Are the Sugars in Fruit Really Harmful?

Fruit contains a large amount of fiber that delays the absorption of sugars. Therefore, it causes less pancreatic stress than the sugar from processed food. In fact, fruit has countless health benefits. Learn more here!
Are the Sugars in Fruit Really Harmful?

Last update: 20 March, 2021

Chemically, the sugars in fruit and refined sugar are the same. However, their health effects are entirely different. In fact, people should eat more fresh fruit to satisfy their sweet tooth, and there are many reasons why.

The body processes the sugar in fruit differently because the fiber contained in fruit minimizes the impact of glucose in the blood. What experts refer to when they say you should limit your sugar intake is any added sugars in pastries, candy, cereals, fruit juices, ketchup, sodas, etc.

The guideline “Sugar Intake for Adults and Children”, published in 2015 by the World Health Organization (WHO), explains the science of sugars in more detail.

In it, the WHO clearly differentiates between two types of sugars, natural sugars – those naturally occurring in unmodified fruit and vegetables – and added sugars.

The latter are those related to a higher risk of experiencing caries and chronic diseases and, for this reason, they advise not to exceed 10% of your caloric intake from these. However, the WHO indicates that their recommendations don’t apply to natural sugars.

Added sugars vs. natural sugars

Many foods naturally contain sugars in their composition or are a source of nutrients that transform into sugars in the body after assimilation.

Thus, the fruit is a source of fructose, while milk and dairy products are a source of lactose. Similarly, vegetables can have fructose in variable amounts and also complex carbohydrates that transform into glucose after digestion so the organism can use them.

A jar of sugar surrounded by fruit.
Many common types of food contain natural sugars in their composition.

As you can probably conclude, the vast majority of foods, except for meats, have natural sugars in their composition. In contrast, most industrial food products have added sugar. The industry does it to accentuate their flavor, increase the energy intake, or attain other properties in the final result.

For instance, industrial cookies, snacks, and candies contain sugars and are the main ones manipulated by the food industry. One of the reasons is the addiction to this substance improves the palatability of food and can cause a certain dependence. At least according to an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The effect of the sugars in fruit in the body

Simple sugars, such as glucose, fructose, or others have the same effect on the body as they’re an energy substrate. However, simple sugars don’t naturally occur in isolation. Instead, they come together with other nutrients as part of natural food.

As you can see, the main difference lies in the process that gives rise to glucose in the body, which depends to a large extent on the other components of the food or product in question.

Thus, a soft drink has no fiber, vitamins, or minerals of importance to the body. Also, the body can easily digest it because it’s liquid and so sugar reaches the blood too easily.

Likewise, a vegetable contains healthy micronutrients, fiber, and a hefty percentage of complex carbohydrates that take longer to digest and reach the bloodstream. This is why it’s also more filling and nutritious despite containing sugar. In fact, there’s no high glycemic index for it.

The health benefits of fruit

This type of food is great for your body as it contributes to moving and stimulating intestinal transit as it’s easy to digest. It’s because is rich in water and fiber, has no dense starches or fats, and its estimated digestion time is around 20 minutes.

Actually, studies reveal that eating fruit may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other non-communicable diseases.

A colorful cocktail.
Fruit contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber so their regular consumption produces important benefits in the body.

Fruit can also even help with weight control. In fact, a study published in 2016, conducted by Harvard investigators, suggested that its antioxidant flavonoids may have a positive impact on the metabolism.

People with a flavonoid-rich diet were more likely to maintain their weight as they aged, compared to those who didn’t consume flavonoid-rich foods. The types of fruit that seemed to provide the greatest benefits were apples, blackberries, and pears.

Another positive characteristic of fruit is its soluble fiber stimulates the selective growth of microbiota. This improves food metabolism and reduces the risk of obesity.

The sugars in fruit are essential

Finally, we must remember that the sugars in fruit aren’t harmful to our health. So, reduce your consumption of processed products.

Remember, jam doesn’t qualify as a fruit serving, and neither does fruit juice! Of course, the sugars in canned fruit don’t count as fruit sugars, either.

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  • Organización Mundial de la Salud. Nota informativa sobre la ingesta de azúcares recomendada en la directriz de la OMS para adultos y niños. 2015.
  • DiNicolantonio JJ., O’Keefe JH., Wilson WL., Sugar addiction: is it real? a narrative review. Br J Sports Med, 2018. 52 (14): 910-913.
  • Slavin JL., Lloyd B., Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr, 2012. 3 (4): 506-516.
  • Panche AN., Diwan AD., Chandra SR., Flavonoids: an overview. J Nutr Sci, 2016.