Your Questions About Sugar Answered - Natural Sweeteners & Fruit

Do you have questions about sugar? We’ve got you covered with answers to some of the most common questions: Is natural sweetener better than refined sugar? And what about fruit? Let’s talk about sugar’s effect (in its various forms) on your body and health.


Honey vs. agave vs. sugar vs. maple syrup…

Which is best? While more natural forms of sweeteners may impart different flavors or nutritive qualities, as far as health aspects like blood sugar spikes and crashes, heart health, and fiber are concerned, sugar sweeteners (sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup) are the same. It’s best to avoid a large amount of sugar if you are looking for sustained energy throughout your day, and overall health longterm.

That said, as long as you are consuming a small amount (like a teaspoon in your morning tea), just choose the sweetener you like best.

Overdoing it on sugar-sweetened beverages? You can find out how to cut back on sugary drinks here.


What are added sugars?

Added sugars describe any time that additional sugar is added to a food or beverage. While some foods do naturally contain sugars such as fruit, they don’t contain added sugar. When you drink a soda, chances are you are consuming added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your total added sugar intake for the day to 36 grams for men and 25 grams for women. On packaged foods, you can find the amount of added sugar on the nutrition facts label.


What about fruit?

Whole raw fruit (like an apple) contains fiber and nutrients that fruit products (like applesauce or apple juice) do not. The natural benefits of whole fruit result in lower blood sugar spikes than those seen after consuming processed fruits. Using that logic, it’s best to choose an apple over applesauce, and applesauce over apple juice.

Fruits vary in sugar and carb content. Some fruits have higher sugar content than others and can affect blood sugar (and therefore overall health) more. Portion sizes matter, as well. Here are a few examples of how different fruits measure up to each other:

Don’t worry, just because a fruit has a higher impact on blood sugar doesn’t mean you have to avoid it completely, but it’s good to be aware – that way you can make smart choices day-to-day. For example, maybe you like to eat two bananas as a snack, but you would be happy to switch to one banana in the morning and a serving of berries in the afternoon to even out your glycemic load throughout the day.

Pro-tip: pair higher sugar fruits with protein and healthy fats, such as a banana with peanut butter. This slows digestion (and therefore blood sugar spikes and crashes) and boosts variety of nutrients.


Dried fruit

Dried fruit has a higher concentration of sugar and carbs than their non-dried counterparts because much of the water has been removed. Think about the size of 10 grapes versus the size of 10 raisins. The raisins will take up much less space, so the serving size is much smaller. This makes it easy to overdo it on dried fruit, but as long as you are savvy about portions, dried fruit can be a part of a healthy diet.


Fruit with meals (carb swaps)

When using the Brook Healthy Plate to create you meals, you will notice that fruit is in the same category as other carbs, like potatoes and rice. When adding fruit to a meal, or having it for dessert, it’s important to remember that fruit contains carbs. One cut up strawberry on top of a salad may not change the balance of the meal, but a larger portion of fruit will. If you plan to consume fruit at a meal, simply reduce the rest of the carbs on your plate so that the total volume of carb-containing foods remains at 1/4 of the plate. 

Everyone, regardless of health status, can benefit from watching sugar intake and working to balance blood sugar. Blood sugar ups and downs occur in everyone, it’s our body’s natural response to eating food!

If you do have diabetes or you are checking your blood sugars, keep in mind that your blood sugar response from fruit is unique to you. Experiment to find out which fruits work for you by measuring your blood sugar before and 90 – 120 minutes after eating fruit. Be sure to log it in the Brook app so you can keep track of your results.

Struggling with sugar cravings? We’ve got you covered with some tips and tricks for getting you off the sugar rollercoaster.

Chat with us in your Brook app for more support!

Image of Brook Health Expert Kelsea
Reviewed by Kelsea Hoover, MS, RDN​

on February 10th, 2020. Kelsea is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Health Coaches.