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Are Some Fruits More Fattening Than Others?

It's time to clear up some confusion about fruit, sugar, fructose and how this all fits together into a healthy diet.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #508
image of different fruits

Is Fruit Too High in Sugar?

When we’re talking about excess sugar in the diet, fruit is generally not the problem. That said, the amount of sugar in various types of fruit ranges. Cranberries have almost no sugar. Dates are almost nothing but sugar. Choosing fruits that are lower in sugar might be a way to enjoy a little more fruit without quite as much sugar.

Here’s a table showing the amount of sugar in several common types of fruit. For a more detailed, interactive chart, see this post on Nutrition Over Easy.com

There’s definitely a big difference between unsweetened cranberries (just 5 grams per cup) and dates (86 grams per cup). But most fresh fruits fall in the more moderate range of 10 to 25 grams of naturally-occurring sugar per cup. Interestingly, pineapple (one of the author’s no-no fruits) and grapefruit (one of the yes fruits) both contain 16 grams of sugar per cup. Meanwhile, watermelon, which this author considers to be too high in sugar, has just 10 grams per cup.

What Kind of Sugar Is in Fruit?

So far we’ve been talking about total sugar. Let’s talk about what specific types of sugar fruit contains and how that might affect you.

Fructose means “fruit sugar.” But fructose is not the only kind of sugar in fruitor even the primary type. Fruit contains fructose, glucose, and sucrose in varying amounts, along with tiny amounts of other sugars. In fact, most fruit contains a bit more glucose than fructose.

And why might the amount of fructose and glucose matter? Because these two sugars are metabolised differently. But again, misunderstandings and misperceptions abound.

Glucose is absorbed more directly into the bloodstream, which means that it raises your blood sugar relatively quickly. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The reason that athletes use glucose-based gels and goos during endurance sports is that they will quickly provide energy for fatigued muscles.

Fructose, on the other hand, is not absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Instead it is processed in the liver. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, fructose is often recommended for diabetics precisely because it is a natural sugar that will have minimal effect on blood sugar. Fructose also tastes quite a bit sweeter than glucose so it provides more sweetness for less sugar and fewer calories.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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