Fruit and Fructose
In the last article we discussed the different types of sugar and how they are metabolised. We discussed glucose being the bodies preferred source of sugar along with other types of sugar that are made up of glucose and another separate molecule. One sugar we touched on in particular which can be the cause of much debate is Fructose. You may recall from the previous article that fructose is present in all plant to different degrees. In grains and veggies it is insignificant however in fruit it is abundant. Fructose is also what gives food its sweetness, think of fructose as the "sweet" sugar. In this article we will discuss the role of fruit in our diets, can we eat fruit? How much should we eat? Are fruit juices ok? What about dried fruit? We will also look at how fruits are metabolised and briefly touch on processed sugars once again.
Fruit is natures candy bars, they are sweet, juicy and often treated as a desert in many cultures. During human evolution even up until 100 years ago fruit was scares and hard to come by, it was a rare treat to indulge in ripe orange or to stumble across an apple tree. The body is only equipped to handle small amounts of fructose as we discussed in the previous article due to the scarcity in our diet during evolution. The body is typically able to handle approximately 10mg of fructose per day, that's roughly 2-3 servings of fruit per day depending on the fruit itself. Whole fruits contain many vitamins and minerals and are definitely worth including in the diet, they also contain high amounts of fibre which regulate the absorption of the food into the system including the absorption of fructose. Remember the "warehouse analogy" from the last article. If we eat whole fruit the fibre content will stagger the delivery of fructose to the liver meaning there is a higher chance it will be burnt as energy rather than stored as fat in the liver itself or around the body. We begin to run into problems when we indulge in smoothies and juices such as boost, freshly squeezed juice and especially bottled juice that you may be grabbing on the run. Although these juices contain large amounts of vitamin and minerals they also rip all the fibre from the fruits essentially turning the slow absorption of fructose from the whole fruit into a fibreless sugar filled drink that will be absorbed as quickly as a soft drink causing the liver to be inundated by high levels of fructose. Try this thought experiment, how many oranges does it take to make a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice? Maybe 4 or 5? You could drink that juice in no time and still feel hungry, try eating 4 or 5 oranges and I'm sure the result will be very different. Fibre in fruit is the key to managing the quantity and absorption rate of fructose into the system. This goes for all store bought juices too, most of which will have a similar if not greater sugar content than coca cola.
Dried fruit have a similar effect to fruit juices. Dried fruits are essentially concentrated versions of their fresh counterparts. For example 100g of dried apricots contains 83g of carbohydrates where 100g of fresh apricots contains only 11g of carbohydrates per 100g. The large amounts of sugar contained in dried fruits make it very difficult for us to enjoy them in small amounts. The massive dose of sugar just makes us want more. If your goal is to lose body fat I would recommend avoiding dried fruit.
We can indulge in fruit as part of a balanced diet. I for one would much rather a client who is trying to lose weight eat a bowl of fresh whole fruit over a bowl of ice cream. However there must be an understanding that fruit is not on the same level as vegetables in terms of weight loss. Fruits are almost always higher in sugar than vegetables. Fructose is converted directly to fat if there is too much of it going to the liver. When eating fruits try to mix them with a protein such as yogurt or fats such as nuts and seeds. Avoid fruit juices even the ones that are cleverly marketed to us by stating they contain only 21 apples or 21 oranges. The truth is they are just as bad metabolically as most soft drinks.
My recommendations when it comes to consuming fruits are;
- Add fruits to your diet after you have added your veggies for the day if you have any Carb macros left
- Stick to whole fruits
- Avoid dried fruits
- Stick to 2-3 serves of fruit per day
- Avoid fruit juices
- Avoid processed foods containing "fruit" they are typically very high in sugar.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.