Last updated September 7, 2017 by Lisa Richards, CNC

Are Wild Fruits Lower In Sugar?

Wild blackberries

The modern Western diet is full of sugars, whether from processed foods or high-sugar fruits and juices. There is no doubt that our diets are certainly greatly altered from those of our ancestors, but have the nutrients in our fruits and vegetables changed too? Many people claim that the sugar content in our cultivated foods has risen over time.

The fruits and vegetables we eat today have been altered tremendously over the last two thousand years, and in many cases hardly resemble the species that they originated from. In recent times, genetic modification has proven to be a controversial way to alter foods. But the reality is that farmers have been taking advantage of natural mutations for much longer than that, by constantly breeding from larger, better-yielding varieties.

So what is the result of all this tinkering with our food supply? Do we eat sweeter, less nutritious fruits and vegetables than our ancestors did? Or is there even much of a difference? After a little investigation, you might be surprised by what you find.

Cultivated Fruits Tend To Be No Higher In Sugar

You might think that farmers and agricultural scientists would have chosen the sweetest varieties to breed from, but in fact that hasn’t always been the case. More frequently, natural mutations have been chosen for breeding on the basis of higher volume and resistance to disease or weather. In other words, when faced with the choice between a larger fruit or a sweeter fruit, the farmer will usually choose the larger variety.

What this means in practice, is that modern cultivated fruits are not generally sweeter than the fruits we find in the wild. In fact, the opposite is often true. As an example, look at wild strawberries. They tend to be much smaller and sweeter than the strawberries found in the supermarket. Although the cultivated variety might contain a similar total amount of sugar, it is also much larger and has more water content, so it tastes less sweet.

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There is a common misconception that farmed fruit is sweeter, but this is not always the case. In fact, both cultivated and wild fruits tend to have a similar carbohydrate content – around 90%. So if you are trying cut sugar out of your diet, switching to wild fruit is definitely not the answer.

What About Vegetables?

Vegetables and grains are a different story, and sweet corn is a great example so let’s start there. It descends from a Latin American plant named teosinte, a grass which was first domesticated around 8,000 years ago. Over the centuries, varieties of sweet corn were chosen for their size and flavor, until we reached the corn varieties that we eat today.

The original teosinte plant has less than a dozen kernels on each ear, whereas its modern descendent has as many as 500 kernels with a much sweeter taste. In fact, modern sweet corn has approximately double the sugar content of regular field corn. The newer ‘supersweet’ varieties contain even more sugar, approximately 6 to 8 times the amount found in field corn. And the protein content has dropped from 30% in the original plant, to around 4% in modern corn.

Similar stories can be found with other cultivated vegetables and grains. Early farmers chose to breed from plants with lower fiber, higher sugar and more starch. After many generations of selective breeding, modern varieties emerged that tasted better and provided the calories that our ancestors needed. Unfortunately, these high-sugar, low-fiber varieties are much less suited to the modern, sedentary lifestyle.

What Does This Mean For Your Nutrition?

You won’t be surprised to hear that nutrition has been the biggest casualty of all this breeding. Even our modern ‘superfoods’ contain far fewer nutrients than their progenitors. For example, modern artichokes are a wonderfully nutritious food, but the cardoon plant from which they come actually contains 6 times more phytonutrients (disease-preventing natural chemicals).

There are plenty more examples. A purple potato found in Peru contains a staggering amount of cancer-preventing anthocyanins – almost 30 times more than the potatoes in your supermarket. And there are species of apple that contain 100 times more phytonutrients than a typical Golden Delicious.

If you are following a Candida diet, it’s important to realize that switching to wild fruits or vegetables is not always the answer. Although they often contain much greater amounts of beneficial nutrients, the sugar content can be just as high (or even higher) than their cultivated relatives. For a complete list of foods to eat and avoid on the Candida diet, take a look at our Ultimate Candida Diet program.

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  1. Jeri Thompson says:

    Fascinating article. I am wondering about juicing and your opinion on something I am noticing. I hear there are a lot of sugars involved in juicing, but that doesn’t make sense. What I think — There are two schools of thought around juicing: (1) using vegetables and an apple for sweetness and (2) combining fruits and vegetables for juicing. The first seems like sugar might not be a big issue, but that latter technique may be a concern with many different fruits in the mix. What do you think about this?

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      Hi Jeri, that’s a simple one to answer. You need to get used to making juices without any fruit at all. You’ll actually be quite surprised at how good some of them can taste. When you juice an apple (even a green apple), the glycemic index shoots up because the fiber is no longer present to slow down the fructose absorption. So it’s best to avoid adding any fruits to your juice.

  2. I would agree with Lisa, particularly where candidiasis is concerned… no fruit in the juices, and no smoothies!
    Even beets and carrots can be problematic…

  3. Kerri Greig says:

    I agree with your answer to Jeri’s question above. Any time we juice a fruit the sugar content can skyrocket because of the removal of any fibre.

    I’ve experimented with ‘alternative’ sweeteners and have come to the conclusion that we are better off weaning ourselves of any sweet tasting food if we have any issues with sugar addiction. Alternative sweeteners, even ‘natural / herbal’ kinds, can have other negative health impacts depending on the processes used to granulise(?) them.

    Occasionally I’ll have a small amount of organic, raw honey and the other day I treated myself to a banana. Then again, I certainly have an issue with sugar and have many immediate and longer term negative effects.

    Do you, or anyone else, also believe we should wean ourselves off of all sweet tasting foods?? Or is it just because of my issues that means it’s necessary for me?

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      Kerri you’re absolutely right. The best way to stop eating sugary foods is to try to eliminate that sweet tooth. Using too many sugar substitutes means that you never really do that, and you will always be susceptible to sugar cravings. This is great advice for everyone, Candida sufferer or not!

  4. Margaret Pheeney says:

    I have heard some nasties about food from China, when buying ORGANIC pumpkin seeds the only ones I could find came from China, should I get the non organic pumpkin seeds here in Australia instead of the organic ones from China? I would appreciate your thoughts. Best wishes, Margaret

    1. Lisa Richards says:

      I always try to buy locally grown, organic food wherever possible. If the organic food is flown in from abroad, you need to think about where it came from and how reliable the organic certification is likely to be in that part of the world. North America, Europe, Australia and other parts of the developed world are likely to be trustworthy. If you have any doubts about whether the food is really organic, then buying locally grown food may be a better option. It may not be organic, but at least it hasn’t been sitting in a shipping container for a month before it reaches you!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I am cutting out sugar and caffeine quite well and I’m trying different foods thanks to your diet. The trouble I am having is eating less soya foods and meat alternatives that also contain dairy products. I am a vegetarian and I need to find some alternative ways to get enough protein in my diet. Is there anything you can suggest?

  6. Alexis says:

    Hi Lisa,
    What are your thoughts on Juice Plus? They market it as Fruits and Vegetables in a capsule…they’ve been dehydrated, and the sugar has been removed. There is a LOT of mixed information out there about it. I have heard of some folks just taking the vegetable capsules and not the fruit ones, but others take both because the sugar is removed. I’m experimenting with it now, but don’t feel super comfortable about their claim to eat 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I feel like I should eat seasonally and locally, and I don’t know where they’re getting all these fruits and vegetables from.

    1. Seasoned Mom says:

      Juice Plus was tested by a research team at Oschner Hospital in Kenner, LA. A patient had asked them what they thought of the products. After testing them it was discovered that the quality was not consistent. Not every capsule had the same amount of food in it.

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