After a long day grinding it out in the world of sales, I used to have a ritual of buying an apple at a local Whole Foods for the 2-hour drive home.
Aww, what a healthy, hard-earned reward, right!?
Don’t let me fool you. I failed to mention the apple was literally the size of a coconut.
And as apple juice would pour down my cheeks from just one bite, I convinced myself that the double-ginormous apple had the same exact nutrition as a normal-sized apple.
Nevermind the 9 servings of fruit I previously ate that day, which was SO necessary and perfectly healthy. (Ha!)
About that government recommended “5-a-day??” I never understood how people couldn’t get theirs in, because I was CRUSHING it during breakfast alone! If there was a “Fruit Eater of the Year Award,” I was surely going to win the dang thing.
Yup, the typical day in the life of Julia included an average consumption of 4 – 12 servings of fruit a day.
Fruit of the Doom?
Well, that was all fine and dandy until it got to be quite an addiction over the years.
As in, I couldn’t go grocery shopping without consuming unwashed grapes in my grocery cart, to the point where I probably still have pounds of pesticide toxins in my system.
Energy swings, sugar cravings and constant hunger haunted me. Plus, that stubborn 5-10 pounds seemed to hang on like a stage-5 clinger from Wedding Crashers.
I was hungry all the time, and my blood sugar would crash HARD every hour or so. Fruit was my quick fix energy defibrillator.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
What the heck! I thought fruit was HEALTHY, low in calories, and that more was better!
The bottom line? Learn from me. I am a prime case study that fruit, when broken down by the body, is SUGAR. And too much of it on a consistent basis can sabotage even the most concerted efforts of wellness.
While fruit does contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, gone is the myth that fruit is a perfectly equal substitute for vegetables, which have a much higher nutrient-to-energy ratio than fruit.
Fruit contains fruit sugar, or fructose, which can act like a toxin in high doses.
In small doses, the liver can rapidly rid of it by converting it to liver glycogen, or energy storage, but this is only the case when there is space available to do so.
With the standard American diet heavy on carbohydrates and sugar, there most likely isn’t much storage, so the liver then converts the fructose directly into fat.
Why do you think bears load up on abundant fruit in summer prior to hibernation? Yup, they are well-versed in how to fatten themselves up to survive the long winter!
One study of women even showed that shifting 25% of dietary calories from glucose to fructose raises small dense LDL (“bad cholesterol”) by 45%, increases post-meal triglycerides to by 100%, and increases abdominal fat 4 times faster than glucose (Teff, KL, et al., 2004).
Let’s just say I’ve had terrible visions of me eating that coconut-sized apple, and my liver converting it directly into ab fat… YUCK.
Fructose, or fruit sugar, also promotes bacterial infections.
Ever heard of candida overgrowth?! It’s a pretty common yeast infection due to overgrowth of harmful bacteria from exposure to modern-day environmental toxins, such as prolonged antibiotic use, and has a number of health implications including fatigue and weight gain (Wikipedia, 2012).
Consuming fructose can contribute to candida, or overgrowth of bad gut bacteria and other chronic bacterial infections, as bacteria LOVE to metabolize fructose (Jaminet, C. & Jaminet, SC, 2010).
And, as Dr. Catherine Shanahan states,
“With all that sugar, fruit just doesn’t make the grade as a health food. As I tell my patients, fruit is a more natural alternative to a candy bar. And fruit juice, which lacks fiber and many of the antioxidants, is little better than soda” (Shanahan, C. & Shanahan, L., 2009).
So, how does this information translate into what we should do regarding fruit consumption??
Best Times to Eat Fruit
1) In between meals or at the BEGINNING of a meal.
Though it seems odd, consuming fruit at the end of a meal can cause a lot of gas. Because it is so quickly digested compared to protein and fat, consuming fruit AFTER consuming the main meal means fruit isn’t able to digest as quickly. Thus, it sits in the colon where bacteria feed on it, causing gas buildup and bloating.
2) In the morning.
Our liver glycogen stores are probably nearly full on the American diet, and after an overnight fast, there may be only about 15g of fructose of room for our liver to covert to glycogen (the amount in TWO bananas)! Breakfast may be the best time to eat fruit because of this (Jaminet, P. & Jaminet, SC, 2010).
At night, our liver stores are most likely full, and we aren’t nearly as active, so eating fruit post-meal or before bed is just going to spike insulin and promote fat storage.
3) Before or after a workout!
Eating it prior to a workout will aid in using up the fruit sugar for energy rather than fat storage. Eating it after a workout, especially a high intensity interval workout where the metabolism is revved, allows it to be metabolized more quickly as well.
Best Low Carb Fruits to Eat
According to Mark Sisson in The Primal Blueprint, the fruits with relatively high glycemic values and low antioxidant values to eat in moderation include melons, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, nectarines and dates, bananas, oranges, tangerines, plums, grapes, pomegranates, and all dried fruits (Sisson, 2009).
The top fruits lowest in sugar and highest in antioxidants (organic, locally grown, of course!), include:
1. Berries!! (Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries…)
10. Apricots (Sisson, 2010).
In sum, I’m not telling you to cut out fruit PERIOD, but just remember that vegetables are much greater bang for the buck with nutrient density!
Enjoy in moderation and remember what happened when Eve ate the apple… Kidding 🙂
Candida (fungus) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candida_(fungus).
Jaminet, P., & Jaminet, S. (2010). Perfect health diet: four steps to renewed health, youthful vitality, and long life. Cambridge, Ma.: YinYang Press.
Shanahan, C., & Shanahan, L. (2009). Deep nutrition: why your genes need traditional food. Lawai, HI: Big Box Books.
Sisson, M. (2009). The primal blueprint. Malibu, Calif.: Primal Nutrition.
Teff, KL, et al. Dietary fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, attenuates postprandial suppression of ghrelin, and increases triglycerides in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metabolism. 2004 June; 89(6):2963-72. http://pmid.us/15181085.