We all know that too much sugar can have some seriously negative effects on our health, but what's the deal with fruit? Strawberries, bananas, oranges, kiwi… the list goes on and on. Fruit is touted as a super-healthy snack option, but while the fiber and other nutrients found in fruit are a great part of any diet, many varieties can also be very high in sugar. Does this mean run from the produce aisle screaming? Definitely not. But it might be smart to keep an eye on fruit-based sugar consumption
Can Fruit Make You Fat?
For men and women ages 19 to 30, the USDA recommends two cups of fruit per day. But if you're concerned about your sugar consumption (added or natural), different fruits might stack up more sweetness than you think. Just two cups of sliced bananas adds up to the maximum recommended amount, clocking in at 36 grams of sugar.
So other than extra calories, what else does too much sugar mean? Excessive amounts could lead to tooth decay, weight gain, and increased triglyceride levels (which may contribute to heart disease and high cholesterol). Triglycerides+and+cardiovascular+disease:+a+scientific+statement+from+the+American+Heart+Assocation.+Miller,+M.,+Stone,+N.J.,+Ballantyne,+C.,+et+al.+University+of+Maryland,+MD.+Circulation,+2011+May+24;125(20):2292-333. Some studies suggest fructose, the main type of sugar found in fruit, can even be more harmful than other sugars (namely glucose). Fructose has even been linked to increased belly fat, slowed metabolism, and overall weight gain. Consuming+fructose-sweetened,+not+glucose-sweetened,+beverages+increases+visceral+adiposity+and+lipids+and+decreases+insulin+sensitivity+in+overweight/obese+humans.+Stanhope,+K.L.,+Schwarz,+J.M.,+Keim,+N.L.,+et+al.+The+Journal+of+Clinical+Investigation,+2009+May;119(5):1322-34. Dietary+fructose+and+risk+of+metabolic+syndrome+in+adults:+Tehran+Lipid+and+Glugose+study.+Hosseini-Esfahani,+F.,+Bahadoran,+Z.,+Mirmiran,+P.,+et+al.+Department+of+Clinical+Nutrition+Dietetics,+Faculty+of+Nutrition+Sciences+and+Food+Technology,+National+Nutrition+and+Food+Technology+Research+Institute,+Shahid+Beheshti+University+of+Medical+Sciences.+Nutrition+&+Metabolism,+2011+Jul+12;8(1):50. Dietary+fructose+reduces+circulating+insulin+and+leptin,+attenuates+postprandial+suppression+of+ghrelin,+and+increases+triglycerides+in+women.+Teff,+K.L.,+Elliott,+S.S.,+Tschop,+M.,+et+al.+Monell+Chemical+Senses+Center,+University+of+Pennsylvania,+Philadelphia+19104,+USA.+The+Journal+of+Clinical+Endocrinology+and+Metabolism.+2004+Jun;89(6):2963-72.
Fruit-tastic—Your Action Plan
Traditionally, a diet high in fruits and vegetables has been shown to help prevent weight gain (when compared to a diet high in fiber from other foods). Association+of+fiber+intake+and+fruit/vegetable+consumption+with+weight+gain+in+a+Mediterranean+population.+Bes-Rastrollo,+M.,+Martinez-Gonzalex,+M.A.,+Sanchez-Villegas,+A.,+et+al.+Nutrition.+2006;22(5):504-11. Although fruits can hold three times more calories per serving when compared to vegetables, they’re still a relatively low-calorie choice, especially when considering how good fruit's high water and fiber content are at promoting feelings of fullness. What+can+intervention+studies+tell+us+about+the+relationship+between+fruit+and+vegetable+consumption+and+weight+management?+Rolls,+B.J.,+Ello-Martin,+J.A.,+Tohill,+B.C.+Nutrition+Reviews.+2004+Jan;62(1):1-17.
If you're sugar-conscious, here's a closer look at how each fruit stacks up in terms of the (natural, not added) sweet stuff.
The important thing to remember: Too many calories from anything, including fruit, can lead to weight gain and other negative health effects. While the USDA recommends the average person stick to about two cups of fruit per day, it’s best to stick with fresh or frozen. Beware of packaged or canned fruit and fruit juices, which can have high amounts of sugar, even if the package says “light syrup” (one container of applesauce has only 100 calories, but packs in 23 grams of sugar!).
Originally posted March 2012, updated August 2017.