The Forbidden Fruit?

Working In the health and fitness industry, I’m always bombarded by questions about fruit.  Is fruit good for me?  What about the sugar? Am I eating too much??? What's the best type of fruit to eat? If you're as confused about fruit as many of my clients are, I hope this blog will help set the record straight. 

Many extreme diet books ban fruit or limit how much of it can be eaten and when it should be eaten.  The reason: too much carbohydrate from fruit can prevent weight loss, or worse, make you fat. Okay, that may be true if you eat a dozen apples every day (which would add 1140 calories to your diet). But who does that?

Surveys show that most Canadians aren't filling up on fruit. But we’re still filling up! And it’s not on nutrient dense whole foods like fruit. We more often grab a bagel or granola bar than an apple or a banana.

So let's talk about the facts: fruit is nutrient dense, a.k.a. chock-a-block full of minerals, vitamins,  flavonoids and all important FIBRE that can help reduce the risk of disease.

A diet rich in fruit (when replacing junk food) has been linked to lower rates of:

-       heart disease
-       stroke
-       high blood pressure
-       type-2 diabetes.

But along with those nutrients, you also get carbohydrates, mainly in the form of the naturally occurring sugar, fructose.  You can see why diet “gurus” will tell you to cut out fruits when they are trying to get you to drop pounds fast. Technically there’s more sugar in an apple than there is in a Twinkie!

But you’re smarter than that; you know that no one ever said “a Twinkie a day keeps the doctor away”; it’s quite the opposite in fact. When you reach for refined sugars which are quickly absorbed into the blood stream you not only feel like crap (as your blood sugar crashes), you also deprive yourself of key nutrients, leaving your body depleted yet still wanting for more!

When I develop weight loss plans for clients, I usually include two to three daily fruit servings depending on calorie intake.  (Eating a serving or two of fruit won’t typically slow a client's weight loss progress as it satisfies cravings and fills you up.)

And yes, the quantity and type of fruit you eat does matter! You’ll want to reach for fruits with a low glycemic index, as they release their sugar gradually into the blood stream. I could list off what is and what isn’t low glycemic, but a really easy way to remember is that generally tropical fruit (like bananas, melon & pineapple) have a higher glycemic index, whereas fruits native to North America (like apples, pears, peaches and berries) are much lower. Also you’ll be eating local and seasonal which is better for you and the environment!! (check out our blog on that here!)

Keep in mind that dried fruit like raisins contain more sugar and calories per serving than fresh fruit.  That's because most of it's water - which gives fruit its bulk - has been removed (great for energy…not great for weight loss!) And if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, you need to watch your fruit intake to help manage blood sugar levels.

Try to limit fruit juice (even fresh squeezed) since the removal of the fibre not only increases the glycemic index, but also decreases its overall health benefits as the nutrient molecules are no longer protected by the skin of the fruit and start to become oxidized.

If your diet lacks fruit, the following strategies will help you increase your intake:

·       Keep fruit at work: Keep apples, bananas, pears and dried fruit in your desk so you'll have a healthy snack on hand when you feel hungry.
·       Include fruit at breakfast: Make a fruit smoothie with almond milk, berries and ½ a banana. Or top a bowl of breakfast cereal with fresh or dried fruit.
·       Serve fruit for dessert. If you crave sweet after a meal, reach for fruit instead of a high calorie treat: try fruit salad or sliced apples tossed with cinnamon and lemon juice
·       Add fruit to salads: Toss dried or fresh berries, orange segments or apple slices into green and whole grain salads.
·       Go for cold! Frozen berries, grapes, sliced peaches and mango are not only delicious to snack on by themselves, but are also the ultimate convenience food, perfect for tossing into breakfast smoothies.

And remember, fruit is the Original “Fast Food”!

~ Dr. Craig McNamee

**Please consult your health care provider before following any advice on this blog.


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