Sugar is sugar - in all forms, it’s a simple carbohydrate, but the difference is in the nutritional value and what these impacts can have on the body!
When you compare sugar from whole foods to refined sugar - they aren't created equally. Simply avoiding fruits because they contain “sugar” is a misinterpretation of their nutritional value.
Whole foods like fruit do contain sugar, but fruit also has an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and antioxidants.
Refined sugar comes under many names: white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, coconut sugar, palm sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. These sugars come from mainly plants but have been processed in some way to a simple, sweet form, thus they are processed or refined. They are commonly added to foods to enhance flavor.
Unlike natural sugars which are found naturally in many foods we eat, including fruits, dairy products, grains, and veggies, refined sugars lack any significant nutritional value.
While the body breaks down all sugars the same way—whether you’re getting your fix from banana pudding or a banana—the metabolic process actually differs...the process for natural fruit sugar is much slower.
Foods high in refined sugars like breakfast cereal, white bread, high fructose corn syrup etc. will increase blood sugar and insulin levels much faster. Quick rises in blood glucose levels, followed by a big insulin spike leads to a subsequent crash which creates more sugar cravings to cure the crash...it’s a vicious cycle. Diets high in refined sugar are shown to increase body fat and increase one’s risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
FIBER is a huge key. When you eat sugar from fruit, the fiber that comes with it will slow down the absorption rate of sugar. This is why natural sugars found in whole foods don’t increase blood sugar levels as fast as refined sugar. Another tip to help slow down the absorption of the fruit even more is to pair your fruit with a meal, including a protein.
Berries such as raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are lowest in natural sugar, while the highest are dried fruits, bananas, and mangoes. Fruit juice also tends to be high in sugar, so opt for whole fruit instead. Even if you consume the same number of calories from whole fruit and juice, the metabolic effects are very different. Metabolically speaking, juice is much more similar to soda than it is to whole fruit.
How many servings per day are recommended?
2-4 servings of fruit (note: certain people with insulin resistance, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome may see improvements by restricting fruit intake to 1-2 servings a day, and by choosing fruits that are lower in sugar).
The bottom line on natural sugars vs. refined/processed sugars: Fruits/veggies will provide you with numerous nutrients, disease-fighting compounds and fiber, but added sugars will supply you only with added pounds around your waistline.