- Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Fruit Sugar
- The Difference Between Fruit Sugar and Other Sugars
- How does the body metabolize sugar?
- Does the body treat fruit sugar the same as refined sugar?
- Is fruit sugar healthy?
- What fruits are highest and lowest in sugar?
- What is the glycemic index, and why does it matter?
- Bottom Line
- Gnawing Questions: Is Sugar From Fruit The Same As Sugar From Candy?
- Types of sugar in food
- Health risks come from free sugars, not fruits
- We need to eat fruit
- The sugar in fruit doesn’t make it bad for you, despite some trendy diet claims
- How much sugar should I be eating?
- Why is sugar bad for you?
- Hidden sources of sugar
- Look on the label
- Ways to cut down on sugar
- Useful resources for cutting down on sugar:
- Like this? Now read…
- America’s love affair with sugar
- What is Sugar?
- What happens in our body when we eat sugar?
- So, I should just eat less sugar?
- What surprising foods containing sugar?
- What about fruit sugar?
- What about fruit juices?
- What about sugar alternatives?
- what about High Fructose Corn Syrup?
- Can you get addicted to sugar?
- I think I’m definitely addicted to sugar.
- Vote with your wallet
- What to know about sugar in fruit
- Is the sugar in fruit bad for us?
Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Fruit Sugar
Many of us have a sweet tooth, and it’s all too tempting to reach for a candy bar instead of an apple. We, at Aaptiv, know that too much sugar is bad for our health, upping our chances of diabetes and heart disease and often hindering our weight-loss goals.
So, while it’s important to cut back on refined sugar, we wanted to know about the sugar found in fruit. We asked experts to clear up the confusion about fruit sugar once and for all.
The Difference Between Fruit Sugar and Other Sugars
First things first: Not all sugar is created equal. According to Lauren Fleming, a registered dietitian at Savoured RD Wellness, there’s natural sugar in many foods we eat, including fruits, dairy products, grains, and vegetables. These foods have sugar in them no matter what—even if sugar hasn’t been added to them.
So, what’s the difference between fruit sugar and other sugars? “Refined, or processed, sugars come under many names, including white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, coconut sugar, palm sugar, invert sugar, high-fructose corn syrup—the list goes on!” Fleming says. “These sugars come from mainly plants but have been processed in some way to a simple, sweet form.”
Refined sugar is commonly added to foods to make them taste good or to help them last longer, Fleming explains. (Just think about the chocolate bar that’s been sitting in your cupboard for months—chances are it still tastes delicious.)
Though refined sugar may be devilishly addictive, Fleming says it lacks any significant nutritional value—unlike fruit sugar. Fruits have vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. In other words, the fruit you eat is more nutritious than a bag of candy. Sorry.
How does the body metabolize sugar?
The fruit has fructose and glucose in it—just like processed sugar. Most fruit has 40-55 percent fructose, and table sugar is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. Why does this matter? According to Nicole Osinga, a registered dietitian and founder of Osinga Nutrition, the body metabolizes fructose differently than glucose.
“Fructose is primarily metabolized in the liver. There are pros and cons to this,” she says. “The pro is that eating fructose doesn’t raise blood glucose or insulin levels, both of which—when elevated above the normal range—are thought to contribute to a variety of diseases ranging from heart disease to obesity to several forms of cancer.”
The disadvantage, Osinga says, is that when fructose is metabolized in the liver, it’s typically used to make fats. However, because “fructose is almost never eaten by itself and is usually consumed with equal parts glucose,” she adds.
Glucose, on the other hand, breaks down in the stomach and needs insulin to get into the bloodstream, so it can be metabolized. “The glucose our body doesn’t need right then is stored to try to keep our glucose levels as stable as possible all day long,” Fleming says.
Burn off those extra calories with Aaptiv. Our workouts can help you metabolize the extra sugar.
Does the body treat fruit sugar the same as refined sugar?
This is where things get sticky. While the body breaks down all sugar the same way—whether you’re getting your fix from cake or a banana—the process for fruit sugar is much slower. Fleming explains this is because fiber slows down the digestion of sugar, and many fruits are rich in fiber – (you are getting enough fiber, right?). “Another tip to help slow down the absorption of the fruit even more is to pair your fruit with a meal or a protein,” she says.
Foods loaded with refined sugar—such as cookies—have little to no fiber, allowing sugar to quickly travel through the bloodstream. This is why you experience a sugar high and then crash after you guzzle down soda or eat a pint of ice cream. On top of throwing our sugar levels out of whack, refined sugary foods also tend to lack other nutritional value and are often considered “empty calories” (think candy or sweet cocktails).
Is fruit sugar healthy?
Like any sugar, too much fruit sugar isn’t good for you. But compared to refined sugar, fruit is a much better option for regular consumption. “Fruits have a lot of great nutrients in them that are important for our body,” Fleming says, citing vitamin C (this is recommended), vitamin K, and fiber. “Berries and apples also have flavonoids and antioxidants that can help in cancer and other chronic disease prevention.”
What fruits are highest and lowest in sugar?
Osinga says that 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, and it’s easy to drink too much of it because it doesn’t require the same digestive process as a whole fruit.
So, how much fruit should you eat a day? “What is usually recommended is up to three servings of fruit a day,” Fleming says, noting that moderation is key.
What is the glycemic index, and why does it matter?
It’s important to watch your sugar intake—regardless of which type of sugar you’re consuming. The glycemic index is a handy tool that ranks foods based on how they affect blood sugars, Fleming explains. This, in turn, helps you make more informed nutritional decisions.
“Foods that are low in the glycemic index (‘low GI’) are more slowly digested. They cause a slower rise in blood sugars,” Fleming says. “Foods higher in the glycemic index are digested and absorbed by the body more quickly, so they have a bigger effect on blood sugars and therefore insulin. Most fruits are low to medium GI.”
If you’re living with diabetes, Fleming says it’s important to consume foods low in GI to help control blood sugars. She also points out that low GI foods will keep you feeling full longer, which helps with weight management.
The key to any healthy diet is moderation. If you’re really craving something sweet, you’re better off reaching for fruit than a bar of chocolate. Fruit will keep you full longer and provide vitamins and nutrients. Fleming points out that berries are a good treat, as they help satisfy your sweet tooth and ward off hunger due to their high fiber.
But, as Fleming notes, sometimes nothing satisfies your sugar craving like chocolate does. “When it comes to cravings, sometimes it is best to just have a small amount of what you really want.”
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With the war against sugar raging, people are wondering if it’s coming for fruit, which is high in the sweet stuff. Fruit is a go-to snack for cyclists who often need something they can grab on their way out the door or munch on during long rides. Plus, fruit is one of the main ingredients in a refreshing postride smoothie.
Excess sugar intake has been linked to weight gain, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, and there’s no question that fruit is packed with the sweet stuff. Some trendy diets like Whole30 and keto shun sugar, even when it comes from fruit, making people wonder if fruit is the healthy snack we’ve been led to believe it is.
Fruit contains three types of sugar: fructose, glucose, and a combination of the two, called sucrose, or table sugar. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, which is the brain and body’s main source of fuel during exercise.
But, research has shown that too much sugar has been linked to a whole host of undesirable outcomes. In fact, a study published in the journal PLOS One found that for every 150 calories of added sugar a person consumed, their risk of diabetes went up by 1.1 percent. And another study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who consumed the most added sugar—25 percent or more of their calories from it—were nearly three times as likely to die of heart disease than those who took in less than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars.
How does that relate to fruit, though? Is there any difference between the sweet stuff in things like strawberries and bananas versus that in soda and Swedish fish?
Both contain sugar, but they affect your body differently. Look at the nutritional profile of each, for starters.
A can of soda, for example, is 140 calories of sugar and nothing else. It’s not giving you any health benefit. But fruit isn’t just sugar: It also provides vitamins and minerals like fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and folate. Not to mention, it is also packed with antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and boost your immune system.
Compare that can of soda with a banana. For 110 calories, the banana also contains potassium for muscle function, a little protein, and its sugar is entirely natural.
“Fruit contains natural sugar,” says Hogan. “And when we eat whole fruit, it’s not the same thing as eating added sugar or the typical sugary foods like dessert. Fruit contains fiber and nutrients that help the body absorb other nutrients.”
Yes, fruit has sugar in it. And some, like mangos, are very high in sugar. But eating a cup (or two) of brain-healthy blueberries isn’t going to cause weight gain or put you on the path of type 2 diabetes, says Armul.
And past research supports this: A review in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation concluded that the more fruit you eat, the less likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes. Additionally, another review in the European Journal of Nutrition linked increased fruit consumption to a lesser chance of developing obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
“I’ve never had a client who gained too much weight from eating fruit,” she says. “The bigger problem is we’re not eating enough fruit.”
Where you need to be careful is dried fruit, fruit juice, and smoothies, says Hogan, since they’re all higher in sugar than their fresh counterparts—and the sugar is more concentrated, which makes it more calorie-dense.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the serving size of one medium fruit is something as big as your fist. Fresh, frozen, or canned fruit is half a cup, and dried fruit and fruit juice are both one-quarter of a cup.
Eat a half a bag of dried pineapple, and, along with risking GI trouble, you’ll also take in 800 calories and 168 grams of sugar—and that’s a lot of extra calories.
That’s not to say you should avoid dried fruit entirely, though. Carrying a few pieces with you on your long rides can help restock your glycogen stores so you won’t bonk.
“We can’t deny that dried fruit is higher in sugar,” she says. “But there’s a time and place for it. It makes a good snack if you’re hiking or going for a long ride.”
When it comes to fruit juice, your best bet is 100 percent real fruit juice, which means you’re just getting the natural sugar from fruit. Still, it’s not as ideal as the whole stuff: Juice doesn’t carry the same nutrients, like fiber, says Hogan, and it can be easy to consume excess sugar and calories in liquid form.
Similarly, smoothies can be a sneaky calorie and sugar bomb. If you order out, opt for smoothies that are use plain (full-fat!) yogurt, fruit, and veggies, without added sugar like honey or agave syrup.
The best way to go is to make your own, so you can limit how much sugar goes into it. Add protein—like plain, full-fat yogurt and peanut butter—to help you feel full and to kick-start muscle repair, says Armul.
So go ahead, enjoy your fruit in all its forms, especially the whole fresh or frozen kind, which is just as nutritious. For other fruity options, just choose a little more carefully: Make sure your smoothies have some protein and fat, too—which will both help build and maintain muscle mass and keep you fuller for longer—and don’t have added sugar sources like honey. As for fruit juice? While you might not want to drink the sweet stuff every day, since even the 100 percent juice options lack essential nutrients, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself every so often.
Heather Mayer Irvine Freelance Writer Heather is the former food and nutrition editor for Runner’s World and the author of The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook.
Gnawing Questions: Is Sugar From Fruit The Same As Sugar From Candy?
“There’s so much confusion,” Wright says. “I think this comes from the idea we’ve had for some time now that all carbs are bad, and that’s not the case. Carbs are required for energy.”
There are lots of kinds of sugar. Fruits have fructose, glucose and a combination of the two called “sucrose,” or “table sugar.” But the sugars in fruit are packed less densely than in a candy bar, according to Elvira Isganaitis, a pediatric endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center and a Harvard Medical School instructor. This difference is important for people with diabetes, a disorder which interferes with regulating sugar in the blood. When people eat something sweet, they usually have a spike in blood sugar levels. Then the spike plateaus and the amount of sugar in the blood eventually drops back to normal. Fruits generally cause a lower spike than sweets, Isganaitis says, making it less dangerous for people with diabetes monitoring their sugar levels.
Sugar in fruit and added sugar are not the same thing, says Lauri Wright, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Joy Ho for NPR hide caption
toggle caption Joy Ho for NPR
Sugar in fruit and added sugar are not the same thing, says Lauri Wright, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Joy Ho for NPR
But even for people without diabetes, sugar in fruit is a healthier option than sugar from other sources, according to nutritionist Wright. A can of soda, for example, has about 40 grams of sugar. “And what else are you getting with that?” Wright asks. “You’re getting no protein, no minerals and no fiber. You get nothing but the sugar and the calories.”
A serving of fruit, by contrast, usually contains no more than 20 grams of sugar, has fiber and has nutrients like vitamin C. As Wright puts it: “You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.” And fiber and lower sugar amounts can also decrease sugar spikes in blood levels.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t possible pitfalls for fruit freaks. Dried fruits, Wright says, tend to pack more sugar into a bite because they’re so concentrated. She advises people with diabetes in particular to consume dried favorites with caution.
Both Wright and Isganaitis also warn that smoothies can commit sugar sabotage. That goes for juices, too. “I have a little bit of a bee in my bonnet about fruit juices, because they really masquerade as a health food,” says Isganaitis, “but you can get a whopping dose of glucose .” She advises that people eat whole foods, including fruits, and steer clear of processed foods, especially those sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, concentrated apple juice, or the like.
But experts warn that smoothies can commit sugar sabotage. That goes for juices, too. Joy Ho for NPR hide caption
toggle caption Joy Ho for NPR
But experts warn that smoothies can commit sugar sabotage. That goes for juices, too.
Joy Ho for NPR
Similarly, Wright advises smoothie lovers make smoothies at home and throw in some vegetables.
Wright says she hopes people with diabetes in particular are not frightened off fruit by warnings about added sugar in other types of food. As for herself, Wright frequently eats fruit at her home in Florida: “I live in the Sunshine State, and you may think my favorite is oranges, but actually, we have wonderful blueberries.”
Gnawing Questions is a semi-regular column answering the food mysteries puzzling us and our readers. Got a question you want us to explore? Let us know via our contact form.
This is the third in a four-part series on sugar, which covers sugar-free diets, how the different types of sugars compare, and the links between sugar and disease. Catch up on the other instalments here.
We hear regularly from health organisations and experts that we should eat less sugar. But we’re also told we should eat more fruit.
All types of sugar will give us the same amount of calories, whether they are from fruit or soft drink. But the health risks of eating sugar are related to consuming too many “free sugars” in the diet, not from eating sugars that are naturally present in fruits or milk.
Types of sugar in food
Sugar in food and drinks comes in various forms. Sugar molecules are classified as monosaccharides (single sugar molecules such as glucose and fructose) and disaccharides (more complex structures such as sucrose and lactose).
Fruit contains natural sugars, which are a mix of sucrose, fructose and glucose. Many people have heard that sugar is bad, and think that this must also therefore apply to fruits.
Read more: You don’t need to quit sugar to improve your health
But fructose is only harmful in excess amounts, and not when it comes from fruit. It would be incredibly difficult to consume excessive amounts of fructose by eating whole fruits.
It’s much easier to consume excess sugar from foods and drinks that contain “free sugars”.
Free sugars include these same sugars (fructose, glucose, sucrose), but in this case they have been removed from their naturally occurring source (rather than being eaten as natural parts of fruits, dairy products, and some vegetables and grains). This includes sugar that is added to food and drinks by food companies, cooks or consumers.
The source matters most. from www..com
Health risks come from free sugars, not fruits
Evidence shows that the health risks from sugars, such as tooth decay and unhealthy weight gain, are related to consuming too many free sugars in the diet, not from eating sugars that are naturally present in fruits or milk.
For this reason it is recommended that no more than 10% of your daily calories come from free sugars. For the average adult, this is about 50g or only slightly more than the amount of sugar in a can of regular soft drink or soda. It’s estimated that Australians get around 60% (65g) of their sugar intake from free sugars.
Foods that are sources of free sugars, such as juices, soft drinks, biscuits and lollies, are often high in calories and have little other nutritional value. It is often easy to consume more of them compared with fresh fruit and they also may be replacing other nutritious foods in the diet.
Consider a bottle of fruit juice – you would have to eat six whole oranges to get the same amount of sugar you consume in the juice. And because the fruit is in juice form, it counts towards your daily limit of free sugars.
Calories from drinks that contain sugar often become an addition to the calories you are eating from food, which may lead to weight gain over time.
Eating large amounts of dried fruit is also not a good idea if you are limiting your sugar intake. Through the process of removing water from the fruit, nutrients are concentrated, such that dried apricots, for example, contain about six times as much sugar (40g per 100g) as fresh apricots (6g per 100g).
We need to eat fruit
Unlike many foods that are high in free sugars, fruits are packaged with lots of nutrients that help provide us with a balanced diet for good health.
For starters, fruit is an excellent source of fibre. An average banana will provide 20-25% (6g) of your recommended daily fibre intake. Getting enough fibre in the diet is important for protecting against bowel cancer. There is clear room for improvement in our fibre intake – adults in many countries consume only about half of the recommended amount each day (25g for Aussie women and 30g for Aussie men).
The fibre in fruit, which is often absent in many foods and drinks with free sugars, may also help to fill you up, which means you eat less overall at a meal. It’s not clear exactly why this is, but it could be related to the volume of the food (especially compared with liquids) and the chewing involved.
Fruit is also a good source of other nutrients such as potassium, which can help lower blood pressure, and flavonoids, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.
There is evidence that eating whole fruits (alone and in combination with vegetables) reduces your chances of dying from cancer, obesity and heart disease.
Despite this, only about 50% of Australians eat at least two pieces of fruit per day.
Most national dietary guidelines encourage eating fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on the vegetables. To try and eat your recommended two pieces of fruit per day remember that a piece could be a banana, apple or orange, or two smaller fruits like plums or apricots, or a cup of grapes or berries.
Read more: Food as medicine: why do we need to eat so many vegetables and what does a serve actually look like?
When it comes to other sources of sugars, try to choose foods that have little or no sugar listed in the ingredient list, and drink water instead of sugary beverages when you are thirsty.
The sugar in fruit doesn’t make it bad for you, despite some trendy diet claims
By Carrie Dennett April 16, 2019
In recent months, my dietitian colleagues and I have been encountering more and more people making claims like “fruit is bad for you” or “fruit is toxic.” “What is going ON?” one of them posted on a dietitian Internet mailing list. What’s going on is that the current crop of fad diets, such as paleo, keto, carnivore and pegan — have convinced a lot of people that fruit is a dietary no-no.
There was a time when we didn’t question whether fruit was good for us, when we more or less took “eat your fruits and veggies” to heart. Today, many people are worried that fruit is too high in carbs, sugar and calories. One of my patients wouldn’t eat any fruit other than blueberries because she had bought into the myth — again, promoted by fad diets — that blueberries are the only “safe” fruit to eat because they are “low glycemic” (in other words, they don’t cause your blood sugar to spike). Here’s the kicker: She didn’t even like blueberries.
Berries are the only fruit allowed on the pegan diet, the subtext being that other fruit is a ticket to high blood sugar; but this is a fairly liberal stance compared with other fad diets du jour. For example, many followers of the keto diet and the trending carnivore diet (a.k.a. the “zero carb” diet) call fruit toxic because of its sugar. Now, that’s what I consider disordered eating.
It’s true that whole fruit contains sugar, but it is natural sugar. The sugar we would be wise to limit is added sugar, found in regular soda and many highly processed foods. When you eat an apple, a pear, a peach or some berries, their sugar comes wrapped in a fiber-rich, water-rich, nutrient-rich package. That fiber slows the release of fruit’s natural sugar into your bloodstream, preventing a sugar spike, especially if you eat your fruit as part of a meal or snack that contains protein and healthy fats.
Ditching fruit may mean missing out on some key nutrients. Many fruits are rich not just in vitamins and minerals, but also in phytochemicals, natural plant-based compounds that appear to have a variety of health benefits, including helping to prevent cancer and promote cardiovascular health. Pigment-rich berries and cherries are especially good sources of phytochemicals, but apples, oranges and other fruits contain phytochemicals, too.
Some of my older patients have adopted the blueberries-only rule because of preliminary research on the MIND diet — a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. This research found an association between eating blueberries and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease — likely because blueberries are rich in a type of phytochemical called anthocyanins. Other fruit was found to be “neutral,” meaning it appeared to neither increase nor decrease risk of Alzheimer’s — but somehow, the information has been twisted to make patients think they should avoid all fruit except berries.
This is unfortunate, because even if ongoing clinical research confirms that non-berry fruit doesn’t help prevent Alzheimer’s, such fruit may still help prevent other chronic diseases we would all like to avoid. A study published in the March issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for example, found that moderate fruit intake was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, several cancers and other chronic health conditions.
What about juice? Juice has been vilified (likened to soda but with more nutrients) or glorified (consumed freely because of those nutrients). Although drinking juice every time we’re thirsty isn’t a good idea, 100 percent fruit juice in moderation — an 8-ounce glass per day — adds nutritional value to the diet without adding excessive sugar. Orange juice, in particular, does not appear to affect blood sugar, possibly because of the soluble fiber and pectin that makes it into the glass, as well as the phytochemical hesperidin.
Fears about pesticide residues on fruit also have made some people wary about eating nonorganic fruit, even though organic agriculture does use approved pesticides, and traces of nonapproved pesticides are regularly found on organic produce. Fears about pesticides tend to get stirred up each year when the Environmental Working Group releases its “Dirty Dozen” list of “most contaminated” fruits and vegetables. However, the EWG’s methods have come under fire, and it’s important to remember that even if a specific type of produce has “more” pesticide residue than another type, that residue could be well within levels determined to be safe.
Frankly, fruit doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it’s developing; it is the healthiest sweet around. We naturally like the taste of it, because we are born with an affinity for sweetness. So, how much fruit should you eat? That depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity. Two cups per day is the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation for men and younger women; the recommendation drops to 1½ cups for women older than 30. If you get more than 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise, you may choose to include more.
The bottom line is that fruit — especially when in season — adds pleasure, nutrition and variety to our meals. So go beyond plopping some berries in your cereal or yogurt: Have an orange with your scrambled eggs, an apple with your almonds, a juicy peach for dessert. You’ll be happier — and healthier.
Dennett is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Nutrition by Carrie.
There is increasing research to suggest that it’s the sugar rather than the fat in our diets that is the major contributing factor to our obesity epidemic. Nutritionist Kerry Torrens explains the ‘hidden’ sugar you may not know you’re eating and how to spot it on food labels…
How much sugar should I be eating?
Sugar is a carbohydrate found naturally in a host of different foods, from lactose in milk to fructose in fruit and honey. There are two types of sugar: naturally occurring sugar (such as the lactose in milk) and added or ‘free’ sugars that include refined table sugar (sucrose) as well as concentrated sources like fruit juice, honey and syrups. Health organisations including the NHS advise we cut back on these ‘free sugars’.
The new recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK’s official nutrition advisors are that only 5% of your daily calorie intake should consist of added, or ‘free’ sugars. This equates to approximately seven sugar cubes (30g). Children should have less – no more than 19g a day for children aged 4-6 years old (five sugar cubes), and no more than 24g (six sugar cubes) for children aged 7-10 years old.
Why is sugar bad for you?
If you’re very active and exercise regularly some sugar in your diet helps supply ready energy to fuel your muscles and keep your brain active. The problem for the majority of us is that many of the processed foods we eat – in particular, those marketed to children – have added sugar that supplies energy in the form of calories, and very little else, so we end up consuming more than we need. A high intake of sugar causes our blood sugar levels to shoot up, giving us that feel-good ‘high’ followed by a crashing slump that leaves us tired, irritable and craving more sugary foods. It’s a vicious cycle that may be contributing to our weight problems as well as health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
In recognition of these issues, the government has released guidelines for the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar in packaged products.
Hidden sources of sugar
The instant ‘lift’ we get from sugar is one of the reasons we turn to it at times of celebration, or when we crave comfort or reward. However, even those of us without a sweet tooth may be eating more than we realise because so many everyday processed foods, from cereals and bread to pasta sauce and soups, contain sugar.
- ‘Low-fat’ and ‘diet’ foods often contain extra sugar to help improve their taste and palatability and to add bulk and texture in place of fat.
- Even savoury foods, like ready-made soups and sauces may contain added sugar.
- A can of soft drink, on average, contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar.
- The natural sugar in some fruit, including apples, has increased as new varieties (including Pink Lady, Fuji and Jazz) are bred to satisfy our desire for greater sweetness.
Look on the label
Discover how much sugar is in your food by doing these simple checks:
- Look at the ‘carbs as sugars’ on the nutrition panel. This includes both natural and added sugars. Less than 5g per 100g is low, more than 22.5g per 100g is high.
- Check the ingredients list for anything ending in ‘ose’ (glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose). These are all forms of sugar, as are honey, agave, molasses and syrups like corn and rice syrup. The higher up the ingredients list these are, the more sugar the product contains.
- Know your substitute. For example, xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. These occur naturally in small amounts in plants and fruits and are often used in low-calorie products to provide sweetness but with fewer calories. Xylitol can be used in home baking as a replacement for regular sugar (ratio 1:1) although your bakes won’t brown as much and xylitol can’t be used where yeast is the raising agent.
Ways to cut down on sugar
Making a few adjustments to your diet can help you cut down on unnecessary sugar consumption:
- Reduce the sugar you add to hot drinks. Do so gradually to give your tastebuds time to adjust. Try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to cappuccino or hot chocolate. Cinnamon has several health benefits and adds flavour without the sweetness.
- Avoid low-fat ‘diet’ foods which tend to be high in sugars. Instead have smaller portions of the regular versions.
- Be wary of ‘sugar-free’ foods. These often contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. Although these taste sweet, research suggests that they don’t help curb a sweet tooth so they tend to send confusing messages to the brain and that can lead to over-eating.
- Balance your carb intake with lean protein like fish, chicken and turkey. Protein foods slow stomach emptying which helps manage cravings. Try our tuna, asparagus & white bean salad.
- Swap white bread, rice and pasta for wholegrain versions like oats, granary and wholemeal breads, brown rice and pasta. Try our mixed seed bread.
- Reduce the sugar in recipes and add spices to boost flavour and taste. Try our spiced apple pie.
- Stick to one glass of fruit juice a day (dilute it and enjoy with a meal to protect your teeth) and keep sweet soft drinks and alcohol for the weekends. Enjoy herbal teas or water with slices of citrus fruits for flavouring. Learn more about the health benefits of lemon water.
- For a pick-me-up, have a piece of whole fruit with a handful of nuts or a small tub of plain yogurt. Both contain protein which helps balance blood sugar and energy levels. Try our cinnamon cashew spread with apple slices, or our berry yogurt pots.
Useful resources for cutting down on sugar:
Davina McCall: How to be sugar-free
Our favourite lower sugar recipes
BBC Good Food’s guide to sugar-free baking
Like this? Now read…
10 things you should know before giving up sugar
All you need to know about sugar
More health & nutrition tips
This article was last reviewed on 5th December 2018 by nutritionist Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
Whether you’re looking for sweet substitutes, sugar-free baking guides or simply want to find out your recommended daily amounts, find all the answers in our sugar hub.
Highly addictive, horribly debilitating, unfortunately pervasive, and freaking delicious.
If I had to point to ONE culprit to our country’s expanding waistlines and rapidly deteriorating health, it would be sugar. The amount of havoc sugar and sugar substitutes have wreaked on our nation is horribly depressing. Fear not, as I’ve come up with the perfect solution!
Eat less sugar if you want to live longer.
Just kidding, there’s so much more to this story than that.
I’m sure you probably have a lot of questions about sugar:
- Is sugar THAT bad for you?
- Fruit has sugar! Is fruit bad for you?
- Are certain kinds of sugar better or worse for you?
- Can you really get addicted to sugar?
- What about sugar alternatives that are used in drinks like Diet Coke? What about natural sweeteners?
Let’s nerd out about sugar and find out what you can do to kick your sugar habit and get your life back on track.
Fair warning: This post is MASSIVE (over 4,000 words), even for Nerd Fitness standards.
Before we dig in deep, I want to let you know that if you feel addicted to sugar – you are not alone. Millions of rebels find themselves in the exact same spot (we share the reason later in the article).
Nutrition (and cutting back on sugar) is the BIGGEST change that needs to happen if you are trying to lose weight and get healthy. The problem isn’t just knowing we need to eat less sugar either – it’s that we need to build systems to help retrain ourselves to NOT be hooked on the stuff!
If you’re somebody that has tried to quit eating sugar before in the past, welcome to the club – it’s a brutally difficult lifestyle change. Too many people go about quitting sugar the wrong way, and end up falling off the wagon HARD.
In addition to reading this article, we also offer personalized 1-on-1 Online Coaching to help people like you give up sugar and fix their nutrition witout hating themselves! This is an area we put most of our focus – because that’s where you can start to see the results the fastest!
In addition to reading this comprehensive article, schedule a call with our team to see if we can help you overhaul your diet in a way that helps you lose weight permanent and doesn’t make you miserable:
America’s love affair with sugar
Before we get into the biological and physiological stuff relating to sugar and how it affects our body, I want to talk about just how big of a factor sugar plays in our lives.
This might be the most telling statistic relating to sugar, especially when that close to 70% of America is overweight with a THIRD of the nation obese:
1822: Americans consume 45 grams of sugar every five days, or the amount of sugar in a can of coke.
2012: Americans consume 756 grams of sugar every five days, or 130 POUNDS of sugar a year.
As we have grown as a country (in more ways than one), sugar has continued to play an increasingly more prominent role in our food. It’s not just sugary foods like candy and cookies either, but sugar has made its way into practically EVERYTHING we eat.
Unfortunately, it’s not just sugar that’s killing us, but scientifically manufactured “sugar” as well.
Now, we all know that correlation does NOT prove causation, so let’s dig into the science behind why sugar is ruining our bodies.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate.
If it ends in a “ose,” it’s gonna be a sugar. If that’s all you’d like to know, feel free to move onto the next section, as I’m about to get all Mr. Wizard up in here.
There are different kinds of sugar, starting with simple sugars (called monosaccarides) like glucose, fructose, and galactose. Then there are also more complex forms (called disaccharides) like sucrose, maltose, and lactose.
Here’s the cheat sheet to naturally occurring sugars:
- Let’s start with glucose: It occurs naturally in plants and fruits, and is a byproduct of photosynthesis. In our bodies glucose can be burned as energy or converted into glycogen (essentially: liver and muscle fuel). Our bodies can actually produce glucose when needed.
- Next, fructose! This is fruit sugar, occurring naturally in…you guessed it, fruit! It also occurs naturally in cane sugar and honey, and is incredibly sweet.
- Onto the more complex sugars, starting with Sucrose. This sugar is found in the stems of sugar cane, the roots of sugar beet, and can be found naturally alongside glucose in certain fruits and other plants.
- Last but not least, we have lactose, which is essentially milk sugar! This is something that is created as result of a process happening in our bodies: children possess the enzyme necessary to break down the molecule into lactose to be used by the body, while some adults don’t. These are the lactose intolerant folks.
So, we have a few key types of sugar. But where does sugar actually come from? It is USUALLY created as a result of the processing of one of two types of plants: sugar beets or sugar cane. These plants are harvested, processed, and refined to eventually resemble the white sugar you’ve come to know and love (or loathe). This sugar has absolutely no nutritional value: it’s just pure, refined, sugar.
We’ll cover other types of laboratory-created-sugar later.
What happens in our body when we eat sugar?
Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you that sugar can cause tooth decay and rot your teeth.
Sugar is the lifeblood of the cavity creeps!
Beyond that, your body processes sugar in a very specific way.
When you consume sugar, your body has two options on how to deal with it:
- Burn it for energy. WEEEEE!
- Convert to fat and store it in your fat cells. BOOOOO!
Depending on your genetic predisposition, your body might be better equipped to process sugar as energy, or you might be more likely to store it as fat. Think of this like you think of people with faster metabolisms vs. people with slower metabolisms.
Problem is, there’s a LOT more room for fat storage, and a lot less room to burn the sugar as energy.
So, we have this sugar in our body and blood stream. What happens next? When your pancreas detects a rush of sugar, it releases a hormone called insulin to deal with all of that excess sugar.
Insulin helps regulate that level of sugar in our blood; the more sugar in the blood stream, the more insulin is released. Insulin helps store all of this glucose in the liver and muscles as glycogen and in fat cells (aka adipocytes stored as triglycerides).
Now, oftentimes our body struggles to get that balance right (with us putting way too much sugar in our system very quickly). TOO much insulin is released, which ultimately results in our blood sugar dropping below normal levels.
This is called hypoglycemia, essentially a sugar crash: Our bodies respond by telling us: WE WANT SUGAR.
So we cram sugar down our throats and the process starts again.
Unfortunately, the more often this process takes place (the more sugar you consume), the more severe the blood sugar spike is, and the more insulin is required. This means it becomes easier and easier to skip using sugar as energy, and go straight to extra insulin and fat storage.
This is best explained by this three minute video, which is definitely worth watching: Why You Got Fat:
Why You Got Fat Video
Along with making you fat, sugar consumption has been implicated in a litany of crimes, including contributing to an increased chance of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, macular degeneration, renal failure, chronic kidney disease, and high blood pressure.
So, I should just eat less sugar?
Now, you might be thinking: I’ll just eat less sugar and won’t have this issue, right?
Well, that’s a good start, but that’s only half of the battle. You see, our bodies actually process certain types of carbohydrates in a very similar way to processing pure sugar.
Believe it or not, there is an entire area of scientific research on how our bodies process certain foods.
You’ve probably heard of the Glycemic Index, and its lesser known associate: Glycemic Load.
The Glycemic Index is the calculation of how quickly a particular type of food increases one’s blood sugar level, on a scale from 1-100 (100 being pure glucose). Harvard researchers have found that things like white bread, french fries, and other simple carbohydrates have nearly identical effects on our blood sugar as glucose.
Generally, the more refined (processed) the food, the more likely it’ll be to get converted quickly to sugar in our body for processing.
What about fruit and fruit sugar? Keep reading!
For now, hopefully you’re coming to a conclusion with something like this:
“Oh, maybe fat isn’t making me fat. Maybe it’s the sugar and carbohydrates that I’m consuming…”
In fact, it’s that very conclusion that leads most of our Rebels to adapt a diet close to our recommended Paleo Diet for overall health, weight loss, and strength gain. There’s more to Paleo than just “don’t eat sugar” – so we’ve created a guide (100% free) to break it down for you step-by-step. Enter your email below and we’ll send it to you.
Get the FREE eBook! The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Paleo!
- Discover if Paleo is for you
- The one simple trick to know if your food is Paleo-friendly
- Easy Paleo recipes for beginners to get you started
What surprising foods containing sugar?
So, we’re learning that sugar is bad for us.
That’s nothing new, and it’s not a shock to companies that manufacture food. For that reason, companies have started to disguise the sugar in their foods, so it’s not as apparent how much sugar you are consuming. Here’s a quick list of what sugar can be listed as on a label:
- Agave nectar
- Brown sugar
- Cane crystals
- Cane sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Crystalline fructose
- Evaporated cane juice
- Organic evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Raw sugar
Why do they change the name of sugar? Because nutritional labels are required by law to list their most prominent ingredients first. By putting two or three different types of sugar in the food (and calling them each a different name), they can spread out the sugar across three ingredients and have it show up much further down the list! Tricky tricky tricky!
To be sure, READ THE LABELS OF FOODS THAT YOU CONSUME!
If you’re curious how much sugar you are consuming, check out SugarStacks.com, which gives you a simple visual aid as to the amount you’re pumping into your body through surprising meals.
What about fruit sugar?
Ahhhh, the great “is fruit sugar bad for you” debate…
Honestly, I’m quite torn on fruit and fruit sugar. I’m a big fan of the Paleo Diet, and I know a LOT of fruit can contain a lot of fructose (and thus a lot of sugar).
That being said, I believe the consumption of fruit can be beneficial.
When you consume fruit, you are not only consuming fructose (in its natural state), but also consuming fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals. Yes, fruit can have an effect on your blood sugar, it IS sugar. But generally fruit will cause less of a blood sugar spike compared to nutrient-void table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
Along with that: Fiber is an important part of a balanced diet (ask your bowels), and fruit can contain a lot of it!
Here’s my official stance on fruit: Consume fruit that has a low glycemic index/glycemic load to reduce blood sugar spikes and insulin secretion. Consume organic fruit when possible.
If your main goal is weight loss, and you need to keep your carb intake low, minimize fruit consumption and instead load up on vegetables.
However, if your choice is between processed foods, sugary drinks, candy, or fruit…GO WITH THE FRUIT.
What about fruit juices?
So, we’ve established that fruit can be healthy if consumed properly.
Unfortunately, fruit juices don’t really fit into that bill. Here’s why: When you consume fruit juices like orange juice, apple juice, or cranberry juice, the juice is squeezed, giving you all of the juice but very little of the fiber or nutrients that get left behind in the process.
For this reason, many fruit juices should probably be called “sugar water.”
Here is a typical amount of sugar for four popular beverages (stats from DailyBurn):
- Orange juice – 21g of sugar
- Apple juice – 28g of sugar
- Cranberry juice – 37g of sugar
- Grapejuice – 38g of sugar
For reference, a can of teeth-rotting, insulin-spiking, fat-inducing Coca-Cola has 40g of sugar.
Want to know an even worse offender? Naked Juices! The “Green Machine” variety, with “NO SUGAR ADDED” and promised to be “ALL NATURAL” has 28 grams per serving…and there are TWO servings in those little tiny bottles. That means when you consume one small bottle of this “healthy” smoothie, you’re getting almost 60 GRAMS of sugar.
Brutal. Shame on you, Naked.
If you’re going to eat fruit, get it in FRUIT form, not juice form.
If you’re going to drink juice, squeeze it yourself, and even then consume it in small quantities.
What about sugar alternatives?
So, with more research coming out about the dangers of sugar, companies are scrambling to protect their image by promoting “healthy” alternatives so that they can slap on a fancy labels and toot their own horn.
There are a few main sugar alternatives that I want to cover, and allow you to make up your own mind:
Honey – Is Winnie the Pooh onto something here? Is honey a better alternative than regular sugar? The appeal of honey is that it’s not just fructose or glucose, but a mixture of all sorts of compounds, minerals, and more. A study comparing honey to various types of compounds resulted in good results for the sticky stuff: “Overall, honey improved blood lipids, lowered inflammatory markers, and had minimal effect on blood glucose levels.” Along with that, honey resulted in a lower blood glucose spike in rats compared to other types of sugar.
Agave Nectar: This is the most recent darling of the fake “healthy food industry.” Unfortunately, despite the fact that it comes from a cactus (which is natural!), this stuff is so processed and refined, and contains an absurd amount of refined fructose (90% fructose and 10% glucose). Also, the process to create this stuff is similar to the process used to create high fructose corn syrup.
Aspartame: So, many people have switched to diet soda because they heard regular soda can be bad for you. I would guess that 90% of diet sodas out there contains aspartame, a laboratory-created sugar alternative. NutraSweet also contains aspartame and should be avoided. Studies on this stuff have proven inconclusive and wildly different. Although some studies cite an increased link with aspartame and cancer, I believe more research needs to be done. Even still, I have made the decision to avoid aspartame until more conclusive studies surface.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is non-caloric as the body struggles to break it down. Sucralose is approximately 600 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar), and thus can be consumed in smaller quantities to get the same desired “sweet” effect as sugar. Sucralose is available in things like protein powders, Splenda, and other products reliant upon remaining low-sugar or low-carb. Allegedly, sucralose has a negligible effect on blood glucose levels.
Stevia is a naturally occurring sweetener from the Sunflower family. It is approximately 300 times sweeter than table sugar, and allegedly has a lower effect on blood glucose levels. As you can read about here, Stevia has had an interesting history in the United States (for political reasons), but appears to have been used in Japan and South America with minimal adverse effects.
Saccharin is another artificial sweetener, created back in the late 1890s, that is much sweeter than table sugar and thus is consumed at lower quantities. It was linked to increased risk of cancer within laboratory rats and labeled as dangerous by the US, though this label was removed in 2000 due to the fact that the results couldn’t be replicated in humans. That being said, more studies need to be conducted.
This nerd’s opinion: If you’re going to eat sugar, get it from fruit or naturally occurring sweeteners. With that being said, to minimize the effect on your blood sugar, minimize sugar consumption across the board if your primary goal is weight loss.
what about High Fructose Corn Syrup?
I’m writing this section while grinding my teeth because it grinds my gears.
In an effort to keep family farms alive in the Great Depression, the government started paying farmers NOT to grow food, since crop prices were wildly low. Over 80 years later the program has evolved many times, and today we give almost $5 billion a year to growers of commodity crops, creating cheap corn.
Not surprisingly, when given the option to grow a crop with or without a government subsidy, many farmers went the lucrative route.
And thus, we ended up with a crazy amount of excess corn, and nothing to use it for!
(Un)luckily, science stepped in, and found a use for corn beyond just eating it or feeding it to animals.
Scientists discovered by processing and refining the corn, it could be turned into a sugar alternative, called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Despite the name, high fructose corn syrup is actually composed of equal parts of fructose and equal parts glucose.
This video gives a quick demonstration of how HFCS is produced:
As the government continued to subsidize farmers to produce corn, the cheap price of HFCS created a MUCH cheaper alternative for food producers compared to regular sugar.
Now, producers of high fructose corn syrup (and producers of food who use it) argue that it is no different on a molecular level from regular sugar, and is thus a safe alternative to sugar in food and drinks.
Unfortunately, it turns out that HFCS, despite being molecularly similar to regular sugar, does not affect the body the same way as table sugar. A recent study conducted by Princeton University concluded:
Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.
In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides.
Two groups of rats were fed the exact same number of calories. One group was fed HFCS, while the other was fed regular table sugar. The rats fed HFCS gained significantly more weight.
If this was a movie, you’d see an evil scientist in a laboratory, with lighting flashing in the background as he laughs maniacally while creating his greatest evil creation: HFCS, knowing that it’ll soon take over the world.
I highly recommend you watch the documentary “King Corn,” available for free on Amazon Prime for an interesting look at just how pervasive corn and high fructose corn syrup has become in our nation.
- Here’s a list of all the fast food items out there that contain HFCS.
- Here’s a list of all other types of food that contain HFCS.
- Here are 8 “healthy” foods (like Special K and Yoplait Yogurt) that contain HFCS.
Sugar = bad. High Fructose Corn Syrup = Bowser evil.
Can you get addicted to sugar?
So we’ve covered natural sugars, sugar alternatives, and the evil HFCS. Is this stuff addictive?
Short answer: YES.
Long answer: Sugary foods can be as physiologically addictive as many drugs. You can legitimately become addicted to sugar and sugary foods.
From another study:
In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.
In other words: We are not genetically designed to consume the amount of sugar that we are currently eating. For that reason, our brains get that ‘happy feeling’ from sugar and it can override the “I’ve had enough” mechanism.
It’s why your concentration goes to Hell when you eat a chocolate chip cookie and there is an additional plate of them in front of you. Suddenly it’s the only thing you can think about until you’ve eaten them all! Or you eat a Peanut M&M, and suddenly you’ve polished off a family-sized bag.
Do this repeatedly, and like Pavlov’s dog, your brain will start to anticipate this sugar rush and get prepared for it…even when you’re merely thinking about food!
It’s why Cinnabon is usually isolated in malls – away from the food court, it has a better chance of getting its smells into your nostrils from far away…which then triggers that mechanism in your brain if you love sugar: “SUGAR! CINNABON! HUNGRY NOW!” Suddenly you can’t think of anything else.
It’s also why everybody in line for Cinnabon looks so depressed. As Louis CK hilariously points out (NSFW language): it’s like they have no control.
I think I’m definitely addicted to sugar.
I’ve already covered food addiction, but I want to talk specifically about sugar.
Like with any other addiction, you have two main options:
- Cold turkey (and suffer through the withdrawal).
- Slowly ramping down the addiction.
I’m a bigger fan of the second option, as I find that most people end up going overboard when they fail on the “cold turkey” and are worse off than before.
However, I don’t know you personally (which is a shame!), so you’ll have to decide for yourself which method is best for you.
Like with any habit, it’s far easier to build a new habit in place of an old one than just trying to get rid of the old habit, so let’s take action:
1) Create your new identity. “I am somebody who is completely in control of the food that I eat.” “I only drink soda once a day instead of four times a day.” “I don’t eat cookies.” The more specific and positive and definitive you can make your new identity, the more likely you will be to eventually make that identity your new reality.
2) Be aware of your cravings. When you start to crave sugar, don’t just run to get sugar immediately. Take a few minutes and analyze why: is it because you are depressed and unhappy? Bored? Hungry? Sugar creates that happy feeling in your brain, and thus you could be craving sugar for any number of reasons.
3) Once you identify the reason for your sugar craving, decide if there is another activity you can complete to accomplish the intended desire without sugar. Maybe you’re bored, so going for a walk or playing a game or talking to a friend could help. If you’re unhappy, understand that the quick rush of sugar does not beat out long-term happiness and success. If you’re hungry, eat food with lots of fat and protein and fill yourself up.
4) Identify rules for yourself, and stick with them by minimizing willpower required. “Today, I will replace one of my sodas with water.” “I drink water with dinner, I don’t drink soda.” “I don’t ________.” It’s important to use “don’t” instead of “can’t”. Studies have shown that using “don’t” results in a much stronger dedication to habit building.
5) Increase the difficulty to continue your bad habit. Don’t keep cookies on the counter. Don’t keep ice cream stocked in your fridge. If you are trying to eat less sugar, increase the number of steps between you and sugar. If you are on your couch and see a commercial for something sugary, use your own laziness to work for you. Suddenly, getting in the car, driving to the store, and buying something sweet is more effort than its worth.
Along with those few steps to get started, here are some other things you can do to help yourself fight the battle and win.
- Get mad. Like, really mad. I hate not feeling in control, and right now, the sugar and food companies have you under their control. If anything, you’re going to kick your sugar addiction to make yourself healthier and happier, but also out of spite. Stick it to the man, and let him know you’re taking back your brain.
- Don’t do it alone. Have somebody to talk to through the process. Work with others who have successfully kicked their sugar habits (check the NF boards if you don’t have somebody at home).
- Need SOMETHING sweet? Try dark chocolate or fruit. If you are craving something sweet, aim for alternatives that aren’t as bad for you or don’t trigger the same blood glucose spike. Eat dark chocolate with a cocoa content above 70% – you still get to feed your sweet tooth, but the sugar content in minimal compared to milk chocolate.
- Slowly scale it down. I don’t care if it takes you a year of slowly changing your habits to kick your sugar habit. Every change counts, and every little bit adds up. If you drink a case of diet coke every day, tomorrow only drink 11. In two weeks, cut it back to 10 per day. And then 9. And then eventually maybe it’s “only one on Friday.”
- Keep busy. If you are thinking about sugar, get up and go do something or engage your brain in another way so that you are not stuck with a one-track mind (focusing on the sugar that you’re not currently eating).
- EXERCISE! Sugar raises serotonin and dopamine levels, which can factor into your cravings. Exercise can do the same thing! Try exercising when you have sugar cravings…get that rush (and build your habits around that). Get addicted to the high from exercise.
- If you have children, save them now! Sugar addiction is built up over time, and yours might have started back when you were a child. Instead of creating a reward system with candy and treats, create a reward system that rewards your kids back with a healthier lifestyle (like in Zelda!).
- If you have to have sugar, consume it close to a workout. When you consume sugar before or after a workout, you will have a greater chance of burning the sugar/carbs as energy or having it stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver rather than being stored as fat!.
At the end of the day, understand that you are in control. If you are going to eat chocolate or something sweet, it’s because you made a conscious decision to do so OCCASIONALLY, not because you had to have it. Understand that it will be challenging. Understand that there will be cravings that get better with time.
Most importantly, understand that what you really want (a happier, healthier life) can’t happen if you keep settling for what you want RIGHT NOW (sugar!).
Understand that you can change.
We know the list of action items above is easier said than done when you are going at this alone with very little support. Trying to quit a substance that can take over your brain is brutally difficult, especially if you don’t have the right support system and strategy in place! This is why we created our uber popular 1-on-1 online coaching program: specific instruction, expert accountability, and somebody that you can be truly honest with about your struggles with food!
If you want somebody to help you make better food choices in a way that doesn’t suck, build a FUN workout program for you that fits into your busy schedule, and gets to know you better than you know yourself, we might be a good fit for each other!
You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:
Vote with your wallet
Every time you buy food, you are casting a ballot.
Every time you purchase something with high fructose corn syrup in it, you’re sending a message that you don’t care about your body, that you are satisfied with food that is making you sick, fat, and unhealthy.
Why not cast your vote for a better life?
Today’s article is educational: without action it’s just a pile of underpants.
I challenge you to decrease your sugar intake.
I challenge you to start eating more real foods and less processed ones.
I challenge you to cut back on candy and soda purchases.
Are you up to the challenge?
I’d love to hear about your personal relationship with sugar. Would you call yourself addicted? Have you kicked an addiction? If so, how did you do it?
Share your story below and help out your fellow rebels!
PS – Phew, if you made it this far, I want to share two ways you can get more in-depth training, advice, and help making fitness a priority. As we mentioned, our first is our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. No more shame, no more hiding what you eat, no more guesswork – you’ll get expert guidance and accountability from a professional on Team Nerd Fitness who gets to know you better than you know yourself!
Sound good? Head over to our Coaching page and schedule a free consultation to see if it’s right for you!
PPS: 40,000+ rebels have joined us in the Nerd Fitness Academy! If you’re interested in strength training and want more specific workouts to follow, nutritional advice and meal plans to pick from, a boss battle system, character leveling system, and a supportive community, check it out. We’d love to help you level up with us. See you inside!
What to know about sugar in fruit
Research consistently links refined and added fructose, both of which are present in sugar and sweetened products, to a higher risk of health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
It is worth reiterating, however, that this research looked exclusively at fructose in its processed form as an additive in sweetened foods, not at fructose from whole fruits.
Although some fad and extreme diets aim to reduce or eliminate fruit from the diet, for most people, there is no evidence to suggest that fruit is harmful.
A 2014 study comparing fructose with glucose reviewed 20 controlled feeding trials. Although pooled analyses suggested that added fructose could raise cholesterol, uric acid, and triglycerides, it did not have a more negative effect on lipid profile, markers for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or insulin.
People with diabetes can also safely consume fruit. In many cases, sweet fruit can satisfy a craving for something else. Fruit has far less sugar than most sweet snacks, which can mean that a person consumes fewer calories and less sugar while also obtaining valuable nutrients.
Things to be aware of
Whole fruit is always a better choice than packaged or processed fruits.
For example, manufacturers tend to heavily sweeten and highly process fruit juices. Flavored juices that they market to children often contain large amounts of added sugars. These juices are not a substitute for whole fruit, and they may significantly increase a person’s sugar consumption.
People who consume canned fruits should check the label, as some canned fruits contain sweeteners or other flavoring agents that can greatly increase their sugar content.
A very high intake of fruit, as with any other food, may cause a person to consume too many calories, which may increase their risk of obesity. Overeating fruit, however, is difficult.
To exceed a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet by only eating fruit, a person would have to eat approximately 18 bananas, 15 apples, or 44 kiwifruits each day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, most people eat fewer than five servings of fruit per day.
Some of the only people who should avoid fruit are those with rare conditions that affect the way their bodies absorb or metabolize fructose. People with specific fruit allergies should also avoid some types of fruit.
A condition called fructose malabsorption, for instance, can cause fructose to ferment in the colon, causing stomach pain and diarrhea. Also, a rare genetic disorder called hereditary fructose intolerance interferes with the liver’s ability to metabolize fruit, which may require a person to adopt a diet without fructose.
Pregnant women in their second trimester should try to avoid eating more than four servings of fruit per day, especially of fruits that are high on the glycemic index. They may also wish to avoid tropical fruits, as these may increase the risk of gestational diabetes.
Skipping sugar may be the current craze, but if you’re eliminating fruit from your diet you’re doing yourself a disservice. “Fruit provides a lot of things we need,” says registered dietician Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It. “It provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also hydrates us and provides us with fiber, which fills us up.”
Here are nine fruits you can feel great about indulging in whenever your sweet tooth strikes:
Berries are a great option when it comes to picking fruit that’s low in sugar. A cup of strawberries has only 7 grams of sugar and provides more than your daily recommendation of vitamin C.
The best way to minimize your sugar intake is to be mindful of your portion sizes, says Taub-Dix. Grapefruit is a great option as an alternative to sugary snacks, but stick to the serving size — half of one of the fruits, which contains only 8 grams of sugar.
nata_vkusideyGetty Images Related Story
They may not be the top of mind when it comes to fruit, but they’re just as satisfying. Avocados are full of healthy fats that protect your heart and lower your LDL (a.k.a. “bad”) cholesterol, plus phytochemicals that reduce oxidative and inflammatory stress. One avocado has a little over a gram of sugar.
These late-summer favorite only have 7 grams of sugar and 30 calories a piece, according to Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
These berries are surprisingly low in sugar given their sweet taste: One cup contains only 5 grams of sugar. And with 8 grams of fiber, they’re more likely to leave you feeling full than other fruit.
This is another hall-of-fame berry: One cup packs 7 grams of sugar, 8 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein.
Marion Tohang / EyeEm/getty Related Story
If you have diabetes or are concerned about how fruit is affecting your blood sugar, consider changing the way you eat it. A whole apple has a lower glycemic index than apple juice, says Taub-Dix. On its own, one medium apple harbors only 19 grams of sugar, whereas a cup of unsweetened apple juice has about 24.
When you are craving something sweet, reach for a juicy peach instead. One medium peach contains about 13 grams of sugar.
As with apples, you’re better off eating the whole fruit than drinking its juice. A standard orange has 12 grams of sugar and more than the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. A cup of unsweetened OJ, meanwhile, has twice the amount of sugar and only a third of the fiber.
Is the sugar in fruit bad for us?
Asked by: Roger Britton, via email
The sugar in fruit is mostly fructose and glucose. Glucose is the primary food molecule, and can be used directly by the cells in your body. Fructose, however, must be converted into glucose before it can be used. This happens in the liver, but there is a limit as to how fast the liver can process fructose. When it is overloaded, it will instead convert the fructose into fat – so high-fructose diets tend to make you obese.
But surprisingly, a diet that’s rich in fresh fruit isn’t a high-fructose diet! That’s because fruits have a lot of fibre and water that slow down your digestion and make you feel full. In fact, research has found that apples and oranges are some of the most filling foods per calorie – higher than steak or eggs. So although a medium apple contains 19g of sugar, including 11g of fructose, you will feel less hungry afterwards than if you had the same amount of sugar from a fizzy drink (roughly half a can of Coke).
It is almost impossible to get too much sugar from fresh fruit, but this doesn’t apply to fruit juice or dried fruit. They are much easier to binge on.
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