I love fruit. I can eat it as a snack. (Hint: try halved fresh figs with a few drops of balsamic reduction!) I add it to salads, shakes, and always have plenty on hand for the little members of my family.
With the current (and valid) worry about fructose, eating fruit is under attack. I wanted to take a moment to defend (and clarify some myths about) one of my favorite foods.
What is Fructose?
Natural fructose (found in fruit) and manufactured fructose (found in manufactured foods), are both adapted from glucose. Fruit does this cellular process naturally while fructose in prepared foods and sweeteners is converted through a chemical process.
Chemically, they’re the same.
The difference is that manufactured fructose is used at much higher levels than that found in fruit. The concentration of synthetic fructose-2,6-P in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is beyond anything you’d find in your fresh produce department.
The widespread use of HFCS and other sugars in the majority of pre-made meals, fast foods, and beverages is the source of the obesity epidemic and has been scientifically linked to skyrocketing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer statistics.
In other words, to consume the same amount of fructose as a single 20 ounce soda, you’d have to eat 5 bananas or 9 cups of strawberries or 89 cherries.
Eating fruit is not the enemy. That is not the source of society’s high fructose intake. The average person might drink a 20 ounce soda in one sitting (it’s not a lot) but the average person isn’t going to chug down 9 cups of strawberries. That isn’t a thing.
Consuming candy and soft drinks is very different from eating fruit.
The Facts about Fruit
Just as your sources of other vitamins and minerals change depending on what you’re eating, it’s the same with the good stuff in fruit.
If you’re looking to control body weight or blood sugar (which we should all be concerned about), here’s a comparison of some of the most popular fruits.
A good source to follow is the Glycemic Index to determine the complete glycemic load. Harvard developed this measurement in 1997 as a way to understand the sugar content of foods average people eat. It takes carbohydrates and fiber content into consideration.
Anything over 20 is considered a “high” glycemic load food. White rice (33), chocolate bars (35), packaged fruit snacks (24), and potato chips (30) all rank in the high group along with so many other foods consistently marketed as healthy for you.
Top Fruits for Low Glycemic Load (1-10)
- Limes and strawberries (1)
- Tart cherries (2)
- Apricots, grapefruit, and lemon (3)
- Cantaloupe, nectarines, guava, oranges, pears, and watermelon (4)
- Blueberries, peaches, and plums (5)
- Apples and pineapples (6)
Kiwis, mangos, cherries, and prunes all fall in the low end as well (10 or less).
Top Fruits with Average Glycemic Load (11-19)
- Bananas and grapes (11)
- Figs (16)
- Dates (18)
Raisins fall in the high glycemic load group (28) along with most dried fruits. They lose a lot of their antioxidant benefit in processing so they still have the sugar without the nutrition you need. This makes them only slightly better than processed sweets.
5 tips to about fruit consumption…
- Avoid canned fruits, jarred fruits, and fruit juices (unless they’re being processed from your garden). Processing strips them of fiber and other nutritional content. If you buy canned fruit in “juice” or “syrup” – it’s concentrated sugar.
- When fruits (such as strawberries) are out of season, choose frozen without guilt! Make sure it contains nothing but fruit. These are also wonderful in place of ice in shakes.
- Pair your fruit with a protein or a healthy fat such as coconut butter.
- Avocado, coconut, and olives are healthy fats that contain almost no sugar.
- Don’t forget your vegetables. Seriously, you get more vitamin C from broccoli than oranges so don’t neglect the veggies when you see “5 a day” signs at your grocer. They give you powerful nutrition with far less of a sugar pop.
Eating fruit is good for you but a strong nutrition plan means eating a variety of delicious and nutritious foods. Proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in meats, eggs, vegetables, legumes, and even algae provide your body with ample fuel.
As important as it is to add the good foods, it’s equally so to eliminate the bad ones. You’re not going to eat 9 cups of strawberries every day…so avoid that soda as well.