Take fruit for instance: A single apple contains roughly 19 grams of sugar, but in order to access those molecules your body first has to break down cellular walls and digest the plentiful fiber therein. This is how your body is meant to get its sugar—you are literally designed to do so. Plus, the whole apple is only about 100 calories. Besides, says Giancoli, “we do need some sugar in our diet, we just don’t want it in a concentrated form.” Choosing to get your sugars from fruits is better simply because the whole package is more nutritious. We challenge you to find a toddler going into a sugar rush after eating an apple.
On the other hand, dried fruit generally has the same fiber content as fresh fruit, but with much less water. Without that bulk, you can eat many more dried blueberries than you could fresh ones. That also means ingesting more sugar, and 20 teaspoons isn’t good for you regardless of where it came from. It’s certainly possible to eat enough fruit to tip over your recommended daily sugar intake.
At what point do natural sugars become hazardous?
It’s tempting to conclude that because the natural sugars in fruits tend to be better for you overall, all natural sugars are better. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Even some fruits like dates contain so much sugar that, though nibbling a few is better than downing a soda, eating too many will be just as bad as gorging on cake. Yes, you’re getting more fiber and other nutrients along with it, but in the end you should be striving to get less sugar overall.
Similarly, alternatives to table sugar are often just as bad as the plain white stuff.
“People say you should use honey, but what’s interesting about honey is that because the sucrose is split apart [into glucose and fructose], you can fit a lot more of those molecules into a tablespoon,” explains Giancoli. “A tablespoon of honey has more calories than a tablespoon of table sugar.”
So, again, sweetening dessert with a dash of honey instead of smothering it in powdered sugar is probably a good choice. But that doesn’t mean your treat isn’t a treat. It’s important not to confuse healthier sources of sugar with healthy sources of sugar.