With so many ‘diet’ and ‘weight loss’ myths, fads and mistruths circulating around the different media platforms, it’s little wonder that we’ve become confused, overwhelmed, and completely unsure about what we should be eating, and what’s best to avoid… especially when we don’t fully understand the science behind it all and the great benefits of fruits!
Whilst it is true that too much refined sugar (or other carbohydrates) in our daily eating patterns, can spike blood sugar levels and lead to insulin resistance (which is related to type 2 diabetes), as well as cause weight gain, it is also true that too many calories from all other food groups can also cause weight gain! With that in mind, one has to question the health implications that may arise, when entire food groups become demonized and unnecessarily eliminated from daily eating patterns, simply because we assume that they’re also ‘guilty’ (by association) of being problematic.
Fruit, is one such food group that’s been villainised by many ‘dieters’, because of its high sugar levels. But in eliminating fruit from the daily eating pattern, so too are a range of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, that are absolutely critical for optimum health. What’s rarely considered, however, is unlike the refined carbohydrates and sugars found in overly processed and manufactured foods commonly found on our supermarket shelves, fruit sugar is natural! Most varieties of fruit also have a low glycaemic index, which means that the sugar releases more slowly into the bloodstream, thus preventing the sharp sugar peaks and plummets that can interfere with insulin regulation.
So what about some other great benefits of fabulicious fruit? Here are 5 of the best!
- Energy Injection: Our busy lives are constantly depleting our energy sources so when we need a quick pick-me-up, fruit is the perfect choice! Not only is fruit easy to eat when we’re on the go, it also provides our bodies with valuable nutrition, including natural sugars in the form of sucrose, fructose and glucose. These sugars are all quickly converted into energy, but are released over a longer period than refined ‘added sugars’. This enables us to avoid the ‘peaks and plummets’ often associated with the consumption of refined ‘added sugars’.
Although we often hear from health authorities that we should eat less sugar, this refers to refined ‘added sugars’ in the diet, not the sugars that are naturally present in fruits (or milk).
- Appetite Suppression: Fruits contain high levels of water that contributes to our general hydration as well as assists in curbing our appetite. Furthermore, most fruits are a great source of soluble fibre, which forms a gel-like substance when mixed with water. This effectively aids digestion and prevents constipation, as well as help to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.
Fibre can also support weight loss efforts as it helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer, and therefore less likely to snack or overeat.
- Obesity Prevention: Obesity and overweight are serious health issues linked to chronic illnesses and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. In addition to the high fibre content, fruit can prevent obesity because it is typically far lower in calories than many other snacks or processed foods.
Substituting fruit instead of high calorie / high-sugar /high-fat foods reduces the likelihood of overeating or consuming empty calories, which commonly leads to excessive weight gain.
- Disease Protection: Fruits contain naturally occurring chemical compounds called phytochemicals that support our body in protecting itself against diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
To ensure that we receive the full range of protective phytochemicals (which all serve their own unique functions), we should aim to consume fruits (and vegetables), from each of the five colour categories: red, orange/yellow, blue/purple, green and white.
- Sweet Sensation: For people who have a ‘sweet-tooth’, fruit is the perfect substitute! Packed full of natural sugars, fruit is a healthy swap for the common ‘go-to’ foods, such as chocolate, cakes and pastries. The added bonus is that substitution also provides us with an array of beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals,
As a planned snack during the day, or as an after-dinner ‘sweet-treat’, fruit can be enjoyed in its natural whole state, or as frozen bite-sized pieces. Even in small amounts, fruit has the capacity to soothe the sweet cravings and prevent us from indulging in other highly refined sweets and desserts (that rarely come with the same nutritional benefits).
Adding fruit to our daily eating pattern is as simple as adding a handful of berries onto our breakfast cereal, or eating an apple for afternoon tea.
Try aiming for the following number of serves:
- Infants: 1
- Children: 1.5
- Adolescents: 2
- Adults: 2
Also remember: Fruit juices provide energy (calories) but most lack dietary fibre (that keeps us feeling satisfied). They are also acidic and can, therefore, contribute to an increased risk of dental erosion if consumed regularly. Fruit juice should not be given to infants less than 12 months of age.
Dried fruit can also stick to the teeth and increase the risk of tooth decay. For these reasons, fruit juice and dried fruit should only be consumed occasionally and in small amounts.
So embrace nature’s sweet abundance, and add a variety of fruit to your shopping trolley…
your body will truly thank you for it!