You know the saying, “An apple a day…” But is that really advice you should heed?
Fresh fruits, generally, are nutritious and healthy to consume. They are a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, but they also contain the sugar fructose. This natural sugar is accompanied by nutrients the body needs, which is why we prefer it to, say, the sugar found in a can of soda or a donut. Too much sugar, though, no matter where it comes from, can have negative effects on your body and overall health.
Excess sugar (the amount beyond what the body needs to function) gets stored as fat. The likelihood of that happening with fructose is arguably higher than with glucose, the most common simple sugar. Glucose is sent to your muscles, brain, and other organs to be used as energy. Fructose, on the other hand, is only processed by your liver. If your liver already has ample energy, it will repackage the excess fructose as fat, storing it for later use. If you continue feeding your body more fructose than it needs, then it never gets to those fat stores, but rather, adds to them.
As with other sugars, too much fructose not only increases fat storage, but can also spike blood insulin levels, setting off that vicious cycle of hunger pangs and sugar crashes. It can increase triglyceride levels, and over time, even permanently slow your metabolism.
We don’t want to scare you too badly, though, because Mother Nature is pretty darn clever. In fruit, she presents fructose along with fiber. The fiber slows fructose absorption and eases the load on the liver. This is true as long as the fruit is consumed naturally (i.e. not processed down), and in reasonable quantities. Everything in moderation.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 26g of sugar PER DAY for women. At the same time, the USDA currently recommends 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day for adults (age 19 or older). Depending on which fruit is chosen, those 2 cups could easily exceed the 26g sugar recommendation. For instance, 2 cups of sliced bananas adds up to 36g of sugar. YIKES! Here are some other common fruits, with the sugar content found in 1 cup of each:
- Blackberries 7g
- Strawberries 7g
- Apples 13g
- Pineapple 16g
- Oranges 17g
- Grapes 23g
In addition to choosing lower sugar fruits, we also encourage you to purchase local, seasonally available fruit. We all favor certain fruits and vegetables – often times the ones with more sugar. Growers know that, and with modern technology many fruits are manufactured to be sweeter and larger, and to meet demand in the colder “non-growing” months. The unfortunate result is that instead of having a well-balanced diet, the contents of which rotate with the seasons, we just see those same sweeter, higher calorie fruits and vegetables year-round. To see what produce is seasonally available here in our state, check out the following links from the Washington State Department of Agriculture:
So why completely eliminate dried fruits?
Dried fruits carry some convenience – no need to refrigerate, you don’t have to worry about them getting smashed or bruised, and they last longer. Especially when fresh fruit is not as readily available, they seem like a pretty good alternative. Unfortunately, though, most dried fruits are not just dried fruit. They also contain various additives: some to enhance flavor, or maintain a more appealing color, or to better preserve and extend the life of the fruit.
Even dried fruits without any additives are still not as nutritious as their fresh counterpart. Drying fruit removes its water content. That strips away water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C. It also makes dried fruit more calorie-dense and less filling. The preference should always be to choose fresh over dried fruits.
If you are going to have dried fruit (after this week of course) try dehydrating your own! Or, if you choose to buy, search for naturally dried products without any additives. The most common additives are sugar, dextrose, glucose syrup, fruit juice, coloring, glycerin, sorbic acid, sulphur dioxide, paraffins, and oils.
Let’s recap the rules for this week:
- Eat more veggies.
- Eat seasonal, local, organically grown fruits.
- Eat fruits with lower sugar content (think berries: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries).
- Eliminate dried fruits.
Just change “eliminate” to “minimize” in #4 and you have rules for life!