fruit-on-sugar-free-diet

To fruit or not to fruit?

Today on the blog I’m going to share an article that I had published on www.welltodo.com this week with some important messages on something I get asked about a lot…fruit!

If you’re reading this here it’s likely you sit in the craving control camp and so do consider the fruit you eat. However, it’s worth getting your head around this messaging because as you start to lead a lower sugar life or make positive change, you may well get asked about fruit by others and can come unstuck how to answer (I know I did for a while). It’s very important not to communicate fruit as a sugar villain to others who aren’t controlled by sugar.

 

fruit-on-sugar-free-diet

Image: Lauren Purnell

To fruit or not to fruit

It’s the topic that’s on everyone’s lips. What is the deal with fruit on a sugar-free or low sugar diet?

You read conflicting messages – health magazines say one thing, nutritionists say another and your personal trainer has an altogether different view. With differing messages, you can end up a bit confused.

Having been through the same fruit confusion myself when first exploring a life with a lot less sugar, and seeing my clients go through all the phases of sugar detoxing and low sugar life transition, here’s what you need to get you head around when it comes to fruit.

There is not a yes/no answer to the fruit question – it’s very personal.

Where you settle with fruit COMPLETELY depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Maybe you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake, lose weight, train for a marathon or get control over your sugar cravings. All of these things need a different approach. When you read blanket advice about fruit, be mindful that you have to factor in your personal context and goals.

Understanding fruit and fructose.

Fruit comes under fire because of its fructose content. An excess of fructose sugar in your diet isn’t good for your health because it is processed differently to other sugars, where it’s metabolised by the liver and can increase fatty acids in your blood and increase uric acid levels amongst a whole host of other things.  At this stage it’s worth remembering that refined sugar is 50% fructose, and that fruits have varying amounts in them.

However, whilst fruit is a source of fructose, it’s also packaged up with fibre that helps slow down the absorption, not to mention it hosts an array of super health-promoting anti-oxidants and nutrients that are beneficial to your health. Bananas for example are great after intense exercise and an apple is a superb on-the-go snack. Therefore a small amount of fructose, especially if it’s in the form of whole unprocessed fruit, certainly won’t be having a detrimental impact on your health and may well enhance it.

So what’s the problem?

#1 Fruity products and ‘natural’ but processed stuff

The first issue with fruit and fructose is the sheer excess of processed ‘natural’ fruit in many products that strip out the fibre and/or concentrate the sugar.

Sweet things taste nice, and they sell. With the increasing amount of sweetness in our diets these days, we’ve grown very accustomed to the taste. As a result, we are bombarded daily with ‘healthy’ fruit filled natural sugar products. Whilst of course healthier than a Mars bar, frequently consuming all of these ‘healthy’ fruit based things – juices, smoothies, dried fruit bars, granolas – in addition to whole fruit itself, and you’ll likely find your fructose totals quickly tally up to a potentially unhealthy level.

fruit-sugar-free-diet

#2 Craving control

The second issue lies in your cravings, control levels and personal preference to sweetness.

If you’re trying to increase your sensitivity to sweet things so that you’re less tempted by them and feel a bit more in control of how much you want to eat, eating an excess of fruit or fruity products isn’t going to help, and may even make things worse because you’re developing a preference for fructose.

It’s why you can get super healthy vegans, vegetarians, paleo and raw enthusiasts all still hooked on sugar even if they don’t actually eat refined sugar. The fruit or dried fruit is healthy until the excess fructose starts having a negative impact on your health or you start feeling habitually or emotionally dependent on it. Natural fructose, even in fruit, can be just as addictive as refined sugar fructose.

What to do

As you can see, there is no straightforward yes or no when it comes to fruit. It completely depends on where you are at with things, and what you’re trying to achieve, especially in terms of your relationship with sweet food and your cravings.

If you don’t quite feel in control of your sweet habits, then a sugar detox or temporary period of lower fructose (without fruit) may well help you tame the sweet tooth that sabotages your other healthier efforts. It will help you create new habits around savoury alternatives and become less dependent on sweet food in your day-to-day diet.

However, if you don’t feel cravings that often, or you’re able to satisfy them moderately with a little fruit here and there, then it is likely you can enjoy fruit as part of a healthy diet with no restriction needed.

Working out your personal optimum fruit amount takes a little experimentation, time and knowledge. Transitioning to lower sugar life can be a bit complicated on the fruit front as you go through but you can find your way to incorporate it sensibly in your health efforts. Use your cravings as your own gauge to determine how much is right for you and know that fruit absolutely can be part of a healthy lower sugar diet long term if you want it to be.

I’d really love to know what you think on this one so please leave a comment below on your general opinion or how you handle this topic with others. I’m widely opening the doors to discussion!

Laura xx

20 replies
  1. Juliana
    Juliana says:

    Hi Laura, it seems that you have read my mind. I really was questioning how to decide about fruit. I’ll experiment myself to see results toward my low sugar life! Thanks!!!

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Juliana, amazing I’m so glad the article helped and thanks for letting me know 🙂 If you’ve got any questions along the way don’t hesitate to ask or post another comment with them. I’m potentially thinking of some fruit strategies or experiments that people can do to help them work out what’s right for them x

      Reply
  2. Pollymorph
    Pollymorph says:

    Since having 8 weeks avoiding as much sugar as i could, i find i am now able to eat natural fresh fruit in moderation. neither craving it nor factoring it in the daily diet. it does suit the times when you need an on-the-go snack due to its “ready wrapped” appeal so for me, its still there, but in the background not the foreground of my diet. i find though with dried fruits i have to avoid them as when i snack on these i get an instant, terrible urge to swamp myself with sweetness.

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Polly, thanks for your comment. I really like how you’ve described it there – being in the background and not the foreground of the diet. I think that’s a great way of looking at it and I feel completely the same. Dried fruit has a similar impact on me if I have too much so I know it’s a bit of a trigger. Hope you continue to feel great and enjoy the moderated fruit in line with your low sugar diet 🙂 x

      Reply
  3. Angie
    Angie says:

    Hi Laura,
    Great article and you’re right … it’s a personal decision about what’s right for you. I now know that I used fruit and smoothies as a substitute for basically any other sweet treat, thinking I was being mega healthy, and the real problem was the AMOUNT of the stuff I was getting through! A smoothie for breakfast or mid-morning … another one after lunch instead of “pudding” … grabbing pots of prepared pineapple or melon on the go … it was constant!! I also believed that I would never be able to give up fresh fruit … I loved it too much! But here I am, almost a year on and I simply don’t give it a second thought. Fruit smoothies simply don’t feature at all and I really can’t remember the last time I ate a piece of fruit … probably a couple of weeks ago … AND I DON’T MISS IT!! Which is a minor miracle as far as I’m concerned. And I have you to thank! 😉 xx

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Angie, thanks for this comment and for sharing. Like you say many can disguise an unhealthy amount of fructose in the form of smoothies and fruit salad to excess! Glad you’ve found your right place with it that works for you. Strangely I find I like it more in the summer or when in a tropical country which makes sense as it’s seasonal and native to those temperatures. Hopefully others reading this will find a balance that works for them over time xx

      Reply
  4. Hannah Jelley
    Hannah Jelley says:

    enjoyable read, very well rounded in its approach. I especially appreiciated how you gave a nuanced answer and didn’t choose the easy option of a one-sided approach allowing the reader to come to their own conclusion in relation to their relationship with fruit.

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Hannah, thanks SO much for this comment, it’s really really appreciated as it did take me ages to craft this article carefully with the messages in the right way. Hopefully it will give a bit of clarity to people who are feeling confused

      Reply
  5. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Really enjoying your blogs, Laura. They help to keep me concious of what I am eating. Thank you. I for one, could not imagine life without fruit: crunching on an apple, wincing at a sour plum, banana or blueberries on my oats, mango and natural yoghurt combined. Humans are meant to eat fruit and not all the handy stuff processed and packed in factories.

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Wendy, thanks for your comment! Very much appreciated 🙂 Like I said in the article if you don’t feel fructose is calling the shots then fruit isn’t a problem and does provide variety and interest to a diet. Humans absolutely can eat fruit but just remember that they usually would have done so seasonally – I quite like to eat what’s in season and available more locally if I do. Enjoy those crunchy apples and like you say it’s the processed products which are the main culprit here x

      Reply
  6. Heidi
    Heidi says:

    As a diabetic, I watch all sugars I take in my eating plan. I do eat some fruit, but it is very limited. I liked what you said that it is up to the individual to decide that is a very well thought out answer to the problem, some people can eat more than others, and not have a problem with it, some must eat less. There are many things to consider. For me is the emotional side of the sugar as well as the physical. I eat some mixed berries in the morning when my blood sugar is low, and I chop up one apple a week to put into a chicken salad that lasts four or five days, so one apple gets spred over that period of time. So, not a lot, but if I go to a buffet or a pot luck dinner and the dessert table is laden with sugar filled yummms, I will choose a banana or an apple or a wedge of watermelon over one of the sugar treats. Balance for me is the key. Thanks for such a great article and for the service you do.

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Heidi, thanks a lot for your very informative comment and I very much appreciate your praise 🙂 I think you’ve articulated it really well and I’m very similar to how you describe. Fruit can be a nice natural substitute when you’re faced with a sugar onslaught at a buffet! The longer you go on, the more you get comfortable with knowing what does and doesn’t work for you x

      Reply
  7. personalfitnesstrainer
    personalfitnesstrainer says:

    I’m curious to find out what blog platform you are working with?
    I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest blog
    and I would like to find something more secure. Do you have any
    recommendations?

    Reply
  8. Heather
    Heather says:

    Hey Laura, I think it’s so great that you differentiated fruit juices and actual fruit. I think oftentimes, people hear the word fruit when talking about juice and automatically assume it’s healthy. Sure there may be beneficial vitamins in fruit juice, but there is also a TON of added sugar. Helpful? I think not.

    Yes actual fruit has sugar, but it’s not quite the same. I think each person can obviously make their decision about fruit. Both my husband and I eat plenty of fruit because it serves as a great alternative to other sugar-added foods. This is especially helpful because my husband is not a huge vegetable person (but we’re getting there)!

    Thanks for all of the information you put out here!

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Heather, thanks SO much for this comment. Like you say, it is important to differentiate with the fruits and fruit juice. My mum sounds potentially similar to your husband where just eating any fruit and vegetables is better than nothing. She has no problem with fructose addiction so it’s not an issue at all but for those who’ve had a delicate relationship with fructose, you just have to navigate the fruity waters a bit more carefully I feel. Do let me know if you have any other questions or things you’d be interested in me talking about. Laura x

      Reply
  9. Emma Sayer
    Emma Sayer says:

    I read this post with interest as I did do an 8 week detox where I cut out fruit and reintroduced it slowly. My policy now is generally to allow myself 1-2 pieces of lower sugar fruit a day as I do love fruit such as berries and melon, and to try and top up all the goodness with lower sugar veggies instead, although it’s difficult as I’ve never really been much of a fan of veggies and struggle to come up with imaginative ways to incorporate them into meals. I also allow myself the occasional bit of 85% dark chocolate or a bit of honey on my pancakes but I try to limit this as much as I can as I’m concious of becoming hooked a gain. I definitely think my sensitivity to sugar has changed for the better but my old fears are still there unfortunately so I’m extremely aware of consuming too much sugar! I’m hoping this will settle down and become a bit more normal the more used to eating this way I get! Thanks as always for the support and info!!

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Emma, thanks for your comment. Massively appreciated. Trust you will settle down with time. 1-2 portions a day is perfect so now you can just focus on building that trust with yourself. It might be the case that you need to embed the new habits for a month or two more and then you can relax into it. I would encourage you now to shift your focus away from the amount of sugar and start tuning into your hunger and what savoury foods you’re fancying the most x

      Reply
  10. Michaela
    Michaela says:

    Hi Laura,
    very good post, thank you. I’ve been experimenting with my position to sugar and whilst I think it’s surely OK in moderation, my current mode is to have an apple occasionally and use bananas in the low sugar desserts recipes and it seems to be working for me. However, I am traveling to Hawaii for vacations next week, so I guess that with all those exotic organic fruit options that await me there, I will indulge myself there. I am quite curious what would it do with my current balance 😉

    Reply
    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Hi Michaela,

      Thanks for the lovely comment. OH Hawaii – how cool! Exotic fruit in it’s natural climate is ok to eat more of because I always think it’s good to eat the stuff that is natural to the area. I find I eat more fruit in Bali when I’m there. It’s just that in Western countries we have access to everything rather than just seasonal fruit. Like you say bananas in recipes can work really well to naturally sweeten. Enjoy the holiday and just be mindful if the extra fruit does do anything with the cravings. Laura xx

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *