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Fruit & Fat Loss

When it comes to fruit we tend to observe polar opposite approaches, either people are chomping down several servings and downing pints of orange juice to get their daily vitamin C fix or they’re avoiding it like the plague as someone informed them “fruit makes you fat!”  So what is the score with fruit? 

As with most foods, different varieties of fruit offer different nutrients and whilst some of these are healthful it’s good to be aware of the sugar content and how your body responds to it.  As with most foods the devil is in the dose, the timing, the way it’s served up and how it’s sourced.

Why Eat Fruit?

1) Pleasure 

Berries and Lemon Coconut CreamBoth fruits and vegetables offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients, yet vegetables are significantly lower in sugar, so it makes sense that we preference eating these when hitting our recommended ‘Five a Day’ right? (btw Fitter Food believes it should be closer to 10 a day).  However, that’s forgetting the obvious fact that fruit is delicious and can help us replace less healthy sweet, processed foods without feeling too deprived as it still offers a pleasurable eating experience.  Our Berries and  Lemon Coconut Cream  illustrate this point perfectly.

 

2) Antioxidant Protection

A sure fire reason to consume lots of plant-based foods is that they offer us antioxidant protection and help us fight free radical damage in the body, lowering our risk of inflammatory diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.  Some fruits in particular have some niche nutrients that are especially medicinal:

Phytonutrient

Fruit Sources

Awesome Effect

Resveratrol

Grape skin/seeds, blueberries & cranberries

Increases expression of genes related to living longer

Lypocene/Alpha Tomatine

Tomatoes (especially cooked)

Lowers risk of prostate, lung, pancreatic and breast cancer

Quercetin

Apple skin

Antihistamine effect useful for treating hayfever, asthma and dermatitis

Often the plant leaves, skin and pigment (the part that determines their colour) are just as important, after all this is where the plant stores its own chemical defences.  Thus the more variety and colour in your fruit consumption the better.  

3) Vitamin C

One benefit of fruit consumption that deserves comment here is Vitamin C.  Vitamin C is essential for collagen; the building blocks of our bones, skin, blood vessels and other tissues. Vitamin C deficiency, known as scurvy, is actually on the increase and includes symptoms such as inflamed gums, scaly skin, painful joints and nosebleeds.  Vitamin C actually degrades very quickly if exposed to light, heat or oxygen so once a fruit or vegetable is picked the Vitamin C content starts to decrease rapidly.  If you buy pre chopped or peeled fruit it’s likely to be significantly depleted of Vitamin C.  Another reason to always buy local fruit and vegetables where possible.  We love this video about British Navy using limes during battle to keep their Vitamin C topped up, hence the term “Limeys”- Watch here

4) We do Need Some Sugar!

Fruit 3The sugar content in fruit is what most people are concerned about and it’s certainly wise to limit consumption for this reason.  However, the sugars in fruit are used by our liver and muscles and can actually help replenish our body, especially following exercise. There are two types of sugar in fruit: glucose and fructose, we’ll be writing more posts about how these sugars  are processed by the body but in short choosing fruits that offer more glucose than fructose or at least equal amounts of each is a safe bet.  

Our Top 5 Fruits that are rich in BOTH glucose and fructose and other healthful nutrients like potassium and phytonutrients are:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Cantaloupe melon
  4. Banana
  5. Avocados

How Much Fructose For Fat Loss?

What’s fascinating about fruit is that selective breeding is ensuring that the varieties we typically consume are much sweeter than those consumed by our ancestors.  Sadly, these larger, sweeter varities are often lower in antioxidants, as a rule the more bitter a food tastes the higher the antioxidant content (think kale, coffee, dark chocolate….).

One means of establishing if you have the hormone health to eat fruit and burn off the sugars effectively is to buy a glucose monitor and test your blood sugar levels after consuming it.  Ideally your glucose should not go much higher than 7.8 mmol/l (140 mg/dl) and should return to pre-fruit values within 3 hours.  Adding fats can help blunt the glycemic response so a handful of nuts with your berries or some double cream on your strawberries might make a difference (nutrition testing never tasted so good!)  This will allow you to establish how much fruit you can consume.

Fat Loss Takeaways

If you wish to consume fruit but are conscious of your body composition goals, these are sensible measures to take:

  • For fat loss favour low fructose fruits.
  • Consume fruits higher in fructose or fruit juice post exercise with foods rich in glucose. 
  • 1-2 servings a day will be suitable for most people to make room for more vegetables.
  • Eating the skin, pips and a variety of colour will bring most antioxidant benefit.
  • If you are struggling to get blood sugar and cravings under control try eliminating all sweet foods including fruit for 4 weeks and increasing fat and protein consumption.  When you have these under control again you may wish to try experimenting with a couple of servings of fruit daily.

Fitter Fruit Tips

We love facts about food so here’s some fruity ones:

  • Raspberries are remarkably high in fibre and can help support digestive health by keeping you regular. 
  • Dried fruits tend to be 50-80% lower in antioxidants than the equivalent consumed fresh, they are a much more concentrated source of fructose so eating fresh varieties are better.
  • Berries to tend to offer the most nutrients with the least amount of sugar.  Blueberries and blackberries are among the most nutritious. All berries lose nutrients quickly so eat within 3-4 days of buying.
  • The skin is often the most nutritious part of a fruit (if edible of course, don’t go chomping down a whole melon now!) Ideally aim to buy organic fruits when eating the skin.
  • Frozen fruits are equally nutritious, especially if flash frozen, however, thawing can destroy the nutrient content so it’s best to thaw as quickly as possible or eat them frozen. We snack on frozen berries by sucking them like sweets, add them to an iced smoothie, or serve topped with warm coconut milk or cream to help thaw them.