The low-carb, low-sugar diet craze has led many people to avoid fruit. But health and nutrition experts say that's a bad idea, according to a new report in The New York Times.
Although fresh fruit can be high in sugar, it is also packed with fiber, antioxidants, and healthy nutrients, and should not become a casualty of the war on sugar.
David Ludwig, M.D., the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, said sugar consumed in fruit is not linked to any adverse health effects, no matter how much you eat. In a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, he cited studies that showed that increased fruit consumption is tied to lower body weight and a lower risk of obesity-associated diseases.
Dr. Ludwig noted that the combination of healthful ingredients in fruit is beneficial in ways that aren’t outweighed by sugar content. When you bite into an apple, for example, the fruit’s fiber actually helps slow your absorption of fructose, the main sugar in most fruits. But fiber is not the full story.
"You can't just take an 8-ounce glass of cola and add a serving of Metamucil and create a health food," Dr. Ludwig said. "Even though the fructose-to-fiber ratio might be the same as an apple, the biological effects would be much different."
Four apples contain the same amount of sugar as 24 ounces of soda, but the slow rate of absorption minimizes any surge in blood sugar, which contributes to insulin resistance, increasing the risk for Type 2 diabetes.
"If we take a nutrient-centric approach, just looking at sugar grams on the label, none of this is evident," Dr. Ludwig said. “So it really requires a whole foods view.”
Another nutrition expert, Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, who has called sugar "toxic" at high doses and fructose the most "actionable" problem in our diet, is still a fan of fruit.
"As far as I’m concerned, fiber is the reason to eat fruit," since it promotes satiety and the slow release of sugar. He adds a third benefit from fiber: it helps different species of healthy gut bacteria thrive.