One of the diet questions that people ask most is whether or not fruits are good for you. Most people remember being told to always eat their fruits and vegetables, but at the same time lately a lot of people have said that fruit has as much sugar as candy. There is a lot of conflicting information (and misinformation) out there that can be confusing and hard to sift through. So, is fruit good for you?
It's no secret that sugar isn't healthy
It's no secret that sugar is bad for you, and in recent years studies have shown that it poses a larger healthy risk than previously thought. So when people see that fruit contains fructose, the obvious conclusion to jump to is that fruit is bad news. Fructose is especially scary because we recognize the name from high fructose corn syrup, the incredibly unhealthy, highly concentrated sweetener in most sugary soft drinks. In reality, though, things aren't that simple. The sugars that fruits contain do not negate the overall health benefits of it - just because fruits have fructose doesn't mean they're not good to eat.
Fructose is dangerous when highly concentrated
It is true that fruit contains fructose, but that doesn't automatically make it bad for you. Fructose is very dangerous to your healthy when it's highly concentrated, but it isn't highly concentrated in fresh fruit. Fresh fruit has very high amounts of water and fiber, and those reduce both the concentration of fructose and the rate that your body absorbs it. So while you are ingesting some amount of fructose with an apple or an orange, it's very different from ingesting it in a concentrated, liquid form. Because you need to chew fruit and your body has to work for a long time at digesting it, the fructose is absorbed you're your body at a very slow rate. This is the opposite of injecting a huge amount of liquid sugar into your body via sugary soft drinks. Eating fruit alone does not deliver enough fructose to your body to cause real damage.
The fiber that fruit contains does more than make the fructose manageable. Fruit is actually very filling! Studies show that apples and oranges are more filling than an equal amount of beef or eggs! This means you're less hungry after eating fruit and less likely to eat too much in general. The "value" of calories you consume through fruits are really stretched, something that further mitigates the amount of sugar and carbs in fruit. Think of it like this: how often do you see someone "binge-eat" a few apples in a row? Yet you will often see people going overboard with dessert. This is because fruit is very filling per calorie and unhealthy sugary foods are not. Another welcome side effect is that by reducing your appetite with fresh fruit it actually helps you lose weight.
Fruit can reduce cholesterol
There are more reasons to seek out the special fiber that fruits offer. Studies have shown that fruit actually reduces cholesterol in individuals that eat it daily. Lowering your cholesterol is great for your overall health, as high cholesterol is associated with a large amount of very serious health issues, such as heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Additionally, the rate you absorb carbs overall is lessened with fruit fibres - and overeating carbs is associated with weight gain and blood sugar issues like type 2 diabetes. These are very beneficial that should really reassure you when it comes to eating fruit.
Fruits are also very rich in vitamins and minerals. Your body needs vitamins and minerals to function, so getting enough of both is absolutely essential to a healthy diet. Fruit is the best source of many of these essential nutrients, like potassium, vitamin C and folic acid. Eating fruit and getting your required amount of nutrients is linked to an overall risk reduction of developing a major chronic illness. Getting enough vitamin C has even been showed to reduce the duration and symptom intensity of common sicknesses like the cold. There is definitely truth to the old "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" expression. It's best to learn about what nutrients you may be short on and buy the fruit that's best suited to your dietary needs.
Some suffer from fructose intolerance
There are some reasons to avoid fruit, though, and it's important to know about those too. Some people suffer from fructose intolerance and eating fruit can cause problems for people with this condition. If you sometimes yourself having digestive issues after eating fruit it's a good idea to get yourself tested for this intolerance. If you are on a specific diet that greatly limits your consumption of carbs, you will need to make sure you're aware of how much fruit you are eating, because fruit does contain carbs.
Fruit is also not healthy in all of its various forms. While fresh fruit is good for you on the whole, dried fruit and fruit juices are not healthy. Dried fruits are bad because they often are in a form where you consume a lot more of the fruit that you would normally be able to in their fresh form. One example is raisins - it's easy to eat a lot of raisins in a short amount of time, which is what you want to avoid. Another problem with dried fruit is that they are most often dusted with large amounts of extra sugar - which means they're closer to fruit-flavoured candy than fresh fruit. Fruit juice is also bad for you and should generally be avoided.
Fruit juice is comparable to soft drinks in sugar content
Concentrate fruit juice are absolutely packed with sugar and are comparable to soft drinks in terms of sugar content and nutritional value. Even when you get 100% fruit juice you need to be very careful. Without the fibres that normally regulate absorbing fruit, your body gets the fructose much faster than it normally would. Smoothies are somewhat better, but still not as good as simply eating whole fruit.
So if you've been told that fruit is too sugary and that you should avoid it, you know that is simply inaccurate. While you need to make sure your diet is always balanced and healthy, it should absolutely contain fruit. The most important thing to watch for is the form that your fruit takes - after that, feel free to enjoy the great taste and excellent health benefits that it provides!