By Donnie DeSanti
With the ever-increasing awareness around sugar and our health, somehow along the way fruit has been getting a bad rap as well. Many so-called health experts are saying sugar is sugar and the sugar in fruit is no different. We can all benefit from reducing the amount of sugar in our diet, but are our health issues really stemming from eating too many apples? Let’s take a step back and give an honest look at fruit.
It’s true, fruits do contain sugar – a naturally occurring sugar called fructose. This sugar is broken down by the body and converted into glucose, which is later used for energy. This is important, as our body and brain need glucose to function. Some people who are advocates of the ketogenic diet would say otherwise, but that is another conversation. However the sugar in fruit is not the same as the sugar found in candy. More importantly is the co-factors that are involved in a piece of fruit. We are literally talking about apples and oranges here.
Let’s take a doughnut, for example – it is going to have much higher sugar levels for starters. Plus, it contains a whole host of other processed ingredients that the body will not recognize. When we look at fruits, yes there are low levels of fructose, but fructose is not in the same ballpark as the highly addictive, toxic ingredient known as high fructose corn syrup. This is the ingredient linked to obesity and a driver for inflammation.
Fruit also contains other beneficial ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, and more importantly antioxidants. I know this has been a big buzzword in the last few years, but antioxidants are important. They are compounds that inhibit oxidation in the body. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that produces free radicals that may lead to cellular damage. Ultimately that is what cancer is, cellular malfunction. Picture the metal on your car; through wear and tear that metal starts to rust, or oxidize. A similar thing happens to the cells in our body over time. Taking in antioxidants can help slow down or even halt the process. Quite frankly antioxidants are necessary for overall health. To discard fruit from our diet is to miss out!
Here are a few ways to optimize fruit for better health:
Eat Not Drink: Some people believe drinking fruit juices is the same as eating fruit, but this is not the same. Many fruit juices are overly processed with concentrates that can contain other chemicals and additives to give it a certain color or taste. Plus, fruit juices are void of any fiber, which can speed up the spike in insulin levels in your body. The fiber in fruit slows this process down resulting in a more balanced blood sugar level.
Low Sugar Fruit Options: If sugar is still a concern, try sticking to fruit with lower sugar content such as berries, peaches, or citrus fruits. These fruits still have a sweetness to them yet are really rich in antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamins like vitamin C.
Keep it in Season: Some dietary theories believe that eating fruit in season is more aligned with what our body needs. However, one thing is for sure, the taste and freshness are always enhanced when we eat according to the season. There is nothing quite as satisfying as eating a peach or watermelon during its peak growing season.
Organic as First Choice: One area that is not mentioned enough is the growing conditions of some of the fruit that we consume. Many of these fruits in the general produce markets are being sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. There is more research each day on the long-term effects of these toxic chemicals. When we choose organic fruit, we are choosing products that have less of these contaminates, and hopefully are grown in healthier conditions. Organic fruit may be a few dollars more but your health is worth it.
Stay away from pseudo food as well as pseudo facts about fruit. The sweet, juicy flavor of a ripe piece of fruit is literally the “nectar of the gods,” and should be consumed regularly, not just for our overall health but for our enjoyment too.
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