The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter ran a wonderful article recently that discusses the pros and cons of eating fresh fruit. We salute this great publication, which you can order at their web site in the link above. If you’re puzzled about why there might be any adverse affects, recall that some fruits are loaded with fructose; hence, the concern that some people might have. The topic is so relevant to the focus of this website, that we are summarizing it for you here.
The Cons of Fruit
There are many advocates of low-carbohydrate diets these days. Much of the concern revolves around the fact that fruits are loaded with carbohydrates and most of these are sugar. Furthermore, many of the sugar carbs are fructose, which has a really bad name right now, as in High Fructose Corn Syrup (HRCS). This is the stuff that manufacturers of processed food use to make it taste great, without mentioning that it is making you fat (particularly adding abdominal fat) and increasing your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
The Wellness Newsletter also points out that table sugar is half fructose (without the fiber), and honey is a whopping 40% fructose. Fruits such as apples, pears, and mangoes are the highest in fructose (which means calories), but they are still modest doses compared to the steady barrage of processed foods and sweets that we are lured into buying in the supermarket.
As Michael Pollen has pointed out repeatedly, any fruit that contains large amounts of fructose also contains a lot of fiber, slowing down the digestion and absorption of the sugars, and consequently, not raising your blood sugar significantly immediately after you consume it. So eat the fresh fruit rather than juices to get the beneficial fiber.
While the article in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter did not address the concern that so much of our fruit is sprayed with pesticides, we think that’s important, too. If adding two pieces of fruit to a meal means adding 3 or more doses of pesticide residues to your kids’ bodies, well, it may not be worth it.
Sure, many sources say that eating fresh fruit is better than no fruit at all. That is probably true. If you cannot afford organic fruit (expensive!), try “pesticide-free fruit,” which is showing up more and more in health food stores, farmers markets, and other sources of clean food. “Organic” may not be as important as just eliminating the pesticides.
Best of all, buy and plant fruit trees. Then you can pick all you want, wash off city or country dust, and know that it is not going to challenge little Johnny’s immune system, or his ability to sit still for hours in school, or concentrate on his/her math, or break out in a rash, or suffer some endocrine disruption or birth defects in his children, etc., ad infinitum! Watch out for those pesticides contaminating our fruit supply!
The Pros of Fruit
Fresh fruits are complex foods, containing much more than sugar and calories. Fruits contain many vitamins, such as Vitamin C, minerals such as potassium, lots of water, and fiber to slow the absorption of the sugars.
Fruits, as well as many other plants, also contain bioflavonoids, complex compounds known for the antioxidant activity in the body.
And One More Con…
That may still leave a question in your mind about fruit juices. By the time it comes to you in juice form, all the fiber has been removed from the fruit and some, if not all of the vitamins. So you and baby are left with a box or bottle of fructose without the necessary fiber. And yes, then it will raise your blood sugar dangerously immediately after you drink it.
We see lots of little kids with fruit boxes in their hands and straws in their little mouths. Sure, toddlers and young children love fruit juice. Like mother’s milk, it tastes really sweet, so why not?
But when push comes to shove, fruit juice really is not good food for baby or toddler or young children or teens or adults. Sugar is sugar, and it’s best absorbed from whole grains and fresh, whole fruit!