Question: How much sugar in my diet is too much? Should I limit sugars from fruit too?
Answer: Added sugars contribute to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, impaired cognitive function, and cancers. Added sugars may be listed on ingredient labels as sugar, honey, evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar or fruit juice concentrates. Regardless of the name, these nutrient-deficient substances are absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream, raising blood sugar and insulin to dangerous levels; or in the case of the higher fructose sweeteners, increasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The average American gets about 15 percent of calories from added sugars, and getting 10 percent of calories from added sugars is associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to lower sugar intake.1
It is likely that any amount of added sugar is too much. Eating foods with added sugars habituates us to their excessively sweet tastes, driving cravings and overeating. As humans we naturally gravitate toward sweet flavors, and we should allow this natural inclination to guide us toward fresh fruits. Fresh fruits provide pleasantly sweet flavors packaged with fiber, essential nutrients, antioxidants and other phytochemicals that protect us against the same diseases that added sugars promote. Unlike processed foods with added sugars, nutrient-rich fresh fruits do not perpetuate sweet cravings and overeating.
For optimal health, I recommend that you strengthen your taste buds to prefer the more subtle sweetness of fruit. Try some of the recipes in the Member Center Recipe Guide or in my books for sorbets and fruit-based desserts. If you are eating according to true hunger and are not diabetic, limiting fruit intake is most likely not necessary; however it is possible to overeat, especially on dried fruit or dates. Three to five servings of fruit per day (depending on your calorie needs), with a focus on berries and pomegranate, is a reasonable guideline.