Are these nature’s healthy sweets, or should we steer away from them? (Photo: leonori / Shutterstock / NTB scanpix)
Are these nature’s healthy sweets, or should we steer away from them? (Photo: leonori / Shutterstock / NTB scanpix)

Is fruit really that healthy?

Fruit does contain quite a lot of sugar, but does that make it as unhealthy as candy?

Published

There is no end to dietary advice on the internet, in newspapers and other media. Much of the advice is contradictory.

Should we shy away from fruit because of its fructose content? Should we eat more fruit? If you are striving for a healthier body and decide to cut out candy and sweets, should you turn your back to fruit?

We asked Erik Arnesen, a health advisor for the Norwegian Heart and Lung Patient Organisation (LHL), whether fruit should be avoided. He has a degree in public nutrition, conducted research at the University of Oslo and has been appointed by the Norwegian Directorate of Health to a national nutrition council.

Arnesen has no doubts that fruit is really healthier than candy.

“Fruit can be a fine alternative to candy but it mustn’t be compared to it,” says Arnesen.

Non-tropical fruits

Arnesen also says fruit does not really contain a lot of sugar.

“It’s true that most of the calories in fruit, with the exception of avocados, come from sugar. But fruit consists mainly of water. This makes the sugar less concentrated than in candy.”

“Fruit also contains much more, including fibre, vitamins, potassium and polyphenols. In whole fruit the sugar is packed inside the cell walls of the fruit,” he explains.

This means that fruit is much healthier than candy, even though it might taste as good and sweet.

“What we should limit, however, is so-called free sugar. This is sugar that has been added, like sugar in honey, syrups and juice.”

Those who remain concerned about the natural sugar in fruit can choose apples, pears, citrus fruits, stone fruit and berries rather than tropical fruits,” says Arnesen.

“As with everything else, one shouldn’t overdo things, and that includes the intake of fruit.”

Eat fruit!

“Nobody should avoid eating fruit. If people refrain from eating fruit it would be detrimental to public health. In 2013, some 1,400 deaths from cardiovascular disease in Norway could be attributed to low intakes of fruit,” says Arnesen.

If a person seeks a healthy diet there are so many other things to worry about. Arnesen is certain that warnings against fruit because of the sugars it contains might take people’s attention away from real problems, such as the sugar added to food and drinks.

National dietary recommendations call for eating two different fruits and three different vegetables per day and this advice is still relevant.

“This recommended amounts of fruit is not even negative for blood sugar regulation of diabetics,” points out Arnesen. He backs this up with a reference to a Danish study of patients with type-2 diabetes who ate two portions of fruit daily.

An evenly healthy diet is still important for a healthy body and Arnesen stresses that an unhealthy diet cannot be made healthy just by eating more fruit.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no

Translated by: Glenn Ostling

Reference:

Christense, A.S. (et.al) Effect of fruit restriction on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes – a randomized trial. Nutrition Journal (2013)

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