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Is the Sugar in Fruit Bad for You?

food Feb 26, 2024

Are smoothies healthy? Are they really just sugar bombs masquerading as health food?

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question, do you need protein powder? in my Tipsy Tuesday email. That grew into a blog post and an article posted on a platform called Medium.

You know I love answering questions. I find that if one person has a question, many of you have the same question. 

Here's one that came in yesterday: 

What are your suggestions for watching sugars in fruits and vegetables?

I love this question. It's simple and demonstrates how confusing nutrition in the popular press can be. 

The TLDR (too long, didn't read) answer 

The short answer is that you don't have to worry about the sugar you eat in fruits and veggies. At all. You cannot overdose on fruit or veggies. 

While fruit does contain sugar, it's packaged completely differently from sugar that is added to processed foods and fruit drinks.

  • The simple sugar in fruit is packaged with fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
  • The fructose in fruit is processed in your liver and does not spike blood sugar.
  • Your mouth must do the work to chew the whole fruit or veg.
  • Your body has to do the work to digest the fruit, separate out the sugars, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and process it.
  • All of this takes time and prevents the sugar spike we associate with consuming processed foods with added sugars. Whole fruit does not have a significant impact on blood sugar levels

Having said that, the emphasis is on whole fruit.

As we enter into the world of smoothies and fruit juices, things change a bit and this is where confusion flourishes. 

Here's where fruit and veggies can go wrong. 

Once you blend the fruits and veggies, you make it easier and faster for your body to break down the nutrients in the smoothies.

Let's consider the time frame.

  • It may take 15-20 minutes to consume an apple.
  • Blend the apple into a smoothie and you can drink it down in 1-3 minutes.

The volume of sugar entering the digestive system during the bite, chew, swallow cycle is moderated and slowed. And, while your teeth do a great job of breaking down food, they're probably not as efficient as a blender. This means your digestive system has to do some more mechanical and chemical breaking down of the apple once it hits your stomach. 

Back to your smoothie.

The 8g of simple sugars contained in your apple has now hit your system in 1-3 minutes instead of slowly. Even if you add greens and beans to your smoothie, you may get a blood sugar spike if you drink it quickly because the sugar hits your system all at once. Think of blending as a bit of pre-digesting. 

What's the solution? 

I know, I've just made your favorite smoothie into a problem. But it doesn't have to be.

There's a simple solution. Can you guess what it is? 

Slow down.

It's tempting to pound down your smoothie and get on with your day. Instead, sip it. Slowly. Take up to an hour to sip your 1 cup smoothie.

That's a long time with a small volume, I know.

Here's the upside.

  • You'll get increased absorption of the nutrients in your smoothie.
  • You can savor the flavor, and you won't get the sugar spike.
  • You'll avoid an "ice cream headache" if you use frozen fruit or add ice to your smoothies. 

This is also your reminder that while smoothies are packed with great nutrition, they can also be very calorie dense. Make sure your smoothie serving is one cup, not three.

It's easy to make an entire blender full of plants and want to drink the whole thing down.

Instead, think of it as meal prep. Divide your smoothie into 1-cup portions and have them in the fridge or freezer at the ready when you need one. 


P.S. I love answering your questions. In The Women's Wellness Academy, we all get together once a month in The WINNERS Gatherings to ask questions and dive deep into nutrition and fitness questions. Join us


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