Reader question: I am trying to cut down on my sugar, but I eat a LOT of fruit. I am having the hardest time finding definitive answers on what total sugar should be (natural and refined) and see loads of conflicting stuff about how your body processes natural versus refined. I can find hard numbers on how much refined or added sugar you should have, but lots of conflicts on whether or not that should include sugars found in fruits and vegetables.
Brigitte’s Answer: The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. That’s almost 1/2 cups a day, 3 1/2 cups a week, and 182 cups of sugar per year.
This enormous amounts of sugar is the number one reason for obesity, diabetes and the blood sugar disregulation that affects so many Americans.
Fruit contains natural sugars, which in itself isn’t harmful. Sugar becomes harmful when it is consumed as refined sugar, in the large doses regularly consumed by the average American.
Refined sugar is devoid of any nutrients, and is not healthy. Sugar spikes your blood sugar levels, which results in insulin being released into your bloodstream. When insulin levels are high, your body releases enzymes that raise the levels of arachidonic acid in your blood, and releases other pro-inflammatory cells that lead to inflammation. Messing with blood sugar levels is what causes diabetes and hypoglycemia. It also increases your risk for other inflammatory disease.
The good thing about fruit and vegetables is that they contain anti-oxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients. Refined sugar has no nutritional value, is addictive, and likely to be associated with foods that are processed and lacking in nutritional value.
If you are getting a good diet of unprocessed food, quality protein, a very moderate amount of grain, and an extremely moderate amount of refined sugar, eating as many fruits and vegetables as you’d like is optimal.
To sweeten foods, use natural sugars like raw honey or maple syrup. Checking the glycemic loads of various sugars gives you a better idea of what to avoid.
If you’re still worried about how fruit might be impacting you, check out this article by Chris Kresser that teaches you how to monitor your own blood sugar levels at home. It’s the only way to gauge whether the amount of fruit you are eating is causing unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels.
Are you confused about what is healthy, and what is not? Send me an email with your questions, or write them in the comment box below and I try to answer them in an upcoming blog post.