This is probably going to sound strange to most, in fact I usually get a surprised reaction whenever I say out loud that I hate fruit. I can say with total honesty that there isn’t a single fruit that exists that I actually enjoy eating. Although I can certainly appreciate when something is in season and perfectly ripened, I still really hate eating fruit. I remember when I was younger that anytime I would say that I was hungry, my mom would always respond with “Have a fruit”, to which I would always grumble about. I would always eat my vegetables though, even when I was a baby and I had just started eating solid food; my parents tell me that if it was green, I could never get enough. Since my hatred of fruit seems to grow stronger with each passing day, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to look at the good and the not-so good aspects of consuming this type of produce.
Let’s start off with the more positive aspects of fruit. Fruit is loaded with fiber which helps control blood sugar, reduce cholesterol and helps food pass through the digestive tract, keeping you regular. A good example of this is a green apple, which when eaten with the peel contains approximately 5g of fiber; the equivalent of 20% of your daily fiber requirements. Fruit is also high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helping to fight free radicals and ultimately reducing risk of disease and illness. Going back to green apples, they contain flavonoids including epicatechin which work in conjunction with Vitamin C to alleviate cell damage keeping you nice and healthy. Another positive is that fruit in general has a high water content (watermelon alone is 92% water) which is so great for keeping you hydrated as most of us typically don’t drink enough water in a day. Fruit is also a complex carbohydrate that can help in a post workout recovery meal as its sugars in the form of fructose can replenish glycogen stores that are depleted during an intense exercise session. When in season and local, fruit can be a healthier and affordable alternative to your typical heavy desert.
On the other hand, fruit also has its not so great qualities. As I mentioned, fruit contains sugar in the form of fructose which although touted as “natural” is still a sugar that can impact your ability to lose fat and keep it off. In previous posts I’ve written that the body is incapable of differentiating between any type of sugar whether it be agave, molasses, cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, white sugar or fructose. The bottom-line here is that regardless of the fact that you are eating produce, when you eat a fruit of any kind you will get a spike in your blood sugar causing the pancreas to release insulin, prompting your cells to absorb the sugar for either energy (which is great if you’re about to go for a 45 minute uphill run outside) or for storage (which happens if you eat it as a snack at your desk at work; it can get stored as fat). Continuing with green apples, each medium sized one contains 17g of sugar compare that to the same portion of broccoli which has 3g of sugar. Now I know you may be thinking “well, I’d rather have the fruit than broccoli” and “fruit is so good for you because of the vitamins”, but vegetables contain tons of vitamins as well, with a small fraction of the amount of sugar that fruit does. You can load up on veggies and fill your belly with nutrients and far less sugar. Always keep in mind that sugar is added to practically every processed food item such as pasta sauce, bread/crackers and frozen meals to name a few; be sure to check the sugar content, ingredients and serving size of all food labels so that you’re aware of exactly how much you are putting into your body. Another point to consider is that fruit is a carb and if you are aiming for fat loss consuming more than 1 fruit per day can definitely be a hinderence to your goal and it will affect your body composition.
I see a lot of people that I work with that eat 3-4 fruits per day, but they admit that they don’t workout and they sit at their desk all day long. If this is you, then I strongly suggest that you cut down to one fruit max per day and increase your amount of non-starchy veg instead. If you are physically active and you do workout regularly, go ahead and include a piece of fruit in your post workout meal if you want, but again, no more than that; your body is best equipped to handle fruit right after a tough workout. Unless you have a physically demanding job (i.e. construction worker, housekeeper, landscaper, etc.), are a competitive athlete, or both, there is no reason why you should be consuming tons of fruit each day. I look at my fiancé as a prime example: he works in construction (usually 10 hour days) and then he goes to the gym for 1 hour to workout 4 days per week (he’s a competitive weightlifter). My fiancé is 5ft11 and weighs 300lbs with about 8% body fat, so for him fruit and juice is a no brainer just to maintain his weight alone. For the average person however, not so much. Taking myself for example, I work a full time desk job in finance, I am 5ft1 and weigh 115lbs and I do five days of weight lifting per week along with 1-2 days of cardio and I eat zero fruit. Instead I eat lots of veggies at each meal and postworkout (which is usually right around dinner time) I usually including a fast digesting carb like roasted potatoes, jasmine rice or whole grain pasta. Eventually, if I hit a plateau in fitness and stop gaining muscle as I am now, I will have to increase the amount of weight that I lift along with my overall calories and may have to cave in and eat fruit, but that’s only once I get to a certain level of fitness and even then it may not be necessary.
So there you have it, the good and the bad about fruit. Like most food there’s positives and negatives and if you eat too much of any one thing, then you it probably won’t be all that good for your anyway regardless of how “natural” or “healthy” it may be advertised. As humans, we are hard wired to crave sweet food in general, that’s why so many of us have a sweet tooth and turn to fruit as a healthier alternative to desert. If you feel like you absolutely must eat fruits every day, then keep in mind the total amount of carbohydrates and sugar that you are consuming and allocate accordingly, otherwise start lifting heavier and working out harder. You may not be able to out-train a bad diet, but you may be able to find some wiggle room to add extra fruit if you must. Just remember that there is life after fruit and there is no reason to ever be attached to any kind of food (I’m also talking to you yogurt fanatics!). Eat well, eat mindfully and eat for nourishment.
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