“Is fruit good for me?”. This is a question that I often hear from my patients that are in treatment for obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder.
There are many conflicting views on whether it is healthy to incorporate fruit into our everyday diet. The topic can be confusing! On one hand, we hear that it is full of sugar, on the other hand we constantly hear expressions like “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and “eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”
Let’s look at the sugar content of fruit. Fructose is a form of sugar that is found in fruit and in many processed foods, in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Eating an excessive amount of fructose can lead to serious health issues. Excessive fructose intake is associated with:
- leptin resistance
- insulin resistance
- weight gain, obesity
- metabolic syndrome
- inhibited calcium absorption, which leads to vitamin D deficiency
- blood clotting ailments and high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- increased cholesterol levels
Thanks to the power of technology, it is really easy to find the fructose content of various fruits. The fruits that are lowest in fructose include cranberries, apricots, nectarines, peaches, clementines, grapefruit and cantaloupe. The fruits that are highest in fructose include dried dates, raisins, dried figs, dried apricots and prunes. So, if we stick to the low fructose fruits and avoid the high fructose fruits, we should be good to go, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Fruit contains two forms of sugar; fructose and sucrose. Fructose belongs to the single sugar family. All sugars in the single sugar family share the same molecular formula, but have different chemical structures; other members of this family include glucose and galactose. Sucrose, on the other hand, belongs to the double sugar family; other members of this sugar family include lactose and maltose. Double sugars are made up of two single sugars. When we ingest sucrose, the body divides it into it’s two single sugar parts; glucose and fructose. Glucose circulates through the bloodstream as blood sugar and provides energy to many cells within the body. The brain uses 25% of the glucose supply for it’s own energy requirements!
When we are looking for low fructose fruits, we need to consider sucrose’s contribution to total dietary fructose (or total metabolic fructose). The chart below shows what happens to the total dietary fructose levels of fruit once we take the sucrose content into consideration (serving size in the chart is per 100 g of fruit).
What is an appropriate amount of fruit to eat on a daily basis? If you’re eating a lot of processed foods you should limit fruit consumption, since there is a lot of fructose hidden in these foods. Fruits such as tomatoes, avocado, lemons and limes are very low in sugar, these fruits don’t really need to be limited. As a general rule, Dr. Mercola recommends a daily intake of less than 25 grams of fructose. He recommends a daily intake of less than 15 grams of fructose for people that are overweight, have insulin resistance, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Of course, if you’re going to incorporate fructose into your diet, I would recommend consuming it in the form of whole organic fruit. Just be sure to consider the total dietary amount of fructose!
Dr. J. Renae Norton is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the outpatient treatment of obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder (BED) and the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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