well adapted to easily metabolize the fructose. While eating large amounts of sugar is harmful to most people, the same does not apply to fruit.
Of course, fruits are more than just watery bags of fructose. There are lots of nutrients in them that are important for health. This includes fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as a plethora of antioxidants and other plant compounds. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, has many benefits, including reduced cholesterol levels, slowed absorption of carbs and increased satiety. Plus, studies have shown that soluble fiber can help you lose weight. What’s more, fruits tend to be high in several vitamins and minerals that many people don't get enough of, including vitamin C, potassium and folate. Of course, "fruit" is an entire food group. There are thousands of different edible fruits found in nature, and their nutrient compositions can vary greatly. So, if you want to maximize fruits’ health effects, focus on ones that are rich in nutrients. Try fruits with more skin. The skin of fruits is usually very rich in antioxidants and fiber. This is the reason that berries, which have greater amounts of skin, gram for gram, are often considered healthier than larger fruits. It is also a good idea to switch things up and eat a variety of fruits because different fruits contain different nutrients.
Multiple observational studies have shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of various diseases. One review of nine studies found that each daily portion of fruit consumed reduced the risk of heart disease by 7%. Also, a study including 9,665 US adults found that a high fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 46% lower risk of diabetes in women, but there was no difference in men. Furthermore, one study that looked at fruits and vegetables separately found that vegetables were associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer, but this didn’t apply to fruit. Many other studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke — the two leading causes of death in Western countries. One study looked at how different types of fruit affect the risk of type 2 diabetes. Those who consumed the most grapes, apples and blueberries had the lowest risk, with blueberries having the strongest effect. However, one problem with observational studies is that they cannot prove that the associations they detect are direct causal relationships. People who eat the most fruit tend to be more health conscious, less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise.
Because of their fiber and water contents and the extensive chewing involved in eating them, fruits are very satiating. The satiety index is a measure of how much different foods contribute to feelings of fullness. Fruits like apples and oranges are among the highest scoring foods tested, even more filling than beef and eggs. This means that if you increase your intake of apples or oranges, you will likely feel so full that you will automatically eat less of other foods. There is also one interesting study that demonstrates how fruits can contribute to weight loss. In this six-month study, nine men ate a diet consisting only of fruits (82% of calories) and nuts (18% of calories). Not surprisingly, these men lost significant amounts of weight. Those who were overweight lost even more than those who were at a healthy weight. Overall, given the strong effects that fruits can have on satiety, it seems beneficial to replace other foods, especially junk foods, with fruit to help you lose weight over the long term.