Ask a Dietitian

Send Registered Dietitian Alice Ma your nutrition and food questions at We will do our best to answer every question, and will select for the column those that may be most useful to a larger audience of readers.

"There is so much delicious summer fruit in season right now, but I keep reading stuff about watching your sugar intake. How do you enjoy all that the season has to offer without consuming too much sugar?"

Fructose is the name of the molecule that makes fruit taste sweet. Fructose is also one of the molecules that make up what is commonly known as sugar – the sweetener we add to many foods and drinks. Added sugar hides in ingredient labels under names such as honey, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, agave, and anything else that includes the word “syrup”. Whether it’s fructose from an apple or high fructose corn syrup from a candy bar, your body still recognizes it as fructose and processes it through your liver in the same way. However, before we start worrying about eating too much fruit, let’s step back and look at the bigger picture.

When we eat fruit, we’re not just eating fructose. We’re also getting fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a plethora of antioxidant activity. When we have a candy bar, we’re mostly consuming sugar and saturated fat without any benefits. Yes, the fructose from both these foods is recognized by our bodies as the same, but the fiber in the fruit will slow down the absorption of the sugar and keep us feeling full. You won’t see fiber in fruit juices or foods with added sugars. Even though an apple and a candy bar both contain around 20 grams of sugar, the candy bar has about twice the calories and none of the fiber.

It’s common knowledge that eating foods with added sugar is linked to a variety of negative health conditions. Several studies link high fruit and vegetable intake to lower risk of disease, and although there isn’t a lot of research that looks solely at fruit intake, I think it’s pretty safe to say that eating “too much” fruit isn’t as much of a health risk as eating too many highly-processed foods and added sugars. Always keep “balance” in mind, though. A diet that includes both fruits and vegetables, as well as protein, whole-grains, and unsaturated fats, will provide you with the full spectrum of nutrients needed for a healthy lifestyle.

Alice Ma, is a Co-op volunteer and registered dietitian who will answer your questions about nutrition and food. Alice received her Master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Utah. After spending a year serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Ellensburg, WA, she became a resident of Moscow and currently works at Washington State University as the Registered Dietitian for Dining Services. Alice is passionate about food, nutrition, and sustainability and is excited about being involved with the Moscow Food Coop and local community.