Fruits: Friend or Foe?

Instiller Question:

Are fruits are OK to eat when trying to lose weight, since they can be high in sugar.

Before I can answer this question, let’s have a quick crash course in Sugar 101:

  1. You eat sugar.
  2. Sugar releases dopamine, a hormone that makes you feel freakin’ awesome.  So you eat more sugar because you want to keep feeling freakin’ awesome.  (Ever notice how hard it is to stop eating sugar once you start?)
  3. However, your blood can only tolerate so much sugar, so when it detects sugar entering the body, it sends a message to the pancreas to release insulin to absorb the excess sugar out of the blood and stabilize blood sugar levels.
  4. Once the insulin has done it’s job, you feel a crash since the sugar has been removed.
  5. And then guess what?  You crave MORE sugar to get back that high you felt in the first place.

Here is the crazy kicker:  SUGAR IS MORE ADDICTING THAN COCAINE.  No joke.  (Seriously, can you REMEMBER the last time you ate JUST ONE cookie???)

There are two types of sugars – natural sugars and added sugars. Natural sugars are sugars found naturally in their whole form (fruits, vegetables and dairy products).  Added sugars are sugars that are removed from their natural source and added to foods.

All sugars, natural or added, react the same way inside the body once consumed.

So the question is:  why is the natural sugar from fruit OK to eat but the added sugar found in foods NOT OK?

Because although certain fruits can be high in sugar, they are also loaded with fiber and water.

Sugar eaten without fiber or water gets absorbed into the blood immediately, whereas natural sugars eaten along with fiber and water allows for slower digestion.  The body doesn’t detect a rush of sugar, keeping insulin spikes at bay.

In addition, fruits are natural, whole foods loaded with vitamins and nutrients.  You can’t say the same for an Oreo or even a cup of orange juice!  (Juice is a ‘no go’ since the fiber has been removed.)

So now back to the question – are fruits OK to eat when trying to lose weight?

I’d like to change the question to:  Are fruits healthy?  And my reasoning is because if you eat healthfully, your body will naturally shed the excess weight it doesn’t need.

And the answer is:  YES.

Fruits are healthy.  Each fruit provides a unique blend of vitamins that do your body good.

That all being said, do I recommend having unlimited amounts of fruit per day?  No.

According to many well respected sources, 7 to 13 cups of produce is recommended per day for a healthy diet.  I like to strive for the high end of that, so 13 cups.

Of the 13 cups, 2 to 3 cups are recommended for fruit.

What constitutes a cup of fruit?

  • 1 smallish apple
  • 1 largeish banana
  • 1 large peach
  • 2 plums
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 medium pear
  • cup of berries
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruit

So is having an apple for a snack in the morning and a banana as a snack in the afternoon healthy?  HELL YES!

How about adding a cup of berries to that at night?  HELL YES!

What about 1 apple, 1 pear, some watermelon, a fruit smoothie, a few prunes, and then some pineapple to top it off?  Probably a bit much (plus your stomach won’t too happy about it either.)

So now that we’ve covered the fruit question, let’s move onto the big elephant in the room – if 2 to 3 cups of fruit are recommended, that means 10 to 11 cups of vegetables are recommended.

Yes, you read that right, 10 to 11 cups of vegetables!

And that my friends, is what you should REALLY be focusing your energies on when it comes to a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

Think about your typical daily diet.  Do you eat TEN to ELEVEN cups of vegetables per day?

If you can say yes, then you get an A+ in Veggie Eating 101. 

If not, then it’s time to think about working more vegetables into your diet, a topic for another blog post, coming soon!