I love to snack on fruit when I crave something sweet, but I tend to eat lots of it. Would it be smarter to have a single piece of candy instead?

By Susan Bricknell
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The other night I was binge-watching a new series on Netflix and I realized I had plowed through an entire bag of grapes in the hour it took to watch a single episode. That’s two pounds of fruit in one sitting! I wouldn’t say that’s unusual for me, as I tend to snack on fruit, but…all that sugar! I mean, I ate a bag of grapes, not a single serving. Would I have been better off having a single piece candy to satisfy my sweet tooth instead? I reached out to experts to find out.

Do single servings of fruit and candy have the same amount of sugar?

Both snacks are sugary, however, fruit contains a healthier type of sugar and is filled with vitamins, so if you need a sweet treat choose fruit instead of a candy bar, says Cynthia Sass, RD, author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim.

“The sugar in fruit is bundled with beneficial, disease-protective nutrients, including fiber, fluid, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, anti-inflammatory substances, and prebiotics,” she explains. Candy, on the other hand, is typically filled with refined sugar and has no nutritional value.

Just look at the numbers. Sass points out that one whole orange provides about 17 grams of carbohydrates, about 12 of which are sugar. However, it also supplies fluid, 12% of your daily fiber needs, nearly 100% for vitamin C, along with B vitamins, potassium, and substances like herperidin, which lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and counter inflammation. In comparison, 17 gummy bears contain 33 grams of carbohydrates, with 21 grams from added sugar, and no fiber or nutrients.

Is eating too much fruit bad for you?

Because fruit sugar is less concentrated, it does not wreak havoc on your blood sugar or trigger inflammation like candy does—so long as you only eat the recommended daily amount, Sass tells us. (The United States Department of Agriculture recommends about 2 cups of fruit a day as part of a healthy diet.) 

Consuming fruit in excess, say five cups a day instead of two, can prevent weight loss, especially when blended into smoothies and açaí bowls where servings can add up quickly, says Sass.

Additionally, just like the sugar found in candy, fruit sugars can also cause cavities, points out Gigi Meinecke, DMD, a dentist with the Academy of General Dentistry, in Potomac, Maryland. So be sure to brush your teeth just as thoroughly after a snack of fruit as you would after enjoying your favorite piece of candy (or three).

Are some types of fruit healthier than others?

Although there is no type of fruit you need to avoid, always choose fresh fruit over dried fruit and fresh fruit. "The dried kind may have a higher, more concentrated sugar content,” says Denver-based nutritionist Jessica Crandall, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Because the water has been removed from dried fruit, all the sugar and calories are concentrated in a much smaller package. Fruit juice is loaded with added sugar, and it's easy to drink more than a single serving in one sitting. It's easier to overdo dried fruit, too, because the serving sizes tend to be very small.