Is It OK to Eat Sugary Fruit? | Ask the Dietitian

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Is It OK to Eat Sugary Fruit? | Ask the Dietitian

Lately, it feels like we’re in the throes of sugar-phobia. And, to be fair, it’s not without good reason. The popular media, trusted health organizations (like the American Heart Association, World Health Organization and National Academy of Medicine) and high-profile nutrition experts all have called for us to eat less added sugar.

After all, added sugar has been tied to the obesity epidemic and related chronic illnesses like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. As the general public leans away from soda, sweet breakfast cereals and store-bought cookies, it’s tempting to celebrate sugar’s status as a nutrition super-villain. But, as a dietitian, I can’t help but feel this new awareness comes with unintended consequences, namely in the upswing of people who ask me: “Is it OK to eat fruit? It’s so high in sugar.”

That a fear of fruit was born out of recommendations to eat less added sugar shows a lack of nuance in the way we think about nutrition.


READ MORE > 8 SIGNS YOU’RE EATING TOO MUCH SUGAR


NUTRITION WITH NUANCE

Instead of judging foods by all they have to offer, we tend to judge them narrowly based on one or two things and quickly categorize them as either “good” or “bad.” In other words, how many carbs, and how much fat and protein does a food contain, and in what proportion? If the stars align (booyah, only 5 grams of sugar!) then we think, “It must be ‘good’ for me, so I’m going to eat it.”

By that logic, an orange can be compared to cola. After all, gram for gram, your sweet citrus snack has about as many calories, carbohydrates and sugar as cola (see table below). This comparison is, of course, very silly — we all know oranges outweigh soda when it comes to nutritional quality. But we’re lured into this thought process because the framework we have for learning, thinking and speaking about food is nutrient-focused.

 Cola (100 grams)Orange (100 grams)
Calories3847
Fat (g)00
Sodium (mg)40
Potassium (mg)2181
Carbohydrate (g)1012
Dietary Fiber (g)02
Sugar (g)99
Protein (g)01
Vitamin A (%DV04
Vitamin C (%DV)088

My simple, nutrient-focused defense is this: You get more nutritional bang for your calorie buck with oranges. You get more fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C from oranges than from soda. The fiber in fresh oranges contributes to satiety, making it very difficult to down more than 2–3 at a time. It’s a different story with soda.

This explanation should be enough, but it’s not. Food is not a sum of its nutrients. For example, phytochemicals in fruit have been shown to reduce obesity by suppressing the growth of fat tissues and acting as antioxidants against inflammation. Some phytochemicals like carotenoids, also known as vitamin A, are counted among our core micronutrients. Others, like anthocyanin and polyphenols, are not considered micronutrients but do hold valuable health benefits anyway. It’s useful to have an educated understanding about which nutrients are healthful or harmful. But, when it’s time to decide whether or not you should eat something, ask whether the food as a whole is positively contributing to your health.


WATCH > ASK A TRAINER: ON NUTRITION


THE FRUITFUL VERDICT

When you consider fruit’s contribution to health, the answer is clear: Fruit fears go against the science that eating enough fruits and vegetables can lower your risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and so much more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conclude that replacing high-calorie, less-nutritious foods with fruit and vegetables is a good strategy for weight loss. If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes or have a fruit allergy, you don’t need to be cautious with your intake.

3 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHEN CUTTING BACK ON SUGAR

Hopefully we’ve convinced you to stop fearing fruit! Still interested in cutting your added sugar intake? Ask yourself these three questions:

1. Is the sugar in this food mostly added sugar or natural sugar (e.g., from fruit, vegetables, dairy)?

2. Is the food that I am eating providing me with more than just empty calories?

3. Am I enjoying this food as part of a sensible and well-balanced diet?

Related

  • Nick Speelman

    I have a sugar-phobic friend that’s always telling me how much sugar is in the fruit I’m eating. Which is obnoxious because (1) it’s incredibly rude to criticize someone else’s food choices unless your their doctor or dietitician and (2) it’s dead wrong for all the reasons listed in this article.

    • Em

      Same. I was telling a friend of mine how much I love fruit and she got snippy about it and told me not to eat too much. I know how to eat!

    • qbunny

      Just FYI – doctors know NOTHING about nutrition. They are taught nothing in medical school regarding nutrition. They know how to push prescription drugs. But the dietitian would certainly know more.

  • Rosemary

    Is fruit a good snack in moderation for diabetics? I’m new at this.

    • jayne190

      Yes it is a good snack.

    • Nick B

      Absolutely. As mentioned in the article, fruit contains fiber which slows absorption of sugar, preventing blood sugar spikes. Keep in mind this only applies to whole fruits, not juices where fiber is removed.

    • easylocarb

      Test your blood glucose, eat a banana, and 30 mins later test it again … and you tell me.

      If you have type 1 you will have to cover that rise with insulin and it’s almost impossible to get just the right amount so the best you can do is get your blood glucose close to a safe range. You will have more insulin and higher levels of glucose in your blood for longer than a normal person.

      If you have type 2 you will make too much insulin for a long time – some can still be making it 5 hours after eating a piece of fruit. You will have more insulin and higher levels of glucose in your blood for longer than a normal person.

      Increased risk of complications from diabetes starts increasing once your blood glucose goes over 5 mmol/l (90 mg/dl), and high levels of insulin cause the disease to progress and become worse. Complications include cardiovascular disease, blindness, loss of sensation in feet and hands, gangrene and amputation of the extremities, and kidney disease and dialysis. In Australia we amputate 70 diabetic feet every week .. in a population of only 23m.

      If you are non-diabetic you can probably eat like a fruit bat, good luck to you. If you are pre-diabetic, or type 1 diabetic, or type 2 diabetic, or just overweight and insulin resistant but not yet diabetic … well it’s your feet.

      • Rpmii

        Exactly. I am a type II diabetic for the last 15 years. I wish I could eat fruit. Once in a while, but it spikes the BS. Pure and simple.

        • How are you coping with type 2 diabetes? What do you think are some barriers to eating sugary fruit? You mention spikes. What strikes the sugar spikes?

          • Rpmii

            I have been a type II diabetic (diagnosed) for about 15 years. It is a battle I am slowly losing, although I am still OK. None of the really bad side effects, yet.
            Essentially, all carbohydrates convert rapidly to sugar. Fact, like it or not. Fiber may slow down the absorption somewhat, but I have found it not to be a great help–although I like high fiber foods anyway.
            If I have a steak and all the spinach I can eat for dinner, I do fine. Add a potato–not so. Have an orange for dessert (I have a yard full of wonderful citrus)–BS goes over 200. Most of the time.

            It is a nasty disease. Eat low carb, get a lot of exercise and you can slow it down, a lot. If you eat low carb and exercise, you WILL lose excess weight.
            Ignore these foolish dietitians that tell you to eat lots of fruit. You cannot.

  • disqus_jyYUX2Vr84

    So why does myfitnesspal categorise all sugars from fruit, veg and dairy as added sugar? I eat a very healthy diet, and myfitnesspal is constantly telling me I’m going to go over my sugar goal.

    • Amanda

      That’s what I want to know!

    • I agree. Can we get MFP to break out fructose from glucose, so we can set separate goals?

    • Latigre LeMeow

      I completely agree those things should be seperated by fitness pal and on every food pkg’s nutritional facts. Separating the good fats and good cal etc. From the bad and immitation and empty cal on pkg’s could educate us all about what’s good and bad to eat making it less intimidating to lead a more healthy diet by choice. We all deserve to know what’s really in our foods. This would be an amazing change to fight to get passed into play.

    • BlackIowan

      Ok I’d like to also know why the app doesn’t separate from added and no added sugar. I eat mostly fruits anyways.

      • Bre

        This is because it is not currently separated on the nutrition label whether it is added or natural sugar. This is changing though. Over the next few years you will see more and more labels that show how much is added sugar and how much is natural.

        • Don Reitsma

          Would it matter. It’s still sugar.

          • Bre

            The difference is that added sugar just adds carbs and calories to that food that don’t have any benefit to our bodies. Sugar that is naturally in milk and fruit is still sugar, yes. But it’s okay to have some sugar. We just prefer it be from things like fruit and dairy because they also provide you with fiber, vitamins, and minerals and typically are less calories than something full of added sugars, like a donut.

          • Don Reitsma

            I agree. Dose determines toxicity. Too much sugar and we get sick. Added sugar should be banned.

    • Jenny

      I so agree eith your statement

    • Ali

      I think what you should care would be the type of the sugars (with an “s”). Please watch the video “Sugar the Bitter Truth”. If I remember correctly, it was the “sucrose”, which is considered bad/unhealthy sugar and is mostly found in the process sugar, typically taken from corn syrup. Less than half of the fruit sugars content is usually from sucrose. Hope it helps, But please do some research, since I cannot exactly remember the truth! 🙂

      • Don Reitsma

        It’s fructose which is 50% of sucrose with the other 50% being glucose. High Fructose Corn Syrup is 55% fructose or higher. It is the bad sugar because it is only metabolized by the liver. Excess will lead to insulin resistance, leptin resistance and the other indicators of metabolic syndrome.

    • Kat

      Exactly! The app is always freaking out about my sugar intake after I eat fruit. It’ll freak out, and I’ll just be like “all I had was an apple???”

      • I think that Apple may count as one meal. That one Apple has a lot of natural sugar in it. Now, if you were living with diabetes most doctors will tell you to avoid eating apples or drinking Apple juice. Now, if you were black, an apple is not essential to our diet, because the immune sensitivity with eating an apple.

        • Donna Wedden Helms

          If you were black? Seriously?!

      • Don Reitsma

        Yup it’s sugar and goes straight to the liver.

      • Don Reitsma

        It should!

    • karebear01

      I eat 100g or more of sugar everyday and I have to manually change the settings of my nutrients so myfitnesspal stops telling me to stop eating sugar. The bulk of my diet comes from carbs.

      • Don Reitsma

        Why would you est that much sugar? You can’t be very healthy. Even if you’re thin because of being insulin sensitive It’s metabolically unhealthy. Each to thei own.

        I have the paid version amd can set my goals to whatever, so if you’re happy eating 15 teaspoons of sugar a day and tracking it them it will happily accommodate that.

    • Don Reitsma

      It’s not counting it as added sugar but showng you where the carbs are coming from.

    • Jason S (Brooklyn)

      It’s only going to get worse if this new allulose movement – brought to the forefront this week with Quest’s new line of Hero bars – takes off. Allulose is a new type of sugar that tastes just like the real thing but doesn’t get digested like sugar and won’t spike insulin levels. The Hero bars boast 4 net carbs despite having 12-13 grams of “sugar” on the label. According to the Quest Nutrition website, the FDA requires them to do that even though allulose isn’t actually sugar. In actuality, the total allulose content contributes just 4 calories to the entire Hero bar’s 170-200 calories (depending on the flavor).

      MFP really needs to start doing a better job of differentiating between good and bad sugars, new scientifically-modified sugars, and in that vein, refined carbs vs. naturally-occurring carbs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt guilty about eating 4 stalks of celery because the app tells me I’m ingesting nearly 8 grams of carbs.

  • Jane Winers

    Actually with fruit and vegetables and simply plant based whole foods you can better your health and even cure a lot of diseases. Sugar in fruit is our main fuel for brain!

    • laura

      so happy to see a logical carbed up fruit bat on here. i felt like i was going crazy with all these undercarbed comments

  • Nathanael Dale Ries

    All sugar comes from fruit and veggies. Just because it comes from fruit and veggies like sugar cane, corn, beets, etc… doesn’t make it healthy. If someone is eating more than 3 apples, oranges, bananas, etc every day that sugar adds up.

    Sure, the added fiber helps prevent insulin spikes a little bit, but moderation is the key when it comes to fruit. If you substitute fruit for soda you are definitely doing better, but if you substitute soda or a candy bar for a whole bag full of halos you’re doing it wrong!

    • laura

      3 bananas a day? i normally have 6 or so for breakfast. what a sad life you must live

      • Mike G

        What a side life he must live? Wow.. No comment. You probably live a side life considering how much of a bitch you are

      • robinbishop34

        Isn’t that incredibly binding?

        • laura

          I eat like 70 grams of fiber a day. I think and poop twice to three time a day. I think I’m ok

      • James Jones

        Actually, Nathanael is right…everything should be consumed in moderation, including fruit. Most health experts recommend no more than TWO bananas a day, since they lack protein, fat, etc.

        • laura

          Most health experts have no idea what they are doing. if you eat 30 bananas in a day you would get all the fat and protein you need

        • karebear01

          No one even knows what moderation is, they just leave it up to your judgement of moderation. Doctors and the meat industry love to throw that word around without ever specifying how much it truly is, so people don’t feel bad about their food choices and continue to waste their money on animal products.

      • Ariana

        You should get your blood levels checked occassionally if you really eat 6 bananas a day… My sister ate just 3 per day for a while and luckily had a physical where the Physician’s Assistant recommended her to get herid blood tested. She almost died of potassium overdose (granted, we were also eating a lot of tomatoes and potatoes, which also have a lot of potassium).
        That’s why moderation is so important. I mean, even water is toxic in hiGhana enough quantities over a short period of time.

        • Ariana

          Dang auto-correct…
          *her, not herid
          *high, not hiGhana (whatever that is…)

        • Do you know how many grams of sugar are in bananas? And did you self check your blood glucose levels after eating those many bananas?

          • laura

            I’ve eaten almost 300 grams of sugar today and my blood glucose levels are fine

          • karebear01

            Did you not just read the article about sugar above this page? The whole article was about confusing fruit sugar with processed added sugar, and that fruit sugar is a better option, the article even says fruit sugar prevents type 2 diebetes, heart disease and cancer.

          • Exadyne

            The sugars all do the same thing. Processed fructose, glucose, and sucrose are the same chemical fructose, glucose, and sucrose in banana. You get a little fiber in the banana and the tiniest sliver of fat that might slow digest and GI the slightest bit.
            The difference is really that people will end up eating fewer calories in general eating bananas then they would most foods that contain added sugars.

        • laura

          I would have to eat 500 bananas in 60 seconds to die of potassium overdose

        • karebear01

          that’s bunch of bull, bananas are not that high in potassium, I doubt your sister was eating only bananas everyday, I know she was eating other foods, unless she eats a banana only diet you cannot be sure it was a banana that caused the potassium spike.

    • Shelbi_RD

      There is plenty of research that shows an 80/10/10 CHO/PRO/FAT macronutrient split when those carbohydrates are fruit and vegetable based can produce a very healthy individual if they are a “fruitarian,” “fully raw” or vegan.

      That being said if someone has already found themselves with insulin-resistance and type 2 diabetes depending on A1c levels then they may have to be more considerate of fruit consumption than a healthy individual who moves to a lifestyle with that breakdown.

      • Exadyne

        Plenty of research that fully raw vegans will get B12 deficiencies if they don’t supplement or at least eat dirty (i.e., not to modern developed country standards) produce to get B12.

        • Ariel

          About 40% of Americans are b12 deficient and Vegans are only about 1% of it. So the deficiency is common among a lot individuals in America, not just Vegans 🙂

          • Exadyne

            No, 40% are not deficient and that you don’t understand cause and effect and statistics might be part of why you think that. You’ve also moved from discussing raw vegans to vegans in general.

            B12 only comes appreciably from animal products or vitamins specifically made using engineered bacteria / fungi. If you don’t eat animal products and you don’t eat processed foods (supplement vitamins), you’re guaranteed to become deficient.

          • karebear01

            your wrong, animal products contain b12 because the industry has to supplement the animals with artificial b12 since b12 is created by bacteria in the soil and since humans have killed the majority of that bacteria through our sanitary ways we have to rely on supplemented fortified foods, and animal products must be supplemented as well.

          • Exadyne

            LOLWUT? Animal products contain B12 because animals contain B12. For ruminants, the source is their gut bacteria producing it. Humans don’t ruminate, we only have one stomach chamber. You could do like some rodents, and sometimes gorillas and eat your own droppings, but otherwise, but that means you’re eating an animal product. I think most vegans are okay with animal products from humans, though there are the cranks who discourage breast milk that I rather detest.

          • karebear01

            Animals contain B12 because they are supplemented, it’s like you don’t know the process your own food goes through, even vegans know fully well what goes into making a piece of meat, not the ethical issues but the actual process. Not all the animals you eat have more than one stomach, which would disprove you opinion on that. They are like us that need to eat B12 from another source, the meat industry has to supply it to their animals. Not to mention that these animals aren’t even eating their species specific diet and are just fed low-quality gmo grains, plus the filthy conditions they live in, and that’s the industry your so proudly defending? It’s not clean food, it’s dirty food, not to mention all the cholesterol in animal products that clog your arteries, no thanks, I actually give a shit about my health and the environment and I don’t make excuses to give in to the demands of my taste-buds, I can think for myself. Breastmilk? what, your still a baby? I thought you were well past that stage, I guess if you think like a baby and think the world is unicorns and rainbows you might as well eat like a baby too.

          • So, are you saying the consumption of Vitamin B12 is not healthy for you? Well, there are many sources of fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin B12.

          • Exadyne

            No, there are not many sources of B12 from fruit and vegetables.

          • Yeah, you are right, I just finished looking it up on Google. Have you heard of the Naked Smoothie drink. Try the Green Machine Smoothie and see how you like it?

          • Exadyne

            Crickets on that naming a non-animal product high in B12 in the USDA database?
            Soil bacteria are not the source for B-12 on crops BTW. In less sanitary growing conditions, there can be B-12 on crops, but that happens from insects matter, often their waste. That’s an animal product.
            I know there are vegans out there that like to tell stories of a mythical time of humans being vegans, even though the evidence is there that not even other apes are 100% vegan. It simply isn’t true that they or we ever got appreciable levels of B12 from bacteria in water supplies.

      • Shelley Jones Beek

        Check out Gabriel Cousens. His health center helps diabetics get their blood sugar stable by eating mainly fruits and vegetables with 10% of calories from fat. High fruit and fat is a bad combo for diabetics.

  • Quitting the Sitting

    Great post, Trinh. Reminds me of something my friend Jen says frequently: “Nobody’s overweight because they ate too much produce.”

    • robinbishop34

      “Nobody’s overweight because they ate too much produce.”

      With all due respect (I mean that), this is nonsense. The example above demonstrates that ounce for ounce, an orange is more calorie dense than Pepsi. A large Gala apple is about 200 calories, which is about the same as a Milky Way candy bar. A lot of people trying to lose weight will mindlessly snack on these sweet fruits thinking they have no impact on weight loss when of course those calories are exactly the same as any other.

      I’m not discouraging people from eating fruit, but it MUST be tracked to stay below your TDEE (for weight loss).

      • Jack Bashor

        What the heck is TDEE? I hate when people speak in acronyms.

        • robinbishop34

          Total daily energy expenditure. Google “TDEE calculator” to figure out your estimated caloric maintenance level.

      • Sarah1981

        Did you actually read the article? It literally just said that though the fruit has a similar number of calories and grams of sugar, it isn’t a zero sum equation and explained how.

        • robinbishop34

          I’m arguing calories, not nutritional content.

          • anddarling1

            But a Pepsi goes down smooth and our body doesn’t register liquid calories the same that it does solid food.

            That aside think about it this way:
            I can eat 4 packages of Reese’s no problem if someone asked me to. That’s almost 1,000 calories for a total mass of something probably a the size of 2-3 oranges. The calorie equivalent of that is about 22 oranges.

            If you’re telling me that you can sit down, and successfully eat 22 whole oranges, then yeah continue to debate this topic. But I highly doubt that’s the case. You get fuller (and stop eating) faster when you’re eating fruit that contains a lot of water and fiber to help fill you up.

            So maybe an orange puts you over your calories for the day, but ask yourself…is it really the orange that put you over? Or is it something else you ate that day?

          • You are 100% right about a couple things. One the Pepsi, but turn the regular Pepsi into a diet Pepsi or even a diet coke. The other thing is about the 22 oranges versus the 4 Reese cups. They say if you drink orange juice is a lot safer than eating a bushel of oranges. He’s the contradiction and sugar conspiracy behind eating 22 sugary oranges. You have to use Orange juice or any fruit juice as a barometer to check your blood glucose levels.

          • robinbishop34

            our body doesn’t register liquid calories the same that it does solid food.

            First off, this statement is total nonsense. Being able to eat 22 oranges or not –or what is, or is not realistic diet wise is not my point. The point is that a calorie from spinach is the same as a calorie from ice cream. Until a person attempting to lose fat comes to grip with this fundamental fact, he or she will spend more time talking about it rather than making any progress.

          • Can I respond to two points you asserted back to the other user? Actually, your body in cell physiology can read your sugar intake through acid-base balance within each cell of your body. So, it mediates cold sugary pop intake all the way through hot box lunches in school cafeteria. Second, your a hundred percent right on the proportion between spinach and ice cream. In Human Nutrition and Dietetics go a little stronger with the sugar and caloric intake with Yogurt and mixed fruit or granola.

          • karebear01

            It’s not how many calories you eat its the SOURCE of the calories that you should be worried about. Calories from carbs are better digested in the body and less likely to gain weight. And the nutritional content is a huge part of calories, the body needs its essential nutrients to function properly, and just focusing on the calories your putting your own health at risk. Calories from spinach is NOT the same as ice cream, you gotta look at portion size, i a little scoop of ice cream has over a 150 calories from fat with cholesterol and saturated fat, low nutrient value as apposed to spinach’s 60 calories from carbs per 3 cups with all your vitamins, minerals and fiber. Calories from carbs allows you to eat more in volume and bigger meals because they are calorie diluted with all the nutrient content while calories from fat limits you to eat only small portions in a day because it is so calorie dense with little or no nutrients.

          • robinbishop34

            All nonsense.

          • Don Reitsma

            The only thing that is going to make you fat is insulin and the higher your insulin level the fatter you will get so it’s not a caloroe problem but a hormone problem. A disbetic can eat 10,000 caloroes a day and will not gain an ounce if they don’t have insulin.

            Your idea of calorie in / calorie out is outdated by about 30 years. Watch a couple of You Tube videos of Dr. Robert Lustig to better understand.

          • robinbishop34

            Nonsense. If a person eats below their total daily energy expenditure they will lose; if they eat in excess of their total daily energy expenditure, they’ll gain… makes no difference from what source the calories come from.

          • Don Reitsma

            Calories in = calories out is about 100 years out of date going back to pre-insulin days when diabetics could only be treated with diet. It’s not a physics equation about thermodynamics. The human body is much more complex than that.

            Perhaps watch a couple of Dr Robert Ludwig You Tube Videos.

          • robinbishop34

            The date has nothing to do with prima facie reality and science.

          • LesleyLooneytunes

            Yes, you are right Don. Most people don’t realise that calories are not equal and that sugar is still sugar whether it be carbs, honey, maple syrup, fruit sugars and so on and this all affect blood sugars that cause body fat. People need to look online for the Diet Doctor and do some real research. 100 calories from protein or fat is not equal to 100 calories from sugars and carbs.

          • Ash

            This statement couldn’t be more untrue. Robin is spot on point. It is exactly how many calories and not the source when it come to fat/weight loss. Yes, there are empty calories & better calories than others, but a deficit is still needed somewhere for fat/weight loss. This is proven time after time. This is why MFP tracks all sugar in one place- it doesn’t matter if it’s an orange “included” in your normal foods or 3 Tsp added “extra” on top of your cereal- all counts as sugar! Any splitting of hairs about what gets broken down in the liver, blah blah is cart before the horse and an excuse to not look at the whole picture.

            I don’t remember the source, but it goes something like this:
            Client: “I can never lose weight- I’ve tried EVERYTHING!”
            Trainer/Nutritionist: “You need to cut calories, start walking and tracking your macros.”
            Client: “I’ve tried that! It was really hard and didn’t work! Also, I heard it doesn’t matter how many calories you take in if they’re from “good” sources.”
            Trainer: [laughs] “Do you think if I tied you to a tree for 2 weeks you would lose weight?”
            Client: “Well, of course! I’d literally be starving!”
            Trainer: “True, but only because we created a deficit. To do it in a healthy manner, we limit the deficit and aim to hit proper nutritional macro goals.”

            How about the McDonald’s experiments- the guys who document eating only McDonald’s for a month? Supersize Me consumed thousands of extra kcals [above TDEE] everyday to gain 20-30 lbs in a month. In DownSize Me the host ate at a deficit and aimed for macro goals. Lost weight, cholesterol improved, etc etc etc. As for the orange being the thing that puts you over your limit- yes, if it’s the last 200 calories you ate that day. Sure you could have cut out the Reese’s earlier but it’s still the kcals from the orange that spilled over. Overall a better choice- sure! But!- your TDEE/macros need to be treated like a budget. You make CHOICES to achieve the goal, or not…

          • Don Reitsma

            Carbs are sugar. They have no nutritional benefit and we do not actually need to consume them except perhaps in some amounts to keep our gut microbiome fed. Other than that they only provide energy which we eat way too much of and which has made a good portion of the population sick and fat.

          • Don Reitsma

            A calories from spinach and ice cream are not the same. Spinich has a very low fructose content compared to ice cream either made with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

  • Solfeges

    What’s the difference between the sugar in fructose and sucrose and its’ effect on metabolic syndrome, in particular obesity; type 1 & 2 diabetes; cholesterol levels and heart disease?

  • Jackie Fyfe

    Excellent article. I kept being told to cut down on fruit because of the sugar content MFP included in this as fruit always put me over my sugar goal. As a consequence started craving biscuits and chocolate again!!

  • Nikita

    Is having mango adding to too much sugar in your body ?

    • laura

      no. its not adding enough tbh

  • curlishari

    Nobody got fat from eating too many bananas!

  • Joel Berman

    I’ve been asking lots of people this exact question and never get a straight answer. This helps. I agree with others that it would be helpful for MFP to track fruit (good) sugar vs other (bad) sugar.

  • dotsgal1

    I feel as if the sugar from fruit phobia is similar to the cholesterol from egg phobia. As we have all learned recently, eggs are good for you again. I would hate for people to avoid the health benefits from fresh fruit (those that do not have a sugar intake problem, i.e. diabetes, etc.) just like many of us did by avoiding eggs even if we did not have a cholesterol issue.

  • RopedINtolife

    Thanks so much for sharing this article. I have had this debate often but couldn’t articulate my thoughts in a way people understand. Because of this article I have had better success.

  • Dance15

    Trinh, one of the things you don’t discuss in the article is whether there is a substantial difference between fructose found in fruit and sucrose found in sugary drinks. Are they processed differently by the body or do they both end up as glucose anyway? I have a home made berry protein shake every morning for breakfast. It includes about 2 cups of berries (plus a little OJ, coconut milk, banana, etc.) so it’s a lot of fruit (but tasty as heck!)

  • Shelbi_RD

    Thank you for sharing this article. I am a registered dietitian and when people come in for counseling saying they don’t want to eat fruit because of the sugar, or that’s what they choose to avoid in favor of “sugar-free confections” it is beyond frustrating. I am all about nutrient dense foods and fruit is such a great way to fix your sweet tooth, without causing more problems for yourself.

    That being said, while I LOVE and have benefited from using the MyFitnessPal app, I eat ~3 servings of fruit and sometimes a yogurt daily and it is frustrating when it tells me I am “over my sugar allotment” when all my sugar is usually naturally occurring. Maybe the premium app differentiates between natural and added, but if not, this feature should be worked into either the free version or the premium, especially once the new food labels come out which make said differentiation.

  • Anne

    So this is funny coming from MyFitnessPal whose app scolds me every time I eat watermelon and an orange on the same day, telling me I exceeded my sugar goal. With that said, I still love the app because it’s taught me how to eat. Not how to diet. BTW, I’m down 63 lbs with learning to eat right, not diet.

  • Pupsik952 .

    Watch “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” on youtube – fruit sugar is metabolized in a different way thanks to fiber found in fruit. Straight from a doctor Robert Lustig. Refined sugars are digested quickly sending the blood sugar / insulin levels up, while fiber in fruit slows that process down.

  • The rule of thumb is if your blood sugar is too high don’t eat sugary fruit. Or on the other hand, if your blood sugar is too low, then eat a small portion of sugary fruit of choice.

  • Bitemore Gfotwo

    I’m glad you chased away the fruit-sugar boogeyman; now, would you please do an article about the dangers of TOO LITTLE sodium? The sad fact is, when people stop eating processed foods and switch to 100% organic everything, odds are they are getting too little sodium and that can be very dangerous. I know because it happened to me. Fortunately, I’d been logging everything I ate for quite some time and when I began having symptoms that made no sense, I was able to figure out where the problem was (less than 400 mg sodium a day for a number of months). Doctors, too, are guilty of advising patients to cut back on sodium, but they never tell anyone how little is TOO little. And, for those who eat mostly processed foods, there would be no danger as sodium is used in virtually all processed foods, even organics. But, for those who do all their own cooking, then there is a real risk and it should be addressed before someone has a terrible outcome. Meanwhile, thanks for the details on sugar!

    • Well, do you think the concomitment of sugar with salt effects our weight?

      • Bitemore Gfotwo

        I know that too much sodium will make you retain fluids, and, of course, fluids weigh a lot. Sugar is different: it supplies energy, but what you don’t use, you store… as fat. Both sodium and sugar are necessary to maintain life, but too much of anything is not good, and too little of a necessary nutrient can be very bad. It’s up to us to understand what our own bodies need, because we are all different. Gender, age and muscle-mass vary from person to person, which means only that what works for me may not work for you, except that we all have needs below which we are in trouble, just as when we have too MUCH of a good thing.

  • patstar5

    Sugar is still sugar whether it’s sugar from fruit, honey, or processed stuff like HFCS or agave. They’ll all spike insulin.
    Carbohydrates are the only micronutrient we can live without. Everything found in Fruits can be found in vegetables.
    I’ve lost 80lbs on a low carb high fat diet without using my fitness pal to count calories…

    • Farseer

      “Carbohydrates are the only micronutrient we can live without. Everything found in Fruits can be found in vegetables.”

      The second sentence does not support its predecessor. A diet completely devoid of carbohydrates would necessitate forsaking vegetables as well as fruits.

      • patstar5

        It’s really impossible to have a diet with 0 carbohydrates but people can do 20g or less. I keep mine below 50g.

    • Shelley Jones Beek

      That is not correct about all sugars being equal. Also, check out Gabriel Cousens. His work shows that you can eat fruit without spiking insulin if your fat intake is around 10%.

      • First of all, I’m in Chicago, who is Gabriel Cousens? Secondly, that is correct their are different isomers or confirmations or molecular structures of sugars that the human body can ingest. One is L-Glucose, L-Sucrose, L-Fructose. There is another one I suggest in house to my day program patients. Spiking is a sudden or instantaneous rate of change of blood glucose levels, so you could be smoking and eating any sugary food and it may or may not spike. Now, if the blood glucose is monitored during or before meals yeah it’s possible.

      • patstar5

        10%? You need fat for bodily functions.
        Most of the vegan diets are based on pseudo-science.
        Giving carbs to a person who is insulin resistance makes zero sense. Too much protein will also turn into glucose and it increases aging just like eating carbs cause more AGEs than fat

        • If too much protein turns into glucose, that means their was to much catalyzing from the pancreas to liver or an overproduction of insulin that spikes that sugar level up

          • karebear01

            The body doesn’t efficiently turn protein into glucose, the only time it does is because the body is desperate for energy, which happens with low-carb diets.

        • karebear01

          The body only needs 10-20% of calories from fat, anything more leads to health problems like type 2 diabetes. There are studies showing diabetics getting rid of their diabetes through a high carb low fat vegan diet. More than 16% protein makes the kidneys and liver work overtime to filter out the excess protein. The body doesn’t efficiently turn protein to glucose, it can but it takes a toll. Eating too much protein can have devastating effects in our bodies.

          • patstar5

            Low fat vegan diets are based on pseudo science. High carb consumption will lead to accumulation of Advanced Glycation End products in your body which speeds up aging.
            Giving carbs to someone who is insulin resistance makes zero sense.
            It’s true you don’t need that much protein, your body can get most of its energy from ketones including the brain. Fat adapted athletes outperform athletes who are limited to their glycogen stores.

          • karebear01

            its common knowledge that athletes tend to eat a high carb diet, they might not be vegan, but they still eat more carbs than the average american, athletes eating a high fat diet sounds more like pseudo science. Do you lack common sense? of course you don’t give a heaping serving of carbs to a diabetic, you slowly transition them out of their high fat diet into a high carb vegan diet, DUH, the end result is the person curing their diabetes all together.

          • Can I address a few things here because you made some interesting points in your dialogue back to another user? Well, most college athletes like myself eat a high carb diet. If we do a high carb diet, our coaches tell us not to do a vegan diet. Well, the next point an over amount of eating vegetables is not healthy because vegetables build up a polychain phytoester that does not burn off with any exercise program like yoga or even Pilates. Carbs build up sugar if not synthesized correctly, like phytosugars from vegetable consumption. So does the Atkins diet work for a diabetic that consumes vegetables? No because vegetables contain natural sugars!

    • karebear01

      Your so delusional and shows your zero knowledge of MACROnutrient content, micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Carbs are attached to water and when you do a low carb diet your loosing water weight, when the body doesn’t have suffient carbs it starts getting energy from another source, muscle, your weight loss is from water loss and muscle loss, and your teaching your body to hold onto fat since your depriving it of it’s carbohydrates. Let’s face the reality, you will not stick to a low carb diet forever, because you will miss sugar eventually, and you will binge, showing that your body desperately needs carbs to survive, trust me, you will crash and burn on your low carb diet, and when you finally binge (it could be a few years until you finally can’t take it anymore), you will gain all that weight back plus more, because by then you have taught your body to become a fat storer and slowed down your metabolism, if you exercise a lot, that’s even worse, you will be half-starving your body. The solution? a vegan diet, you get to eat your delicious carbs, protein and fats plus all the rich vitamins and minerals that come with it, NO DIETING, just eat normally, little excerise, look slim all the time, once in a while eat some delicious vegan junk food. Simple.

      • Exadyne

        I enjoy the double think – someone will eventually binge on carbs because they’re denying it to themselves for false reasons, but no one will end up binging on meat going vegan for false health reasons? Now, I’m not saying adhering to veganism will cause binging, but doing so purely for (false) health rather than ethical reasons? Yeah, that will likely do it just as much as trying to low for purely (false) health reasons.

        You also don’t teach your body to be a fat storer. Storing fat is what bodies do, it is a pretty important survival mechanism for large mammals. If anything, higher carb encourages storing fats. Low carb causes the body to favor burning fats, though in either case, it is just balancing. A body is going to do nearly identical results with isocaloric intake.

  • BKMatthew

    As a general rule I prefer to do my food processing within my own body and kitchen rather than in a factory somewhere. I don’t follow fads because they’re contradictory both to each other and common sense. A piece of fruit is always going to be a better choice than soda or candy. That said, if you are trying to lose weight you are well advised to count all calories. My personal approach is a nutritionally balanced, calorie controlled diet based on unprocessed and minimally processed food.

    • robinbishop34

      …a nutritionally balanced, calorie controlled diet…

      Bingo! If you’re trying to lose weight, one must count calories regardless of their source. Seems obvious but many people don’t get this.

      • speters150

        But with the way calories are being looked at lately and judged, you cannot look at calories in a vacuum and say “I can only eat X amount of calories to lose weight.” Not all calories are created equal, eating 1,500 calories worth of sugar is not the same as eating 1,500 calories of carbs or fiber. The content of those calories is what matters most, and the idea of simply “counting calories” needs to go.

        • Let’s suppose this about calorie count so we can stay on track with the article. How many calories are in your favorite sugary fruit?

        • robinbishop34

          Nonsense.

      • karebear01

        No, you don’t get it at all. You forget that your body needs calories to survive, and putting it in starvation mode is not healthy physically or mentally. Calories are not created equal either, calories from carbs allows you to eat more quantity with fewer calories. While calories from fat limits your food to small portions (to half starve yourself everyday) because of the high calorie content always associated with fat. Fat and protein come together usually.

        • robinbishop34

          Too stupid to acknowledge.

  • qbunny

    You can scrutinize the fruit issue a hundred ways. The fact is, if you are dieting, you do not want to sit around and eat fruit all day thinking it is good for you. ALL sugar intake should be monitored. Because sugar is very dangerous to so many parts of your body and causes a multitude of serious problems, I avoid sugar as much as possible but I know that I am still getting plenty of sugar because it is in EVERYTHING. There are about 50+ names for sugar. Sugar is very sneaky. Focus on eating vegetables more. Certainly eat some fruits but don’t go nuts thinking “well, its natural sugar”. Hogwash…yes, an orange is better than a cola but Its still sugar. Be careful. Best wishes!

  • Bradley Leyten

    It seems a lot of people are missing the point of this article. It doesn’t say not to watch your calories, only that in comparison the equal amounts of calories in smart choice of healthier foods, in this case fruits, will include other beneficial components. If you have 2000 calorie a day regiment, do you think it would be more beneficial and healthier for you to eat those calories in lean meat/fruits/veggies or from soda pop and McDonald’s cheeseburgers? If you can’t figure that out then reading all the articles in the world about nutrition aren’t going to help you!

  • Laine Hurdle

    Thanks Trinh! If God gave it to me, I’m going to eat it. Laine

  • Jenns

    I know some people who were told by a dietitian that you could eat as many fruits and veggies as you like since they don’t get counted against you. Well apparently that is not true..

  • Julie

    OK, how about applying some common sense. You’re comparing, for lack of a better comparison, apples and oranges. A 16 oz soda, the normal serving for a person, contains 453 grams. A medium orange, the normal serving for a person, contains 131 grams.
    Who drinks 100 grams of soda in a serving? No one. Who eats 100 grams of orange in a serving? Most people.
    So if you really want to compare Oranges and Oranges, compare the sugar contained in a normal serving size of a soda (40.7 g) to the grams in a serving size of orange (11.8 g). Then you can clearly see the main reason sodas make people fat!

    • Now you are right about your comparisons. Did you ever in maths skill classes do proportions. Quantity of fruit/ grams of sugar = Quantity of cans of sugary soda/grams of sugar? That’s the easiest way to see if some sugary oranges are worth consuming over some sugary soda. We have just encountered the Great American Sugar Conspiracy!

  • Elizabeth.fitnessqueen

    I disagree only because the same nutritional content in fruits can also be found in cruciferous vegetables, which is significantly lower in sugar and has more fiber. Sure a mango has many vitamins and nutrients, but for someone like me who has trouble regulating blood glucose due to insulin resistance, I’d prefer broccoli.

  • C-dubs

    What kills me is I eat two to three pieces of fruit a day. Usually a pear, banana, and some berries. When I log these in my My Fitness Pal app, I get warnings “you are supposed to stay under 45 grams of sugar.” After eating fruit there isn’t a whole lot of sugar left for the day.

    • Okay, let’s go back
      How many grams of sugar in a pear?
      How many grams of sugar in a banana?
      How many grams are berries?
      Now do all three of these different fruits add up to 45 grams of sugar?
      If it’s over 45 grams of sugar what choice do I need to make about eating those three different fruits?

  • chrisfromthadtothaphx

    Not all sugar is created equal.

    That is what article is about.

    You could have 3 Nutribullet smoothies a day laced with sugar fruit like Pinneapple or Grapefruit and its 1,000 times better than drinking soda as well as eating rice/pasta/cheese/GMOs/Food laced with additives or preservatives/sulfites.. etc..

  • This is really great to read (I already knew it but nice to see it recognized. BUT Can you tell me then why your APP My Fitness Pal, DESPISES and lowers my food scores when I eat grapes, tangerines, oranges, etc??? IT makes no sense to me at all.

  • shakeitsugaree

    I’m vegan , a slightly fluffy vegan at that, I love my fruit shakes while at work, I make them fresh in the AM add pea protien and coconut water.. I still eat to late at night though… That’s where the fluff comes in, but my diet helped me beat pre cancer cells that were encasing my body and I sailed threw the medical drawbacks of heavy medicine
    I got threw it w glowing skin and detoxes the whole time , so I’m flushing as I’m taking ….. Good advice for those that are sick and on any type of chemo

  • Alex C

    Hey I was actually thinking about this subject recently. In the building I work, there is a place called “vitality bowls” which make stupendous acai bowls of different varieties blended with different fruits and veggies each.

    I’ve eaten that before, but just recently I came back to my fitness pal and saw the sugar content was through the roof. Now I know for a fact that they do not add sugar, this place is specifically meant to be healthy so all the sugar comes from the fruits naturally.

    These bowls are packed with other nutritional values though

    So being on a diet in wondering, should I eat this if I want now and then?

    Feel free to friend me on mfp, I’m currently involved in nutrisystem and insanity

  • Don Reitsma

    Infortunately fructose is a toxin, albeit a somewhat slower one when comsumed as a whole fruit. The pulp is what makes you full and slows it’s digestiin but the 20% that is fiber is not going to do a lot to slow the digestiin of the orange juice in the orange which contains all the sugar.

    An orange is certainly better than drinking a Coke but if you want to compare oranges then look at orane juice which is worse than drinking a Coke because the Coke is 55% fructose sugar while orange juce is 100% and you’ll probably drink the equivalent of 4 oranges now. Back in the good old days orange juice used to come in a 2 oz glass which was an acceptable amount for our liver to handle. Now we guzzle it by the jug full.

    If you want nutrition then eat vegetables.

  • Derek

    Do yourselves a favour, ignore the sugar dial, ensure you hit at least 30g of fibre a day which in turn will pretty much force you to eat most of your sugar in fruit and vegetable form. Your body deals with all sugar the same regardless of the source, it’s more a question of whether the source contains fibre to fill you up or not. Sugar is not the enemy, it is, in fact pure carbohydrate in its simplest form. Over consumption of calories is what should be your concern. Sugar merely makes it easy to do this.

  • Cliff Hansen

    Be careful when you call sugar in fruit natural. Understand that the fruit today is highly hybridized and does not represent what was initially made by nature. As an easy example, a grapefruit when I was a kid was so sour/bitter that it was almost impossible to eat without sprinkling a little sugar on it. Today, a grapefruit has been bred to be as sweet as an orange was back then. Then oranges, apples, etc. have been bred to be far sweeter. A granny smith today is as sweet as a red delicious was 50 years ago. I used to really like granny smith apples because they were sour. Now they aren’t. Bananas you get in the store today would not survive in nature. Wild bananas actually have large seeds and far less sugar.

    Notice the article is all about eating fruit, but to justify it, it claims eating fruits AND VEGETABLES have been linked to health benefits. You can’t tell me that you are saying a banana that has more sugar in it than many candies is as healthful as broccoli, are you?

  • fran123

    I stopped using the MFP app because there are so many things wrong with it, calories are so off, like everyone else is stating sugar is off. I started weight watchers and use that app now with awesome results. Won’t ever go back to the mfp app.

  • jenique

    How about analyzing fruit juice along with soda and whole fruit? Please, I hope Trinh Le or some other registered dietician will do this soon! More people I know are confused about the sugar vs nutritive value of a whole orange vs. a glass of our orange juice, than about soda vs whole fruit.

  • FairToSay

    As a brand new type 1 diabetic due to removal of my pancreas due to pancreatic cancer, I can say this; I love fruit but it spikes my blood sugar like NOTHING else. Not even ice cream. I’ve tried pineapple, cherries, watermelon, and mango. They all send my numbers into the 300’s.

  • Mellonie

    By question is… What if you have been diagnosed with diabetes? I constantly see blogs that discuss fruit for those who have not been diagnosed but nothing for those of us who have been diagnosed. I am told I cannot have manufactured sugars but that natural sugars are ok. But then these blogs have that caveat at the end that implies this info is not for me.

  • Laura Taylor

    Simple sugars are carbohydrates. Glucose and fructose are monosaccharides and sucrose is a disaccharide of the two combined with a bond. Glucose and fructose have the same molecular formula (C6H12O6) but glucose has a six member ring and fructose has a five member ring structure. Your body breaks down both quickly and doesn’t differentiate where they come from. You can slow down the speed at which your body breaks down sugars by mixing with other foods such as fats and proteins that take much longer to break down.

  • Maureen Houlihan

    I think it is important to remember that all carbs are not created equal. Some elevate your blood glucose much faster and higher than others. The key to keeping your blood sugar stable is to choose carbs that are high in water and fiber and therefore low on the glycemic index/load (veg, fruit, legumes etc.). Of course, a food that provides essential nutrients rather than just sugar (like coke) is always a better choice. I understand people’s frustration with MFP not distinguishing sugar types but at the end of the day the information is based on what is listed on the package and/or what users input. We still have to do some “human thinking” of our own. I add ‘fibre” as a choice and look to see if a higher sugar count was balanced with a good fibre count. Also I try to eat carbs (fruit etc.) with protein (think berries with greek yogurt) which slows down the speed of the carb turning into sugar in the blood. The note from MFP about being over sugar just triggers some critical thinking on my part.

  • Cindy Thon Gerry

    What about fatty liver? My doctor told me to avoid fruit and stick with protein and vegetables because fruit can cause fatty liver. I am 53 and do not have any disease process besides being overweight. Thanks.

  • Inci Baker

    Hi there,

    My biggest issue is eating fruit enormously. Between meals or replacement for a meal. Like 10-15 portions a day -at least.
    On the itger hand, I don’t eat added sugary food&drink.
    Do you have any suggestion how to cut stop it? I feel I am an addictive person:-(

  • bumbarasssssssss

    Which moron wrote this nonsense article. And why is the comment section full of even more.
    Oranges are catabolic. Your body uses more calories to metabolise it than the calories it actually contains. So it is a negative calories food and will help you loose weight.
    The sugars in a soda drink will just turn to fatty acids and store in your body.
    Simple.

  • Tfwnogravityfalls

    Definitely some people process alcohol differently. I forget what it’s called but there is a lot of information out there about why most Asians cannot process alcohol the same way most Westerners do. Now, this isn’t true of all Asians and all Westerners, but enough for science to notice. I’m not sure about sugars, but I do know that some diseases and symptoms of diseases are race specific. Because of the way genetics work, you do get certain things tied to certain physical characteristics – gray cats often have UTI or bladder problems because they’re passed on the same way the fur gene is for that particular animal, if I recall correctly.

    • Tfwnogravityfalls

      Or how calicos are almost always female!

  • Don Reitsma

    Of course you need to be cautious with fruit intake particularly because fructose is only processed by the liver amd acts like a poison.

    The argument of eating an orange that is loaded with sugar because it has some valuable nutrients only supports the logic ‘if you’re going to eat poison you might as well have something healthy with it”.

    Fruit tastes good but should only be consumed on rare occassions. If we look back to the days before the ability to buy anything on any given day and it hadn’t been modified to be supercharged with sugar then we would only eat fruit in season, it wouldn’t taste as good as it does now because it had a lower sugar and had higher fiber content.

    The biggest cause of the health epidemic we have today is the availability of sugar in vast quantities.

  • Don Reitsma

    Seems to be. They don’t process carbohydrates very well either. African Americans for example do not process triglycerides the same as caucasians.