Sweetening Benefits of Fruit vs Sugar
Sharon Palmer, R.D.
The old way of thinking was that a gram of sugar was a gram of sugar, whether it came from fruit or high fructose corn syrup. But that rationale has come under fire recently. Evidence suggests that your body can tell the difference between nutritionally empty refined sugars and naturally occurring fruit sugars that come packaged with an arsenal of nutrients. And enlightened consumers are skipping the sugar bowl and turning to the culinary power of fruits to add a naturally sweet touch to foods.
The fact is we're eating too much sugar. According to
Sugar was targeted as a primary health culprit in a 2009
New research also points out problems inherent in sugary diets. In a study published in
Fruit sugar vs. refined sugar. While you shouldn't worry about replacing all added sugar in your diet with fruit, there are benefits to be gained by replacing some of it, according to
Brand-Miller explains: "A gram of sugar in an apple might not behave exactly the same as a gram of sugar in a jellybean. The jellybean will be absorbed faster and elicit a higher insulin response, which suppresses fat oxidation and, maybe, over the longer term, encourages weight gain. The gram of sugar in the apple might also be more satiating than the gram in the jelly bean and suppress hunger for a longer period, encouraging better weight control."
The benefits of fruit over sugar extend beyond its glucose effects. "Skipping refined sugars and using the natural sweetness of whole fruits enhances the nutritional value of foods with a bounty of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants," says
And let's not forget the power of fruit phytochemicals on health. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the 2010
Of course, strawberries aren't the only fruit packed with antioxidant properties. Try a variety of fruits, such as apples, berries, dates, raisins, figs, cherries, bananas and prunes, in lieu of sugar in your favorite recipes.
Fruit Sweetening Stars in the Kitchen
Check out this all-star lineup of versatile fruits that can help you skim the sugar from your diet.
Add to breakfast cereals, sweeten baked goods like cakes and soft cookies. (See note on substitution.)
Mix into smoothies, non-fat plain yogurt, and use mashed to replace sugar in breads, cakes, puddings and cookies. (See note on substitution.)
(i.e. strawberries, blueberries, blackberries):
Slice into cereals, yogurt, smoothies, pies, and puddings. Puree to make a topping for pancakes and desserts.
Chop into cookies, cakes, pies, and creamy desserts to replace sugar; puree and add to dressings, marinades and smoothies.
Dried, unsweetened fruit
(i.e. raisins, figs, cherries, berries, apricots):
Stir into hot cereal, granola, trail mix, puddings, pies, cookies and cakes.
Use in cereals and yogurts. Puree to create a sweetener to replace sugar in baked goods like pancakes, quick breads, cakes and cookies. (See note on substitution.)
When using this fruit in recipes, replace half of the required sugar with this fruit, and cut liquid by 1/4 cup.
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