Eating more fruits and vegetables, or your “5 a day” is one of the world’s most common health recommendations. Fruits are healthy – they are real, wholefoods. They are known to some as “nature’s fast food” being convenient, easy to carry and prepare.
However, fruits are known to be high in sugar compared to other wholefoods, so it is possible to wonder whether they are truly healthy after all.
I am about to clear up the confusion on this topic once and for all.
As you and I know, refined sugar, such as found in chocolates and sweets, has categorically no nutritional value, whereas fruits not only contain natural sugars but are also full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants that help promote a healthier lifestyle.
One of the biggest misunderstandings today, is that sugar in fruit will make you gain weight but what people do not realise is that there is an important difference between sugar in its natural form (the way nature intended) and the devilishly addictive refined sugar we are familiar with and use every day in our coffee or tea. In saying this, we are going to explore the effects both fruit sugar and refined sugar has when metabolised in our bodies.
This is where things can get a bit sticky, we need to understand that fructose and glucose are found in both fruit and refined sugars, even though they are created differently, our bodies cannot tell the difference. Both these sugars are similar in chemical formula, but they have a different metabolic fate.
In short, the metabolism of fructose from dietary products happens primarily in the liver where there is a conversion of fructose to glucose before it enters cellular respiration whereas glucose is metabolised within the cells throughout the body and readily enters glycolysis – which in not-so-technical terms is on-demand fuel for the body to maintain function.
So now that we have a basic understanding of how sugar in general is metabolised, we can now establish why eating fruit is proven to be beneficial to your health.
Foods loaded with refined sugar that contain little to no fibre allow sugar to quickly travel through the bloodstream causing that sugar high and crash. On the other hand, fruit is an excellent source of fibre – one banana provides about 20 – 25% of your recommended daily fibre intake and this has been proven important for protection against bowel cancer. Fruit is also an excellent source of potassium; this can help lower blood pressure, as well as flavonoids (these are antioxidants) that may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Now that we have squashed the misconception that fruit sugars are not bad for you, moderation is still the key to any healthy diet. Regardless of which sugar you are consuming; I still recommend that you are better off reaching for a piece of fruit than a chocolate or sweet.
Fruit sugars ward off your sweet tooth and will keep you feeling full for longer, Hang in there and don’t always give in to that late-night garage stop pit stop.