If sugar is so bad for us, why is sugar in fruit?
By: Roma Patel
So what’s the deal with sugar in fruit? We’ve all heard buzzwords like fructose and glucose and recognize that too much sugar can have negative effects on your body. But they say fruit in sugar is ok. We asked Natalia Stasenko, a pediatric dietitian, founder of Feeding Bytes and a mother of three. As a recognized pediatric nutrition expert, she wrote for and was featured in numerous media outlets including Food and Nutrition Magazine, Parents.com, Pregnancy and Nutrition Magazine and Huffington Post, among others. We sat down with Natalia to talk sugar and fruit:
What are the types of sugar in food?
There are many types of sugar that are classified according to their chemical structure. Sugars occur naturally in many foods like fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. Sugar can also be produced commercially and be added to products as a table sugar or syrup. Essentially, all types of sugar in food are a combination of monosaccharides like glucose, fructose, and galactose. Table sugar or sucrose is a disaccharide, made by two monosaccharides, glucose, and fructose. Lactose, or milk sugar, is also a disaccharide composed of glucose and galactose.
How is sugar in fruit different?
Two main fruit sugars are fructose and glucose. Sugar in fruit consists of the same molecules as the table sugar. The difference is the nutritional “packaging”. Fruit sugar comes with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as opposed to table sugar, where it’s just a source of energy and gets absorbed in the bloodstream pretty fast. The fiber in fruit slows the digestion and absorption of fruit sugars, which results in a slower insulin response.
What are the benefits of eating fruit?
Fruit provides heaps of nutrition! From vitamins A and C to potassium and dietary fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. The soluble dietary fiber found in fruit is very helpful for preventing constipation and improving digestion. The numerous antioxidants found in fruit improve immunity and lower the risk of chronic disease and cancers.
Yes, some types of fruit contain more fruit sugar than others. Quite simply, the sweeter the fruit, the more fruit sugar it contains. All dry fruit and some fresh fruit like grapes, mangos, and bananas can be higher in sugar than other fruit.
Why is it important for toddlers and kids to eat fruit?
First of all, little kids often like fruit because it tastes sweet. This makes it a perfect hydrating snack or meal component, full of good nutrition. The fiber in fruit helps prevent constipation, while vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants boost the immune system. Moreover, the nutritional composition in fruit and vegetables often overlaps. So if a child is still learning to enjoy veggies, fruit can help close many of the potential nutritional “gaps”.
The season for summer fruit is short. Our favorite fruits during the summer months are watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, and peaches. Just keep it cold and cut it up for dessert!
About Natalia Stasenko:
Natalia helps families raise healthy eaters, start solids with their babies, resolve picky eating and enjoy family meals in simple and delicious ways. She offers online group classes and individual support for parents. Learn more by visiting Feeding Bytes.