Forbidden Fruit

Richard Kelly 14th October 2019

Fruit is good for you, right?  No!  I hear half of you say.  Fruit should be avoided, it’s full of sugar.  Fruit, like many things, has some benefits and has some negatives.  And just like many other things fruit has become somewhat controversial. 

Fruit contains fructose, which is a type of sugar.  And sugar, and fructose in particular, is something we have been told to avoid.  When I start to work with people I like to look at their fruit and vegetable ratio.  Plenty of people who struggle to lose weight tend to eat too high a proportion of fruit when compared to vegetables.  Making this balance more in favour of vegetables can help to ensure that you reduce sugar in your diet, which is an easy start point to help with weight loss and body composition.

This is not to say that fruit is bad for you.  It contains many micronutrients which are an important point of your diet, as well as fibre and can be incredibly satiating.  With other people putting fruit into their diet can be a great way to help with weight loss, muscle gain or as part of a healthy lifestyle.  On the face of it that might sound confusing, but its all about context; if you already consume plenty of fruits and vegetables but if your ratio mainly, or exclusively, fruits, then cutting down on fruits and increasing vegetables is a good thing to do.  If you don’t eat much in the way of fruits and vegetables, or avoid fruits, then including them in your diet is a good way to improve your health.

Where fruit is definitely not beneficial is when it is dried.  Dried fruit increases the water content, because the fibre amounts are reduced and the drying process increases the sugar levels in the fruit.  For the same reason fruit juices should be avoided.  Fruit juices have virtually no fibre in them, and contain high amounts of sugar.  Although you are getting some of the vitamin benefits of fruit, the vast majority of it is lost in the juicing process.  You should aim, therefore, to eat whole foods where possible, and fruit is no different. 

There are many micronutrients contained in fruits that are not available in other things.  And much of these benefits are found in the skins of fruits, which is why berries tend to be better for you than other, larger, fruits; they contain more skin, gram for gram than bigger fruits. 

In terms of studies it is incredibly difficult to isolate whether high fruit and vegetable consumption has a significant health benefit, as many vegans would claim.  Most studies on the benefits of fruit and vegetables typically find that those who eat consume either more fruit or vegetables or both are healthier, however these studies don’t take into consideration the fact that most people who eat a higher fruit and vegetable content tend to be better off financially, which means they can be more selective about the foods they eat, and therefore have a better overall diet. 

What I would recommend to most people, therefore, is not wholly avoiding fruit, but include one to two servings of fruit on average a day, and where possible seek to get your fruit servings from berries.  That being said, variety with fruits is important for long term health benefits.

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