Fact Vs Fiction: Is Fruit Good for you?
It’s a nutritional myth as old as dieting itself — eating healthy and achieving fitness goals while still eating the food you want is actually really easy! All you have to do is switch bad food for good food: rid your home of candy bars and processed sugary snacks and fill it instead with strawberries, bananas, oranges and kiwis. You’ll satisfy your sweet tooth cravings by eating good sugar instead of processed bad sugar and watch the pounds melt away!
…Or so the story goes. But is it true? Can fruits really serve as a simple, one-step replacement to transform your diet? Or do these sweet treats have more in common with that candy bar than meets the eye?
In this edition of Food Fact or Fiction, we’ve gotten to the core of the “fruit is healthier than candy” debate and found an answer that might surprise you.
Fruit Isn’t As Bad As Candy
In order to get to the core of the truth about fruit, we need to understand how the body processes sugar. Candy and fruit both contain a lot of it (grapes and bananas can contain almost 20 grams of sugar in a one-cup serving), but there’s a key difference between the type of sugar that enters the body.
The key culprit here is fructose, which the body doesn’t naturally produce in any significant amount and needs to be processed by the liver. Foods with added sugar, such as candy bars, can contain a lot of fructose thanks to artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. Even worse, sugars like fructose are often processed by the body and turned into fat.
Fruits like apples can contain fructose too, but almost always in much smaller amounts and coupled with naturally-produced glucose sugars and fibers to help mitigate the potential damage. The bottom line is that when comparing candy and fruit directly, the types of sugars found naturally in fruits will put less strain on your body because they’re more balanced and less likely to contain huge amounts of fructose.
…But That Doesn’t Mean Fruit Is Always Good For You
So fruit must be healthy then, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
Too much sugar is still too much sugar, and can have a host of negative health effects including weight gain, slowed metabolism, tooth decay, and increased triglyceride levels that can even increase your odds of high cholesterol or heart disease.
Even worse, dried fruits, fruit juices and smoothies can be as bad as candy — they distill the worst elements of fruit for fast consumption while removing the complex minerals and fibers that make fresh fruit a healthier choice.
At the end of the day, the best strategy is to take a look at USDA guidelines and understand how much fresh fruit will put you past your daily recommended allowance (for most adults, it’s two cups of fruit a day). Replacing candy with fruit is a great move as long as you do so in moderation — not quite so simple as switching the bad for the good.