Why Sugar in Fruit Is Not “Bad” (+ Nutrition Label Change)

I was a little disheartened to recently see a reader write into EatingWell Magazine and ask, “I’m dieting. Should I skip fruit (and its sugar)?” Here’s my answer to that – noooo! That was the magazine’s answer too, although a little more toned down LOL. The author went on to explain that “people who eat fruit tend to be slimmer than those who don’t,” and that “we rarely overload on fruit … in fact, most of us aren’t consuming nearly enough” – nowhere near the recommended 2 cups per day.

The Sugar in Fruit (i.e. Naturally Occurring Sugar)

Of course, it’s imperative we eat plenty of vegetables as well, but it’s important to understand that the naturally occurring “sugar” in fruit is absolutely nothing to fear. It has been packaged together by nature with the right amount of nutrients and other good stuff (like fiber, which helps to slow absorption). Fruit is a healthy whole food which is exactly what our bodies need!

This line of thinking is all too similar to comments I’ll occasionally receive on a school lunch post of mine (like the one below). Now and then someone will say “that’s a lot of sugar” when in fact there is not a single drop of highly processed white sugar added. What they’re usually referring to is the fact that this lunch includes a variety of fruit as well as (plain) yogurt, all which contain naturally occurring sugar and (as I’ve just explained) is categorically nothing we should avoid!

I try not to get frustrated when people say those things about what I feel is an incredibly wholesome and unprocessed lunch (especially compared to the Standard American Diet)! But I do agree this particular meal happens to be void of vegetables and also contains homemade whole-wheat waffles (made with a small amount of honey – a natural but “added” sugar, no less). I tend to look at the whole day though, or even the entire week, when making sure we’re good on veggie consumption – not just one meal. Oh, and no one’s perfect LOL.

Sample real food lunch with naturally occurring sugar

Avoiding Added Sugar

In fact, this next picture is a lunch that would make me think “that is a lot of sugar” – ADDED sugar. This is an example of what we should avoid. That simple word “added” makes all the difference! There’s easily 12 or 16 teaspoons (as many as 64 grams) in the soda alone. Not to mention the cupcake, jelly beans and even white bread all contain added sugar! But nowadays sugar consumption no longer just comes from sweets and sodas. Food manufacturers add it to everything from the bread I mentioned, to salad dressings, crackers, yogurts, peanut butter and more. You’d be hard-pressed to find factory made food without it!

Unhealthy lunch packed with added sugar

Changes to Nutrition Facts Label

This big difference between “added sugars” and naturally occurring sugars is precisely the reason I’ve been looking forward to the Nutrition Facts label change announced a few years ago. Sadly, the deadline given to manufacturers to make the required updates has been delayed! But even so, some companies have already started.

I found a package with the updated label at Target the other day. These cherries are a perfect example of a product that contains both naturally occurring sugar (in the fruit) as well as added sugar. But, before the label change, it was challenging to tell how many grams of sugar is from the fruit itself versus the added white stuff in this bag.

Now though we can see that this dried fruit has 17 grams, which is over 4 teaspoons, of added sugar per serving (see my conversion chart here)! That exceeds the recommended allowance of sugar for children (which is 3 teaspoons- for the entire day)! This is exactly why I try hard to avoid dried fruit with any added sugar at all. I’d prefer to enjoy a cookie for my allotment of sugar for the day instead, haha.

Dried cherries from Target with updated Nutrition Label showing added sugars

Hopefully, more companies will follow suit soon! Has anyone else noticed the label change on products yet? If so, I’d love to know what you’ve uncovered about your favorite packaged foods and how much added sugar they honestly contain!

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17 thoughts on “Why Sugar in Fruit Is Not “Bad” (+ Nutrition Label Change)”

  1. I have a friend name Amika. she has a little much fatty and trying to diet for last five to six month. Last month I was meet with her and I was surprised to see her. She was looking petty but the problem was she has some weakness for her dieting. After asking her she told me about her diet chart and I see there was a little portion of fruit level because of she believe that the sugar of fruit is a reason for fat. Last week when I give her to read this article then she got something to understand that sugar in fruit is not a reason for fat.

    Thank you so much for such a good post.

  2. Thank you Lisa for posting this.

    With so many diets people follow for health reasons I feel the general public gets so mixed up on what we should be eating.

    I feel it’s always good to first consult your doctor if you feel something is wrong. If your doctor gives you the go ahead, then good old fashion real food if nothing is always the best bet along with just getting to know your body, how does it feel?

    ~Allison

  3. Many people have metabolic problems that show up as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides, and diabetes. These people have their symptoms clear up on a low carb type diet like keto, wheat belly, and others. In metabolic syndrome, the body becomes intolerant to sugar and starches. So it’s not the problem of natural sugars in fruits, but the fact that for many of us we can no longer tolerate the high sugar content. It took me forever to accept that healthy whole grains and some fruits are just too high in carbohydrates for me. There is no blanket real food diet that is right for everyone. You need to know what foods are not good for yourself as an individual, and not judge others. For me, the sugar content in most fruit is not good right now. Maybe if I heal (if its possible) I will be able eat more fruit again.

  4. I’m so glad you posted this!! I follow you on FB :)
    I started a life change end part of May this year (2017). I call it “a life change” as I was done with Fad diets. I wanted real food FOREVER! First part was to cut out Processed food and High Fructose sugar!!!
    A shop in my town that sells Protein powders. (Since I joined a gym, a friend recommended I get some). Well they told me to cut out all FRUIT! Sugar is Sugar they said. It kinda made me a bit sad as I try to eat a Banana for Leg cramps and Love Apples!
    Since I am over weight they told me nothing with sugar. Also some Veggies like Baby Carrots have high sugar…. I said WHAT? You want me to cut out Apples, Banana’s and Carrots! These are foods I put back into my weekly routine meal plans and now your taking them away. Well now your post confirms what I felt was right all along. Sure cut them out if your looking for a quick fix FAD DIET! But in moderation’s I will eat them since they are Real Food and Better then any processed food I use to shove my face with for 25 years. I wanted to comment this as I admire you and your page and have purchased your kids lunch idea books even though I’m using them for myself too. If someone else like myself is struggling to make a change. You get Healthy in the Kitchen… You get fit in the gym. I’m have lost 27 pounds since June by just changing what I eat. I didnt set a quick goal, I set a life changing goal! It took me 25 years to be unhealthy so I know in time I will be to a point in my life where I dont have to worry about my future Health ever again! Thank you again for your 100 days of real food site. You inspire me to keep eating REAL!!

  5. Lindsay Untherbergus

    Also, some people are going to judge you no matter what you eat or feed your kids! The other day, I was munching on some raw carrot sticks, and someone said, “You should really eat fewer carrots, they have a lot of sugar in them.” A few days before that, I was eating raw almonds, and someone commented, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re eating those, they’re so high in calories!” Ignore what other people say and just keep eating your healthy foods :)

  6. Lindsay Untherbergus

    I completely agree. My friend tried out the Keto diet for a few weeks, which is a low-carb diet. So, she wasn’t “allowed” to eat much fruit. I just can’t stand fad diets like this. What kind of legitimate diet would promote fruit as unhealthy?

    1. Keto isn’t a “fad diet”, it’s supposed to done as a lifestyle choice for eating. Some people do a lot better on low-carb/high-fat/high-protein diets then other people do. It’s not about labeling fruit as “unhealthy”, it’s about making choices for your own weight or health.

  7. It might be worth looking into the sugar present in modern fruits vs. what was present in fruit 50 years ago, as well as the relative size of the average apple, orange or banana today vs. what it was back then. From what I have read, modern fruits are bred to be much sweeter and much larger than the fruit of my childhood days.

  8. This is true for most people, but a few people need to remain low -FODMAP. For these people an excess of fruit or certain types of fruit cause digestive discomfort.

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