I love busting myths about health. This becomes most rewarding when it revolves around healthy eating and promoting the Holistic Nutrition principles I initially learned from Amy in my early 20s (before even considering Naturopathic Medical School).
Recently a blog I follow for their natural medicine research posted about a few new studies (done since 2013) illustrating how sugar from whole fruits effects our health.
When I read it I immediately thought this needs to be broken down and shared with all our DAMY Members and readers (as well as repeated to my patients). The main reason I am so motivated and passionate about sharing this topic as an #AskDrDuizer article is because of the nutrient value I believe people are missing from avoiding fruit due to it “high sugar content”. Read on to find out my reasoning.
To save those who don’t need to know the details I will come right out with the point of this article – sugar from whole fruit is good for you. Period. That is the end of the discussion.
For everyone interested in the research I want to go deeper and say why sugar from fruit is good for you, how much you need eat to see benefit and where people go wrong with their fruit consumption.
So Is Eating Fruit Going to Make Me Fat or Cause Diabetes?
The concern for many years, promoted and perpetuated by the supplement/weight loss industry, has been that sugar from fruit is the same as consuming any simple refined sugar, sugar sweetened beverage or added-sugar artificial food (such as candy or ice cream). They said just avoid sugar completely, eat only protein and lose weight. In the 80’s and 90’s this followed by a significant rise in type two diabetes which many suspect has been caused simply by our overall increase in caloric consumption (not related to carbohydrate consumption or any one macronutrient).
Oh, yes you can lose weight by eating mostly protein (as long as you don’t consume too many calories, your hormones are balanced and you have sufficient digestive health). It works but it isn’t sustainable or healthy in the long run. Eating a high protein diet and avoiding fruits neglects necessary macronutrient and micronutrient calories that help you feel good, live longer and remain disease free.
The better point is that you can lose weight and keep it off easier if you consume fruits. When working towards losing weight some of the key concerns become fibre intake, nutrient value of foods (no, you can’t live on whey protein forever) and hydration. These are all solved by consuming large amounts of fruit.
As a bonus fruits are also low calorie. They do not cause weight gain. It is physically and mentally difficult to eat enough fruit to gain weight.
Here at DAMY Health we have promoted fruits and vegetables (no matter what the type) as the absolute best foundation to any nutrition program, any diet, any sort of consumption of calories. A significant intake of fruits and vegetables is essential to health. If you are familiar with the 80/10/10 diet we have both tried it. We felt really great while on it (and do go back to it for periods of cleansing) but it wasn’t sustainable long term (or in the dark, wet, cold winters).
The Facts, The Research:
- Sugar added to foods increases risk for diabetes and heart attacks, while sugar in whole fruits does not (They are speaking about when you are eating whole pieces of fruit – not fruit juices). (Mayo Clinic Proceedings – 01/29/2015)
- People who eat lots of fruits and vegetables are at reduced risk for heart attacks and are least likely to die prematurely (Cardiovascular health is the most important consideration in preventative medicine. Looking after your heart is something most people pass over). (European Journal of Preventive Cardiology – 04/25/2015)
- Heart attack risk is reduced by seven percent for each daily portion of fruit (This is a significant number considering eating a portion of fruit – 1 piece – is very easy). (Journal of Nutrition – 2006)
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is associated with a 46 percent reduction in diabetes in women (I’m not sure how they defined “lots” but lets say that it doesn’t really matter – the point is eat more fruits and vegetables. Every meal if possible). (Preventive Medicine – 01/2001)
- Fruits lower high blood pressure and blood sugar levels and reduce oxidative stress in diabetics (leading to less side effects like blindness, deafness, heart attacks, strokes, dementia, impotence, etc) – Fruits are good for you whether you have diabetes or not. If you do have diabetes consult with a doctor before increasing your fruit consumption to make sure you are regulating your blood glucose properly (usually only a concern with fruit if you are taking insulin to manage your diabetes). (JAMA – 07/19/2015)
- Sugar added to foods is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure (Completely avoid from foods with added sugar but more importantly look at number 7 – sugary drinks are worse). (Open Heart – 01/01/2014)
- Foods with added sugars cause a high rise in blood sugar, with sugared drinks causing the highest rises in blood sugar and a marked increase in risk for obesity, heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers and premature death. (Int J Obes (Lond) – 01/12/2008)
Would the Real Fruit Sugar Place Stand Up (and added sugar please sit down.)
The reason fruit does not significantly spike blood sugar (and therefore doesn’t have negative effects on your cardiovascular system) because it has so much fibre and water. When you consume sugar from fruit you are also consuming fibre which binds to the sugars from the fruit and slows absorption. Therefore you are getting the natural sugars as you need them for energy, absorbing all the wonderful nutrients fruit has to offer and only contributing positively to your health.
One of the key classes of nutrients provided by fruits are called antioxidants. You have probably heard of them for cancer prevention. Well, they are key in preventing vascular damage from high levels of sugar in the blood. Not only is the sugar from fruit being slowly absorbed but along with it you are getting artery protectors in the form of antioxidants.
By now you are wondering about one thing… Fruit Juice. I’m not talking about smoothies. I’m talking juicing.
When you juice your fruits you are skipping the fibre but keeping the antioxidants (most), sugar and water. This presents a dilemma. Will this fruit juice contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In one study it was discovered that risk for metabolic syndrome (precursor to diabetes) was less in people who consumed homemade fruit juice in place of sugar-added drinks (J. Nutr. June 1, 2012 jn.111.149344). Another study found that homemade fruit juice improved vascular health and decreased inflammation (Am J Clin Nutr May 2012 vol. 95 no. 5 1089-1095).
When it comes to fresh fruit juice I recommend different combinations for different conditions. The juicing combination always include a balance of fruit and low-glycemic vegetables with an abundance of leafy greens. When you focus on balance with juicing you can see all the benefits of the juicer (which doesn’t include fibre). Homemade fruit juice (with no added sugar) is a nutrient dense low calorie drink with nutrients that are extremely easy to absorb. This is such a nice way to raise nutrient levels, can contribute to significant healing and can be included as a part of any optimal health program (again, if you have diabetes consult a doctor before juicing).
Please note: there is a difference between drinking only fruit juice and juicing fruits and vegetables for your drinks. It is better to have variety and balance. To see some of our wonderful juicing recipes go here (there are many included with our Healthy Rebel App as well!).
Get Your Fruit On!
Eat more fruit! Many aren’t reaching the recommended levels of fruit and vegetable intake per day and when they actually hit that level they notice the difference in energy and mood that makes making these simple changes so worth it. That is without saying about the long term benefits of preventing diabetes and cardiovascular disease we can all see when choosing to consume more fruit.
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