Is Fruit and Fructose Fattening?

Alex McMillan

Alex McMillan

Head Trainer, Mid Age Man

Fruit is full of fructose. Sugar, in other words, one your body will use before anything else. Many people eat 5 times the amount of added sugar that's recommended in their diet. So is fruit and fructose bad for you?

Fruit, we’ve always been told, is good for you. An apple a day keeps the doctor away and all that.

Yet sugar is the new fat for many people, the silent killer in our diet. Blood sugar, woah, watch out! It has spikes!

And fruit is full of fructose – sugar. Most of the rest of the fruit is water.

So fruit is bad for you. A big bag of sugar water. Basically, Mother Nature’s can of Coke.

Wait, what?

Fruit (blueberries + pear), carbs (bran flakes), dairy (milk) + coffee = a great way to start the day.

There’s any number of online articles telling you various versions of “These 10 Fruits Make You Fat.”

They’re clickbait listicles, hoping you’ll click into them, and then inch down a wormhole of subpages that ultimately ends up trying to get you to buy a diet plan.

Mid Age Man does not believe in diets. And fruit is not fattening. Your mother was right. Fruit will keep the doctor, and the nutritionist, at bay.

Sure, if you ate 10 pineapples per day, you’d get fat. An apple contains 20g of sugar, the equivalent of about 5 sachets in your morning coffee. Fruit packs a fructose punch.

Dragonfruit are a favorite in Asia, whether white or red on the inside.

Fruit also contains fiber, phytonutrients and “essential” elements that we need in small amounts. “Essential,” in nutrition terms, means we have to eat it to get it.

Fructose is indeed an easily accessed sugar, and in fact the go-to source for energy for your body. It’ll use fructose even before the glucose from carbs and other sources.

But fructose from fruit is a far cry from “high-fructose corn syrup,” or syrup, or neat refined white sugar. All of those contain no other nutrients, and rush straight into our blood stream, causing that dreaded spike in blood sugar.

Fructose from fruit goes into your digestive system, where your body has to work hard to extract it. The fiber slows the digestion down, ensuring the fructose is also used slowly, creating no spiky blood sugar. Plus, the fiber feeds some of the 4lbs of beneficial bacteria that call our gut home, our own personal microbiome.

Ever tried a custard apple? Creamy, sweet and satisfying – and a lot healthier than real custard!

There are other pluses to fruit. Each different type contains its own chemical concoction of nutrients that we typically need in our diet.

Take the proverbial apple. It contains Vitamin E, a family that consists of 8 antioxidants. Antioxidants help scavenge “free radicals” from our body, by giving them electrons. Free radicals are the product of oxidation, and are unstable compounds that can cause damage to cells and tissue.

Oxidation isn’t inevitably bad, and free radicals do serve a function in cell breakdown. But left unchecked they are fingered as a root cause of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Apples are also a good source of chromium. It’s a metal we need in small amounts that enhances the effectiveness of insulin (which helps us process and use sugar), as well as helping the body metabolize both glucose (a sugar, of course) and fat.

So apples actually help us process sugar, as well as containing it. Yes, each apple contains that 20g of fructose. That’s similar to a sports drink. But it’s half the amount of sugar found in a Starbucks Grande Frappuccino.

Other fruits have a similar list of goodies that they contain. It’s not important to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them all. There’s one here. Just eat a broad range of fruit, and you’ll get those essential elements.

Bananas are good sources of electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, plus Vitamin C.

You’ve heard of good fats? Well, there are good sugars, too. Americans get 20% of their daily energy intake from added, artificial sweeteners. Those are the bad kind – they shoot straight into your blood.

Artificial sweeteners don’t have any extra goodies. And they are soooo easy to slurp (or munch) down too much. Most people shouldn’t be getting more than 50g of added fructose per day. We regularly eat and drink 5x that amount.

You’d have to eat 11 apples to hit that threshold. Who does that?

Apples are filling. They are satisfying to eat, in a way that a bag of Skittles is not. And when you’re done with that bag of Skittles, not only do you have an environmental disaster of a plastic bag on your hands, you still have to eat everything else that will give you the essential nutrients you need.

An apple contains some essential nutrients, and a good dose of the fiber that cleans your innards and feeds your belly bugs. And it comes in an environmentally friendly container (eat the skin, that’s where most of the plant nutrients are).

And when you are eating that filling apple, another major plus is that you are not eating other things – like cookies, chips, or those Skittles! You’ve got satisfying food that fills you and gives you goodies.

Fruits are no less-bad for you than nuts. (That piece of bad English means they’re both good for you).

Look on a packet of nuts. They are FULL of fat – sometimes 50%. You can literally light a macadamia nut on fire and use it for reading during a power cut, like its close cousin the candlenut. The same trick works even better for a Brazil nut.

Mid Age Man is nuts about nuts. They’re highly nutritious, and full of trace but essential elements. They are satisfying. If you’re looking to lose weight, try eating a handful of nuts 15 minutes before your meal. Add this high-fat handful, and you’ll not overeat at the meal.

And Mid Age Man is fervent about fruit. It’s GREAT for you. Far from a “bag of sugary water,” it’s a fibrous ball of “good sugar” bound up with other essential goodies.

Kiwi fruit have a lot of bang for your buck, with 20 nutrients and 5x the Vitamin C of an orange.

If you can show me an obese person who eats large amounts of tree nuts and fresh fruit, I will eat a hat that says “Make America Great Again.” And that has literally no essential ingredients. Underneath it you normally find a confused bag full of hot air.

Obese people, bar some unfortunate genetic disease, eat candy. They eat Pizza Hut. they eat McDonald’s. They eat Cocoa Puffs – and while actual cocoa is good for you, Mid Age Man is NOT cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Processed food. Processed sugars. Processed fats. Processed flours. Processed carbs. Processed drinks. Processed to make them more stable on the store shelf, easier to use in industrial quantities, easier to wolf down in large and unhealthy amounts.

At least 1 out of every 4 people is technically obese in the English-speaking world, according to the World Health Organization: Ireland (25%), the United Kingdom (28%), Australia (29%), Canada (29%), New Zealand (31%), and of course the literal heavyweight United States (36%).

The United States is more obese than anywhere else on the planet, bar Kuwait (38%) and several Pacific island states, topped by Samoa (47%) and Tonga (48%). They also have the most processed food. Malaysia is the fattest nation in Asia, a process largely attributed to the natural food off the farm being replaced by packaged processed plasticated food.

There’s an interesting study on obesity and metabolic syndrome, conducted by doctors from the Instituto Nacional de Cardiologia in Mexico City and from the University of Colorado. The study took 131 people, most of them (78%) women, who were looking to lose weight and split them into two groups. Both cut their food intake.

Ah, the humble apple. Much more than a bag of watery sugar. Listen to your Mom!

One bunch of ahem “big boned” patients ate a low-fructose diet, including artificial sweeteners. The other group of plus-size participants ate a moderate-fructose diet of natural fructose from fruit.

Both groups lost weight. But the moderate fructose folk eating fruit lost more weight, even though they consumed more fructose. “For weight loss achievement, an energy-restricted moderate natural fructose diet was superior to a low-fructose diet,” the doctors conclude.

Fruit and its fructose are the last thing those overweight people should fear. Fruit is a great pre-workout and post-workout snack, to get an energy boost, and filling for us the rest of the time, too. If anything, given its multiple benefits, it’s fruit that would make America and the rest of us slim, healthy, graceful and great again.

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About the author

Alex McMillan

Alex McMillan

Head trainer at Mid Age Man. Alex believes there are four pillars to being healthy: physical fitness, sensible nutrition, mental strength, and wellbeing for your body and soul.

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