A decontextualised reading about some of the current trends in dietetic research casts a shadow of doubt over the eating of fruit. Are we doing the right thing by eliminating fruit from our diet just because it contains sugar? The answer is ‘no’, and I’ll tell you why in this post.

That we should encourage the consumption of certain food groups among the general population is beyond doubt. One of these groups is that comprising fruits. However, there are people with a biased view of the situation who criminalise their consumption, given that their sugar content is one of their shared characteristics… Let us analyse this kind of reasoning. Is it true that fruits are characterised as contributors of sugar?

Fruit inside (and we don’t mean the stone)

With so many different types of fruit, and so many varieties therein, it becomes quite complicated to talk about their nutritional content given that it will always be possible to find exceptions and nuances need to be introduced for specific cases. In any case, if fruits, generically speaking, are characterised by one thing, it is for containing very few calories per unit of weight. In fact, in a subjective evaluation, 99% of fruits are below, or well below, 90 kcal per 100 grams. This piece of data is of major relevance because what we derive from it is that fruits do not have large quantities of any of the three main macronutrients (fat, proteins or carbohydrates –the generic group to which sugars belong–). These three elements are generally, the only ones responsible for providing calories to a foodstuff. In fact, the calories we attribute to whatever product depend almost exclusively on the proportion of the aforementioned macronutrients (also called immediate principles). Therefore, the most important thing, quantatively speaking, in the weight of fruits is the only possible one, water. Fruit is, in general, very rich in water and poor in macronutrients.

Fruta dieta saludable

However, if we only take into account the three macronutrients, it is carbohydrates, compared to the other two, which stand out clearly. And among these are sugars in the form of fructose ( monosaccharide characteristic of fruit, which explains its name), sucrose ( a disaccharide formed from the union between two monosaccharides, glucose and the aforementioned fructose), glucose and then other sugars in a much lower relative proportion.

But before we take only these data into account, there are other important things to bear in mind about fruit as food. In reality it is much more that a product that contains water and sugars. That’s how we could define so-called “soft drinks”, carbonated or not, commercial “everyday” juices… or even “natural” juices, energy drinks and similar products. But not fruit. As well as the aforementioned sugar content, fruit is an outstanding source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other beneficial phytonutrients, all of which bring about a big change in the general perspective we must have of this food group.

Consensus and recommendations: fruit should be part of a healthy life pattern

One of the bluntest and most sustainable messages for the longest period of time from the World Health Organisation with regard to this matter is clear and hard-hitting:

Take on a minimum of 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day for the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity […]

In addition, the WHO provides a series of important data:

  • Sufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables could save up to 1.7 million lives a year.
  • Insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables is one of the 10 biggest risk factors of mortality at a global level.
  • It is calculated that the insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables causes approximately 19% of gastrointestinal cancers, 31% of ischaemic heart disease and 11% of strokes globally.

This posture is based on overwhelming scientific evidence, with numerous important studies, among which: