We need to take a second today to talk about fruit because as much as I wish we were past this, it’s still an issue.
A lot of people are scared to eat fruit because it has “too much sugar”.
Let’s take things a step back for a second.
Sugar is a component of the carbohydrate macronutrient. When you eat sugar, you eat carbohydrates. Your daily carbohydrate goal takes sugar consumption into consideration.
Sugar occurs naturally in some foods- “natural sugars”, and is also processed and added to foods- “added sugars”.
Foods like cookies, candy, and soda, fall into the added sugar carbohydrate category.
Fruit falls into the natural sugar carbohydrate category. Individual fruits will differ in the number of carbohydrates or sugar they have in them.
Let’s compare a natural sugar food vs. an added sugar food.
A medium banana (a common fear fruit) has on average 105 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrate, and 14 grams of sugar (naturally occurring).
A chocolate chip cookie has on average 180 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrate, and 18 grams of sugar (added sugar).
Here is where nutrient-dense and calorie-dense come into the picture.
To look at calories, carbs, and sugar in a food is one thing. But to look at all the other advantages that food provides MUST be considered. This is nutrition optimization!
A banana has 14 grams of natural sugar in it but it also provides volume- 105 calories for 27 grams of carbohydrate and 14 grams of sugar is a really great ratio for the size of this fruit.
Bananas also have fiber in them. Fiber and volume will both help to keep you full for longer periods.
Let’s also not forget about the key vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that bananas and other fruit provide that are essential for the body to keep you healthy.
All of these added advantages of consuming fruit make them a nutrient-dense food (full of nutrients and not just empty calories).
Being afraid of eating natural foods with natural sugars is not something you need to waste your energy on because of all the advantages they provide.
Cookies would be considered calorie-dense or an empty calorie food, they provide calories but do not really provide a nutritional benefit.
To be honest, I also don’t waste my energy looking at the sugar content of processed foods like chocolate or cookies when I enjoy them because of a few things.
Portion control is important so being mindful of eating one cookie vs. four or a bite or two of chocolate vs. six or eight (most of the time) will naturally mean you are being mindful of added sugar intake.
Also, because sugar is a part of the carbohydrate macronutrient, you can’t eat too much sugar if you are staying within your daily calorie goal for weight loss because you are prioritizing protein, eating enough fats, and using your leftover calories for carbohydrates.
This concept is similar to saying calories are the big umbrella and our individual macros- protein, fat, and carbohydrates make up the calories under the umbrella. Same with sugar. Carbohydrates are the big umbrella and sugar makes up a component of that carbohydrate number under the umbrella.
The bottom line is that we’re flexible eaters. We focus on nutrition which includes eating fruit so enjoy it without worrying about the natural sugar.
And also recognize that foods with added sugars might not provide a nutritional advantage but make our hearts happy. As always, portion control is the most important to keep into consideration when it comes to added sugar intake!