From time to time, nutrition trends circle the world of food and stir things up. Processed foods were once considered a disruptive innovation, now they’re out. Pesticides were a game changer for farmers, and now the conscious consumer avoids them like the plague. More recently, fruit, once loved for its contributions to health, has made its way into the villain title.
The current crop of popular diets, like keto and paleo, have swayed some into thinking that certain fruits should be avoided. The rationale? Well, fruit is written off for being high in sugar. While it’s no lie that fruit contains sugar, what matters is the type of sugar, and the vessel it is carried in.
We think it’s time fruit got a fair shake. Let’s dive in:
Natural Sugars vs. Added Sugars
Fructose is a natural sugar commonly found in whole fruit. It’s encased in a nutrient- and fiber-rich shell, which is the form that our bodies recognize and know just what to do with. The fiber in fructose slows down the absorption of sugar so it doesn’t enter the bloodstream as quickly, and can be properly metabolized. Fruit is also packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, which the body requires to keep doing its thing.
It is important to note fruit-based powders and juices are not the same as whole fruit when it comes to fructose. In these cases, that fiber-rich shell has been compromised, and our bodies lose the ability to absorb the sugar slowly. At Everipe, we use freeze drying to preserve the cellular structure of the fruits we use, meaning the fiber content stays intact, and their benefits are passed onto you.
You’ll notice that dietary guidelines don’t actually restrict the amount of natural sugar you should consume in a day. According to the World Health Organization, the sugars that are naturally occurring in fruit, vegetables and dairy are okay. But we should be wary of sugars that have been removed from their original source and added to foods, which are considered added sugars.
Added sugars are anything that doesn’t occur naturally in a food, including sugar found in processed foods, the sprinkle of coconut sugar you add to your latte, the maple syrup you drizzle on waffles, and the half cup of sugar you add to a berry pie. Added sugars are considered to be “free sugars” because they aren’t bound by fiber, protein, or other nutrients as they would be in their original source. When we eat food with added sugars, a different process than the one described above (you know, the one about fiber and slow absorption) is triggered in the body.
In what we’ve coined the ultimate free pass, these added sugars are directly absorbed into your gut, bypassing the standard metabolic process, and enter the liver all at once. The liver, hit with a huge dose of sugar, metabolizes what is immediately needed for energy and saves the rest for later-in the form of glycogen and fat.
When you're considering the sugar in your diet, it is important to consider the source. Just like your momma taught you.
Comparing Mangoes to Sour Patch Kids
Now that we have the basics of added sugar vs natural sugar down, let's explore how the differences play out in your diet.
In terms of sugar content, a mango and Sour Patch Kids provide almost the same amount of sugar per serving. A one-cup serving of mango contains 23g of sugar, whereas a serving of Sour Patch Kids is 16 pieces at 24g of sugar. When you look at these facts, it’s easy to rationalize that a mango is just as “bad for you” as a handful of Sour Patch Kids.
But this information is also taken out of context. It’s like a social media post – all we see is one, usually happy, moment in time, but we don’t have an image of the ongoing struggles that most people face. Similarly, what we miss from only looking at sugar content is that a serving of Sour Patch Kids is 110 calories and doesn’t contribute any other nutrition. Meanwhile, a serving of mango is 100 calories, and it contains over 20 different vitamins and minerals that benefit our health. Now that’s what we call nutrient dense!
Not to mention, mangos are loaded with antioxidant capabilities and fiber helping to prevent sugar spikes and making them a more satisfying snack. If we turn the magnifying glass back to Sour Patch Kids, the ingredients list is quite literally filled with different types of sugars and dyes. They will be metabolized quickly, meaning you’ll end up hungry again quicker and your blood sugar will go on a bit of a rollercoaster. So, when we look at the whole picture, it’s clear that we’re getting much more than just 23g of sugar in a serving of mango. But with candy, what you see is typically what you get!
A Few Final Thoughts
If we’re looking to pinpoint what’s wrong with the American Diet, we need to consider how far we have strayed from the basics of nutrition: the foods that nourish us and make us happy. Over centuries, humans have eaten all sorts of plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and many also hunted for various meats. At the end of the day, humans require certain nutrients from macronutrients (like carbohydrates, protein and fat), vitamins and minerals for our bodies to function properly. In order to stay healthy and feel our best, the main priority should always be satisfying our nutritional needs, which at the end of the day come from eating a balanced diet.
Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet has been long established to help with weight loss and to prevent chronic diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fruits are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, essential nutrients and minerals and a whole lot of delicious natural sugar. They’re known as nature's candy for a good reason – they’re the healthiest sweets around!
All of this just goes to reinforce that you shouldn’t feel like you have to avoid certain foods for a weight loss diet–especially something as benign and nourishing as fruit! Instead of limiting certain ‘sugary fruits’ like the banana and mango, you’re probably better off trying to limit the amount of ultra-processed foods you eat, like Sour Patch Kids, that come with a whole bunch of ingredients that nature never intended.
We also understand that certain processed foods have crept into our diet to keep up with our busy, on-the-go lifestyle. That's why at Everipe, we're proud to have created a product that merges both needs: convenience and whole food nutrition. Our smoothie kits are made from freeze dried fruits, which allow the fiber and many of those vital nutrients to stay intact. Our smoothies have no added sugars and are packed to the brim with superfood fruits, helping to boost fiber and nutrition, keeping you satisfied longer and preventing that sugar crash.