We are bombarded by stories in the media about how sugar is bad for our health and sweets of all kind should be avoided. However, the desire for sweet-tasting foods is perfectly normal and natural! Indeed, our tongue contains an abundance of sweet receptors for a good reason. Fresh fruit, the source of natural sweetness, is health promoting and an excellent source of calories for the human body. This is why we recommend you include generous amounts of fresh fruit in your diet, and know that it’s even okay to make a meal out of nature’s candy. If you have never tried this, you may be surprised by just how satisfying it is.
Food Companies and Refined Sugar
In drawing us to fruit, our sweet tooth was designed to support our long-term health; however, food companies, in an effort to make their products more desirable, use this natural affinity for sweets in a way that brings harm to us. While the simple sugars from whole fruit support human health, the refined, or extracted, sugars do not. The refining process removes the water, fiber, and virtually every other nutrient and element of the food. What’s left behind is sugar and only sugar—not the package it belongs in. This extraction is more calorie dense and thus overstimulating to our pleasure senses. Even worse, food manufacturers add these highly concentrated, palate-pleasing sugars to already stimulating and disease-causing high-fat foods.
Embrace Sugar in Fruit and Whole Foods
There’s a point in all this that’s not frequently made in the media or by health professionals: Sugar as it occurs in whole foods is not an issue; in fact, it is necessary and should be embraced. It’s a problem only when it is extracted from its natural package and used to excess. Also, the foods highest in added sugars frequently are higher in added fats, sodium, refined flours, and animal products, making them unhealthy for a variety of reasons and not just because of the added sugars.
Is It Possible to Eat Too Much Fruit?
New, emerging literature has shown that low-dose fructose from whole, natural foods may actually benefit blood sugar control. So having a piece of fruit with each meal could lower, not raise the blood sugar response. But what about fructose toxicity? The threshold for toxicity of fructose may be around 50 grams. The problem is, that that’s how much fructose the average adult consumes in one day. That means that half of all adults are likely above the threshold for fructose toxicity, and adolescents currently average 75 grams.
Is that the limit for added sugars or for all fructose? If we don’t want more than 50 grams and there’s about ten grams in a piece of fruit, should we limit our fruit consumption to five pieces a day? According to the Harvard Health Letter: “The nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in almost any amount.”
What do they mean almost? Can we eat ten fruits a day? How about twenty?
We don’t have to guess. It’s actually been put to the test. In one study, seventeen people were made to eat 20 servings a day of fruit. Despite the extraordinarily high fructose content of this diet (about 200 grams per day, or the amount in 8 cans of soda), the investigators reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit actually) for body weight, blood pressure, insulin, and lipid levels after three to six months.
More recently, Jenkins and colleagues put people on a 20 servings of fruit a day dietfor a few weeks with no adverse effects on weight, blood pressure, or triglycerides and an astounding 38 point drop in LDL cholesterol.
There was one side effect, though. Their bathroom habits became very regular.
So what’s the bottom line?
Fresh fruit promotes good health and is an excellent source of calories. So when it comes to nature’s candy, feel free to enjoy it in abundance.