Fruit Truths: Is Fruit Good or Bad?
We often hear about getting enough fruits in our daily diet — the 2-4 recommended daily servings comes to mind. But whenever I hear the question about something being simply “good or bad” a little red flag goes up. Nutrition is a bio-individual science and it really is more about the person consuming the food/fruit than it is about the food itself. When I hear this question, “is fruit good or bad?” I generally have more questions for the person doing the asking.
What is fruit?
In the body, fruit (as all other food) turns into glucose which is a form of sugar. Specifically, we know that fruit is fructose and anything else ending in -ose is also sugar. We also know that we often get too much sugar in our diets unknowingly. So it’s something we want to understand a bit about. This awareness of what fruit is and how it interacts in the body can help us answer the “good or bad” dichotomy.
Fruit (as well as refined, simple and complex carbohydrates) can create an insulin spike in blood sugar levels, depending on how it’s consumed. The spike in insulin is not something we want to have in our daily diet. With many spikes in insulin regularly, over time the sensitivity to insulin wears down. This continuous spike and numbing of insulin receptors provides fertile ground for the development of disease including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and many other issues. The issue of good or bad becomes more about how we are consuming the fruits we eat, than the food alone.
So, how are you eating fruit? How much of it? What is the glycemic load of the fruit? How is it impacting your blood sugar levels? What might be going on in your body that would make fruit health detracting instead of health supporting?
What kind of fruit and how much?
You may have heard of a food’s glycemic index but have you heard of the more important glycemic load? A food’s glycemic load is determined by multiplying its glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate the food contains. This is thought to be a more meaningful scale. Just because a fruit may be high glycemic doesn’t mean it’s bad. It may also contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other healthful nutrients. Again, who’s eating this fruit you speak of?
How much of the fruit are you consuming? Today juicing is thought of as a healthy habit and it’s true it can help some in profound ways (See the film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead). One caveat to consider however is how much fruit you are including? Juicing often forces us to double or triple the amount of fruit we are consuming in one sitting. It also eliminates the fiber, a valuable nutrient our body needs. Eliminating fiber and increasing the amount in one sitting could cause an insulin spike from unnatural amounts of sugars in an unnatural way. No need to drop juicing, just be wary of how you are concocting that “healthy” juice cocktail.
Opting for real-food smoothies might serve you better as this way you include the whole fruit, cut down the portion realistically and maintain the fiber. Again, be mindful of how you construct your smoothie and how much sugar it is quickly providing your body in one shot. Chewing can also be forgotten when liquifying food. If you love your green drinks, just remember to chew them even if they are liquid. Chewing helps stimulate our digestive processes — a essential component to eating (and absorbing) nutrients.
Who is eating the fruit?
A diabetic will tell you he/she can’t eat a whole banana. Someone with a candida flare up will tell you they are avoiding all sugar including those naturally occurring in fruits and whole-food carbohydrates. Someone who is hypoglycemic might know that sugar from many fruits is something they have omitted for the time being while they work to remedy their blood sugar imbalances. It depends on the individual and what they are experiencing in their life at a specific time.
The human brain likes generalizations. Generalization are easy to remember and act on, hence the “good or bad” question in the title of this article. We want to know is it “in” or is it “out.” The truth is, it’s not so black and white all the time. If I have to generalize I’d say that for most people, most of the time eating whole, organic, seasonal fruit can be a healthy addition to your daily meals. For you specifically, is fruit good or bad? I don’t know. I would recommend getting some insight to what your body is going through at this time. Do a little self reflection on how you feel when you eat. Are you energized without caffeine? Do you wake up refreshed? Are you feeling positive most days? If the answers to these are ‘yes’ then all kinds of fruit is probably a green light for you! If the answer to these questions is a ‘no’ then you may want to work with someone like me to get some more insight into what’s going on in your body and what fruits you specifically might want to eat, or avoid for the time being.
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