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Why we should vary our fruit intake

by Colleen P Moyne (Colmo) (follow)
I'm a freelance writer living in the beautiful river town of Mannum in SA, dreaming of the day I can retire from the 9-5 to write full time.
Nutrition (265)     
We know that eating fruit is good for our health. Fruits are packed with essential nutrients and we should be including at least two serves a day in our regular diet. However, not all fruits are equal in their nutritional content, so it’s important to vary the kinds of fruits we eat.

What I have found quite surprising is the amount of sugar in some fruits. Its form of sugar is fructose and combined with the other nutrients in whole fruit, it is somewhat healthier, partially due to its slower release.

Mixed Fruit
Image courtesy of SOMMAI/freedigitalphotos.net

My mother really didn't like most fruits except for bananas, so she made sure she had at least one banana each day – sometimes two, which of course is better than no fruit at all, but bananas are quite high in sugar content. A large banana has the equivalent of around five teaspoons of sugar, so over the course of a week she potentially consumed seventy teaspoons of sugar just from eating bananas.

This is not to say we shouldn't eat bananas. They are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods and are high in vitamin B6 as well as other good things like potassium and manganese. The message here is to include a wide variety of fruits to receive the most benefit from them.

Mixed Fruit
Image courtesy of pixomar/freedigitalphotos.net

Here is a bit of a run-down of the sugar content of some commonly eaten fruits (medium-sized). The sugar content is shown in teaspoons.

- 1 Apple (medium) - 5.5 tsp
- 1 Apricot (medium) - 1 tsp
- 1 Banana (medium) - 4.25 tsp
- Blackberries (1 cup) - 2.25 tsp
- Blueberries (1 cup) - 4.25 tsp
- Cherries (10) - 2.25 tsp
- Clementine mandarin (1 cup) - 7 tsp
- Cranberries (1 cup) - 2 tsp
- Honeydew melon (1 cup) - 3.25 tsp
- Kiwi fruit (1 cup) - 3.5 tsp
- Mango (1 cup) - 7.5 tsp
- 1 Orange (medium) - 4 tsp
- 1 Peach (medium) - 1.5 tsp
- 1 Pear (medium) - 4.5 tsp
- Pineapple (1 cup) - 5.9 tsp
- 1 Plum (medium) - 2.75 tsp
- 1 Pomegranate (medium) - 6.25 tsp
- Raspberries (1 cup) - 2 tsp
- Strawberries (1 cup) - 1.5 tsp
- Watermelon (1 cup) - 2.75 tsp

Mixed Fruit
Image courtesy of Mister GC/freedigitalphotos.net

It was interesting to see such a significant variation in sugar content and there were a few surprises like apples, clementines and pomegranates. These sugar levels could be of concern especially for diabetics, so use this list as a reminder the next time you are buying fruits. Try to mix it up a bit so that all your good intentions are not wasted.

Mother Feeding Baby Fruit
Image courtesy of marin/freedigitalphotos.net


Thumbnail image courtesy of pixomar/freedigitalphotos.net
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You're right about tomatoes and cucumbers. A medium tomato has less than a teaspoon of sugar and a cup of sliced cucumber (about 100 grams) has less than half a teaspoon, so enjoy!
Cheers, Colmo
Great article and great advice. I keep telling myself I should vary my fruit intake more.

I should also point out that tomato and cucumbers are fruits as well. If you can find decent organic tomatoes they are actually delicious too. There is also no reason why we can't just eat cucumbers like a fruit too. In northern China they actually do this, just grab a cucumber and eat it. With tomatoes they sprinkle them with sugar which is a little less healthy.

Any information on the sugar content of tomatoes and cucumbers

Excellent point Roy! I'm quite partial to eating a small organic cucumber on its own in the summer - it's incredibly refreshing and hydrating - I believe it contains 95-96% water and very little sugar.
Thanks for this. My husband is a diabetic and his sugars have been going haywire lately. I keep telling him just a huge bowl of fruit for lunch is a lot of sugars, but he wouldn't believe me. Now I have it in writing!
Thanks for your comment.

The sugar content of fruit is something to be aware of if you are diabetic, but as long as you are eating a wide variety of fresh, whole fruits high in fibre, it shouldn't be a problem. There is very little evidence to support the idea that diabetics should avoid fruit. Recent research actually shows that fresh whole fruit can help prevent the onset of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

If your husband isn't prepared to give up his fruit salad lunch, just make sure he's getting a wide variety of fruits, and perhaps suggest a sprinkling of cinnamon on top, which is reputed to reduce blood sugar levels.
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