The Difference Between Fruit Sugar and Added Sugar


Is the sugar found in fruit and table sugar basically the same?

What You Hear Out There

“Fruits are composed mainly of sugar; I can only eat very small amounts, if I eat them at all.”

Reality Check

Peaches, plums, berries, and melons are all at their juicy peak! Despite the smorgasbord of flavors and colors offered by summer’s fruits, many people pass them by out of fear of their sugar/carbohydrate content.

What many people do not know is that there is a huge difference between the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits and added sugars. The primary sugar in fruit is fructose, which some refer to as fruit sugar. Fruits also contain water, fiber, and several other beneficial phytonutrients, making them an optimal choice to include in a balanced and healthy eating style.

Purified forms of sugar include such common additives as table sugar, honey, and high fructose corn syrup. These sugar types are often consumed as the sugar added to soda, candy, and sweetened baked goods. At a minimum, you should consume these added sugars in moderation, but ideally, they should barely be consumed, if at all!

Refined and added sugar weakens your bones and promotes obesity, fatigue, lack of concentration. and tooth decay. Researchers are learning that Mother Nature put more thought and chemistry into her fruits than just sweetness. Many fruits contain phenols, a form of antioxidants that offer many health benefits, including protection from heart disease, cancer, and other damaging effects of free radicals in the body. Added sugars certainly do not provide these benefits, since they are no longer part of the symphony of powers that whole foods provide when ingested in the body in their natural form. In addition, the benefit seems to be derived from eating the fruit, not a mixture of added sugars and supplemented phenols.

How Do We Know This?

For one example, strawberries were recently found to help with glucose metabolism and reducing increases in blood lipid levels after meals. This research study, published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, supports the role the phenols in strawberries play in decreasing the oxidation of fatty acids that could cause a buildup of plaque in the arteries.¹

It’s not just strawberries that contain these phenols that protect the body from many of the leading causes of death; most fruits do as well! Stone fruits, including peaches, plums, apricots, and pluots, are also high in phenols. A study published in Molecules found that apricots have 15 different phenol varieties.²

Nutrient Rich Super Fruits

Yes, fruits contain sugar, but this sugar is different from refined and added sugar. Refined and added sugars lack the multiple health promoting qualities of fruits provided by the presence of naturally occurring phenols, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

When it comes to reducing sugar intake, your goal should be to limit foods that have corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey, dextrose, molasses, malt syrup, glucose, fructose, lactose, or maltose listed as ingredients.

The antioxidant quality of super fruits and vegetables is just one of the many ways fruits and vegetables are protective and promotional to your health. Consuming a diet that meets or exceeds the daily recommendation for fruits and vegetables is an important part of a whole foods, plant-based, nutrient-rich diet. Combining this type of type with adequate exercise and ample sleep is the only way to give your body a strong defense against cancer and other diseases. While some cancers and diseases have other causes, eating a nutrient-rich diet based on vegetables and fruits reduces the free radicals that can damage tissues in your body and contribute to many of the leading causes of death.

The Bottom Line

No one is saying it’s a good idea to overeat sugar, but fruit must be part of your daily intake if you are going to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

¹ Burton-Freeman, B., A. Linares, D., and T. Kappagoda. “Strawberry Modulates LDL Oxidation and Postprandial Lipemia in Response to High-Fat Meal in Overweight Hyperlipidemic men and women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition (2010); 29(1); 46-54.
² Sochor J, O. Zitka, H. Skutkova, et al. “Content of Phenolic Compounds and Antioxidant Capacity in Fruits of Apricot Genotypes.” Molecules (2010); 15(9); 6285-305.

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