Does fruit sugar make you fat?
What about the sugar in fruit?
Do you like fruit? Yes? It is in our nature to like fruit and it is one of the most natural foods to eat. All fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and water. Fruits are also very low in sodium and fat (one exception for avocado). But still the most frequent question I get asked is “Does fruit cause weight gain?”
I believe that there are several reasons to think that fruit will make you gain weight. One is fake media hypes, another is the fear of carbs, a third one is the sugar in fruit.
The sugar in fruit
Sugar in fruit does not behave the same in our bodies as refined sugar does. What is the difference between refined sugar and the sugar in fruit? Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar which means that refined sugar has zero nutrition. Sugar in fruit is what it sounds like - the sugar found in fruit also called fructose (do not compare with added fructose sugar in foods). But fruits on the other hand also have lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.
What happens in our body when we eat refined sugar? First we get a big spike in blood sugar, our body freaks out and releases too much insulin to drive down the spike, which make us drop our blood sugar below where it was before we ate the sugar (hypoglycemic dip). In response to this our body drops fat into our blood stream because it now thinks that we are starving.
What happens in our body when we eat fruit? The blood sugar will go up as from all foods but it will not overshoot, no over release of insulin, and there will not be a hypoglycemic dip.
And what makes the difference? The soluble fiber in fruit has a gelling effect that slows down the release of sugars. But it is not just because of the fiber found in fruit. The phytonutrients inhibit the sugar transportation through the intestinal wall into our blood stream.
You can’t eat that much carbs
We live in a society that have taught us to be afraid of carbohydrates. It is important not to draw all carbohydrates under one line. Of course it is much healthier to eat whole unrefined carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit than eating refined carbohydrates like white bread, cookies, white pasta and white rice. Can you guess why? It is because the nutrients are gone in refined carbohydrates and contain much less or no fiber at all.
Much of the low-carb philosophy revolves around insulin. The most ironic part here though is that food even without carbohydrates make your insulin go up. Meat for example increase your insulin more that fruit does and as much as refined sugar.
Carbohydrates are so important for several reasons, they provide energy, reduce risk of diseases, nutrient dense and low in calories compared to fats. Our bodies thrive on carbohydrates because they are the easiest foods to convert into glucose. And glucose is the brain’s, some nervous systems and the red blood cells primarily energy source. Nutritionists and health-minded diet professionals agree that we need about 70-80% of our calories to come from carbohydrates.
How much fruit is too much?
There are actually studies on how much fruit is too much. In one study, seventeen people were made to eat 20 servings a day of fruit. The sugar content were about 200 grams per day, or the same amount as in 8 cans of soda. There were still no adverse effects for body weight, blood pressure, insulin, and lipid levels (fat levels) after three to six months.
More recently, a study put people on a 20 servings of fruit a day diet for a few weeks with no adverse effects on weight, blood pressure, or triglycerides (fats) and an astounding drop in LDL cholesterol. The nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Whole fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in any amount.
Check out Dr. Micheal Greger’s video about “How much fruit is too much?”
Does fruit cause weight gain?
To answer the question “Does fruit cause weight gain?” - No, fruit is not the cause of weight gain. Studies show that even adding fruit into the diet is associated with weight loss. But then, if we eat an unhealthy meal and then eat an apple as a "dessert" it is pretty easy to blame the apple for weight gain because it contains sugar (which I hope you now see that this is not the case). Anyhow, there are SO many benefits with eating more fruit!
Fruit has antioxidants! While not eating fruit you would cut out a broad spectrum of antioxidants that are unique to specific fruits.
Fruit is good for your skin! Antioxidants affect the skin pigment and improve circulation which may contribute to a natural glow.
Fruit gives you energy! Fruit digests super fast and will give you energy fast.
Fruit hydrates you! Since fruit contain 60-90% water they will hydrate you and keep your digestive system feeling good.
Fruit provides you with fiber! Fiber is SUPER important for your gut health, fruit (and all plant foods) provide you with complex different types of fiber. Listen on this podcast to get more information about gut health and the importance of fiber (by Will Bulseiwicz, Md MSCI who is a gastroenterologist and gut health expert)
In my own experience after introducing more fruit in my diet such as nice cream, smoothies or fruit platters, my mind feels clearer, my skin is glowing, I feel lighter in my stomach, and I am leaner. And think about it, how cool isn’t it to eat a food produced by nature, which have a sweetness that we human beings so naturally love?