IS FRUIT GOOD FOR YOU OR BAD FOR YOU?

In case you missed my Vegan MoFo posts from earlier in the week, you can check them out here:

Since I'm currently following a raw diet that is sometimes referred to as Fruitarianism, I thought that Fruitarian Friday would be a good topic for my Friday posts.

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I feel like there's a lot of misinformation out there about fruit and sugar. I had someone send me a Facebook message this week asking me if fruit is really a healthy food to eat or if it should avoided because of the sugar content. I was not surprised that she asked me this question because it seems to be one that lots of people are struggling with lately.

Experts agree that we are eating too much sugar, which is contributing to obesity and other health problems. But in the rush to avoid sugar, many low-carb dieters and others are avoiding fruits. [Source]

I would venture to guess that most people who decide to follow a low-carb diet of sorts don't really understand what carbohydrates are and what our body uses them for. I'll admit that I used to be one of those people too.

Back when I was a senior in high school my parents started following the South Beach Diet. I thought they were crazy for doing it -- why would I want to stop eating bread and mac n cheese? After a few months I started to notice that they were definitely getting results. They had both lost weight and were looking really good. So, after months of resistance I finally broke down and read the book and starting following that diet myself.

I, too, saw "success" with this diet, meaning that I lost some weight. Looking back now I honestly believe that they only reason I lost weight wasn't because a low-carb diet is good for you, but because cutting out all carbs meant that I was cutting out all the processed junk that I'd previously been eating. I had been known to eat an entire box of Kraft mac n cheese by myself for lunch.

I eventually gave up on the South Beach Diet because it just wasn't sustainable for me. I was miserable and grumpy and jealous -- jealous that everyone else was eating the things that I wanted to be eating.

Now, after years of reading nutrition books and trying out new ways of eating to see what works best for my body, I can see the reason that way of eating failed for me wasn't because I wasn't committed enough to the diet, it's because my body was trying to tell me that it wasn't good for me. I know that adjusting to a new way of eating can sometimes be hard for your body, even if it truly is healthy, because it takes your body a little time to adjust to what's happening and break old habits and addictions. I know that wasn't the case in this situation because I was completely committed to it it for several months before finally giving it up.

Now that I'm eating a diet that's actually good for my body I'm not miserable or jealous, and I don't have the intense cravings that I used to. Yes, there are still times when crappy food sounds good (I'm only human), but I no longer feel the intense pull towards it that I used to because my body is truly happy with what I'm feeding it.

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So, what have I learned over the years that has shed some light on why the low-carb and anti-fruit diets are no good for your body? Let me share with you.

Carbohydrates are what fuel the proper functioning of our bodies, especially the brain.

Glucose is the form of sugar that travels in your bloodstream to fuel the mitochondrial furnaces responsible for your brain power. Glucose is the only fuel normally used by brain cells. Because neurons cannot store glucose, they depend on the bloodstream to deliver a constant supply of this precious fuel. This blood sugar is obtained from carbohydrates: the starches and sugars you eat in the form of grains and legumes, fruits and vegetables. [Source]

It is true, however, that not all carbohydrates are equal. Some types of carbohydrates are valuable health promoters while others may actually undermine our health.

Eating a highly refined carbohydrate (e.g. a donut) causes blood glucose to rise sharply, triggering a hefty secretion of  insulin which in turn causes blood glucose to drop well below the “normal” level at which the body functions optimally... If you “give in” to these cravings by eating a sugary snack, the blood-glucose/insulin surge-and-drop will start all over again. Over the long term, such a “blood-sugar roller coaster” can contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance. [Source]

Healthy carbohydrates, on the other hand, supply our bodies with the energy that we need, as well as help keep us hydrated. They contain vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and fiber, as well as important phytonutrients, many of which are thought to prevent and fight cancer.

Unlike refined carbohydrates, they do not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin, but instead are the body’s main source of fiber, which actually helps to balance blood-sugar levels and keep our digestive systems in good working order.

Some great sources of healthy carbohydrates are:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables 
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, whole and split dried peas)
  • Whole Grains (brown rice, millet, barley, buckwheat, wild rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain or sprouted bread)

Some people still have a hard time believing that the sugar found is fruit is good for you.

Dr. David Ludwig, the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, said that sugar consumed in fruit is not linked to any adverse health effects, no matter how much you eat. In a recent perspective piece in The Journal of the American Medical Association, he cited observational studies that showed that increased fruit consumption is tied to lower body weight and a lower risk of obesity-associated diseases.

Whole fruits, he explained, contain a bounty of antioxidants and healthful nutrients, and their cellular scaffolding, made of fiber, makes us feel full and provides other metabolic benefits. When you bite into an apple, for example,the fruit’s fiber helps slow your absorption of fructose, the main sugar in most fruits. [Source]

I've been following a low-fat, raw vegan diet for the past three weeks, eating nothing but fresh, raw fruit during the day and vegetables with more fruit for dinner. I feel amazing, I've got plenty of energy, I've lost 5 pounds, and I even feel like my running has started to improve. I haven't had any ill side effects so far and based on what others say who eat this way, I don't expect to.

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