We all know added sugar isn’t great for us and we should limit our intake. (Easier said than done!) However, we sometimes mistakenly believe that less sugar means we should avoid eating fruit as part of our regular diet – or that we should cut it out entirely. Sound like you? Then you could be missing out on important nutrition. Everybody – especially those on a plant-based diet – should be taking advantage of fruit’s natural goodness.
It’s time to clear up some confusion and stop demonizing fruit sugars. Here’s why you should start loving fruit again.
The World Health Organization recommends no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar per day for a healthy adult – that’s less than 10% of your total energy intake. However, these guidelines are not referring to the sugars in fruit! They specify ‘free sugars,’ those that are refined and added to processed or semi-processed foods. They also include the sugars in honey, syrups and processed fruit juices or concentrates. Although all sugars deliver the same amount of calories in their natural or processed state, the health risks of eating sugars are linked to overconsumption of ‘free sugars.’
Fruits come with much more than just sugar – they’re also packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which are essential for good health. The fiber is what separates naturally occurring sugars from ‘free sugars’ – it has been shown to effectively slow down the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream. This is also why fruit juice counts as a ‘free sugar’ (because it lacks the fiber), and why we should consume natural sugars as part of a ‘whole food’ rather than ‘processed food’ diet.
Dried fruits have many of the same nutrients as fresh fruit. Some, like dates, can be a great way of getting whole food sweetness and fiber into your cooking – for example with healthy snack brownies.
But dried fruits are more concentrated in natural sugars because the liquid has been removed, and it can also be easy to overeat them. Dried apricots are great as a snack, but you need to keep an eye on how many you consume in one sitting. If you have the choice, pick fresh fruit as a stand-alone snack instead.
Now that you’re ready to love fruit again, here are a few that really stand out for their nutritional value.
Raspberries and blackberries
Packed with fiber, vitamin C and a range of antioxidants for health and anti-inflammatory effects. Dark red and purple fruits are basically beacons of antioxidants calling you in.
Try my Choc Mint Smoothie Bowl, topped with fresh raspberries, for a morning nutrient burst.
Did you know that one orange contains more than your daily minimum requirement of vitamin C? In addition to being comparatively low in calories and sugar, they also contain antioxidants and may have immune-boosting effects.
It’s more than the smooth creaminess that has us putting bananas into Centr smoothies. Bananas are a nutritional powerhouse, containing vitamins A, B and C, and the minerals potassium and magnesium. They also have low-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates and are rich in prebiotic dietary fiber to feed our gut bacteria and keep our digestive system in great shape.
One of the lowest calorie and sugar options of all fruits, watermelon can satisfy sweetness cravings in a healthy way. Plus, the high water content helps you stay hydrated. Vitamin C and lycopene can have anti-inflammatory effects, and some studies even suggest a positive effect of watermelon on muscle soreness in athletes!
An apple a day might not guarantee the doctor stays away, but it’ll probably help! Apples are low-GI ‘superfood’ rich in antioxidants with plenty of fiber – just as long as you eat the skin. Most of the antioxidants are found there, so when you peel it you miss out.
Simon Hill is making plant-based nutrition simple and accessible through his Plant Proof podcast and with delicious recipes on Centr. A sports physiotherapist and nutritionist, he holds a Bachelor of Physiotherapy and a postgraduate degree in nutrition. He is the author of The Proof is in the Plants and the creator of our favorite vegan burgers.
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