Fruit is one of the biggest sources of sugar in your diet, but that doesn’t mean it’s
not good for you! Dietitian Paula Norris dispels the myths about fruit sugar.
We eat it for breakfast, we snack on it during the day and it’s our healthy dessert option. Fruit plays a vital role in most healthy diets, but it continues to get a bad rap because of its sugar content. The good news is that fruit, when eaten in the right amounts, can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Fruits are one of the richest sources of fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Many of these nutrients affect the way fruit sugar is processed in your body, so fructose from fruit doesn’t have the same negative effects that added fructose has. Fibre in fruit also slows down the absorption of fruit sugar, so leave the skin on where possible, as this is where most of the fibre is.
Go for low GI
The slower absorption of fruit sugar due to fibre means that most fruits have a low glycaemic index (GI). This means that the release of carbohydrates for energy into your blood stream is slow and steady, preventing insulin spikes. For medium to high GI fruits like pineapple, mango and watermelon, mix them with a low GI food or some protein, like yoghurt, to lower the overall GI of the snack.
Watch your loads
Glycaemic load (GL) is determined by the overall amount of carbohydrates in a snack or meal, as well as the GI of the foods it contains. A high GL has a similar impact on your blood sugar levels as high GI. While most fruits are low GI, large serves of these fruits can still lead to a spike in blood sugar, so consider your serving size when tucking into your favourite fruit.
Be wary with juices. Depending on your fruit, it can take three to five pieces to make a 250ml cup of fruit juice, which is more than you would eat in a single sitting. Often the skin is removed, which will increase the GI and GL of the juice. Vegetable-based juices with one piece of fruit, skin included, are best.
Your breakfast smoothies and smoothie bowls can contain up to 20 teaspoons of sugar. Pick a smoothie with protein and good fats from nuts, seeds, milk, yoghurt or protein powder for a more balanced option.
Should I cut out fruit?
Unnecessarily excluding any food group, including fruit, is a bad idea. But if a low-carbohydrate diet is recommended by your dietitian, fruit may be replaced with non-starchy vegetables.
If you undertake a low-carb diet, then a dietitian’s support is vital. Without the proper knowledge, you put yourself at risk of potassium, folate and vitamin C deficiency. Carefully chosen replacement foods can give you all of the nutrients you need.