Could the fruits you’re eating be making you sick?
In this article we will be breaking down the nutrition and science behind fruits and what happens after we eat these sticky treats.
I just want to start by making one thing clear. I LOVE FRUIT. Last night I literally ate a big bowl of frozen wild blueberries with sliced green apples, whipped cream and chia seeds… It was delightful. You know why I love fruit? Because I have a huge sweet tooth. That’s why most of us like fruit- it’s sweet. And that’s where the mindset might need to change for most of us- fruit shouldn’t be seen as an equal to a veggie, or as a “healthy snack” but seen as a dessert. Nature’s dessert!
Think about it. What do a lot of animals do over summer? Let’s look at the great apes as an example- most eat a ton of fruit during the summer seasons when it is ripe to fatten up for winter when food is sparse and fruit is typically not available. Fruit and the sugars in fruit, fructose, are a great way to fatten up!
But us humans, unlike apes don’t eat fruit seasonally anymore- we eat it allllll yearrrrr roundddd (& we give it to our kids all year round). I am not saying to go ahead and throw away all of your apples until next fall when you can pick them yourself. What I am saying however, is that if you are going to indulge in a sweet cold juicy honeycrisp apple (which I also love smothered in almond butter)- think of it as your dessert- NOT a healthy snack.
Healthy snack = handful of macadamia nuts or celery with guac
Dessert= a ripe juicy mango with coconut flakes and yogurt
Fruit & Fructose
As I mentioned above, fructose is fruit sugar (or if you want to get scientific- it’s one of the 3 dietary monosaccharides). It is absorbed directly into your blood during digestion.
Like it’s buddy, glucose, fructose can have detrimental effects on your health if eaten too often. In fact, a research team at UCLA said their findings, published in the journal Cancer Research, may help explain studies that link fructose intake with cancer.
These studies show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation…efforts to reduce refined fructose intake or inhibit fructose mediated actions may disrupt cancer growth.” – Dr. Anthony Heany of UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center
Dr. Gundry, a well known Heart Surgeon and Cardiologist explains how fructose is also seen as a toxin to our bodies. The good news is- we have a great built in detox organ in our body called the liver! Basically, fructose is taken right to our liver and detoxified into triglycerides and uric acid. When we are limiting our fruit or fructose intake our body can handle the influx of triglycerides and uric acid. The thing is, fructose gets converted into triglycerides more effectively than glucose and when not eaten sparingly, large amounts of triglycerides can lead to negative metabolic and endocrine effects.
So what are triglycerides? Simply put, it is the type of fat found in your blood. For obvious reason we want to keep these number relatively low especially since elevated triglycerides are linked to an increase in heart disease.
What is uric acid? It’s a waste byproduct and it normally leaves your body once you use the bathroom. Uric acid can become a problem however when it becomes elevated. I will let one of the leading researchers of fructose, Richard Johnson, MD, who is the chief of the division of kidney disease and hypertension at the University of Colorado explain this.
… [Uric acid levels] being too high seems to really increase the risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, kidney disease and obesity. And in fact, there are more and more papers coming out showing that connection.”
In his interview with Dr. Mercola he further explains that two thirds of the population is overweight and most likely suffering from very high uric acid levels.
Why Does This Matter?
When I see statistics about heart disease, diabetes and cancer I almost tune them out. I envision a large overweight dude with a beer belly sitting on the couch with a bag a potato chips. But the fact of the matter is- that guy is not what makes up a lot of the people and children suffering from these diseases. Unfortunately we are seeing obesity and insulin resistance on the rise in our children in alarming rates. And it’s not just wreaking havoc on overweight children but in children as a whole.
The constant rollercoaster of our kids sugar levels (fruits included) is leading to a host of issues. Some of these include inability to concentrate, increased anxiety, inability to sit still, a compromised immune system and so much more.
Why? Because when blood sugar drops our body starts to release adrenaline and then cortisol, the stress hormone. This process is how our body starts to break down stored glucose and stimulate insulin and its a normal reaction to have. The issue comes in when we are constantly spiking our sugar and then crashing. When our kids are having consistent cortisol releases they are being put under a chronic state of stress.
Eat Fruit Responsibly
Ok here comes the good news you have all been waiting for! We, and our kids, can still eat fruit- there are just some healthy guidelines we all should follow.
- Mindset- fruit is a dessert, treat it like you would a cookie!
- Eat fruit that is in season.
- Fruit juice is NEVER ever ever a replacement for fruit.
- When in doubt- choose fruits that are lower in sugar and higher in fiber.
Low Sugar High Fiber Fruits
- Green Bananas– ever wonder why brown bananas make the best banana bread? Its because the fructose has had time to build up. Green bananas haven’t increased in fructose and they are full of resistant starches which your gut will love!
- Raspberries– these little guys only have about 5 grams of sugar in a whole cup and are rich in polyphenols (a micronutrients packed with antioxidants).
- Strawberries– medium sized strawberries carry about one gram of sugar per berry and they are a great source of vitamin c.
- Blackberries– like strawberries, blackberries have a little over 7 grams of sugar in an entire cup.
- Lemons and Limes– ok this one is obvious but just to annoy you I thought I’d list it.
Fruits are delicious, but made to be enjoyed in season and not year round. Changing the way we view fruits can help us improve our diets and our children’s diet as well. Instead of packing an apple a day for lunch try some healthy fat sources. This will help them avoid a sugar crash and cortisol spike and fill them with something that will keep them full longer.