All of a sudden fruit seems to have gone bad. Overnight our love affair with fruit has gone a bit off. When did it start going on the turn? For years we’ve all been quick to gobble up a banana or an apple, and proudly declare it was one of our five a day.
We were once in awe of fruit’s health-giving properties. All those essential nutrients and minerals. Had a bar of chocolate? Eat an apple and, if it doesn’t undo the damage, is certainly balances is out… right?
But has the tide began to turn? Is fruit one of the culprits behind weight gain, obesity and diabetes?
From an early age it’s been drummed into us: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Fruit is such a staple ‘healthy’ food, it almost seems inconceivable that people are giving it up all together or dramatically reducing their intake.
So why is fruit now being touted as the enemy?
We think it has a lot to do with fructose – and fructose, by another name, is sugar.
What is fructose?
It’s one of two simple sugars: fructose and glucose. Whilst both are sugars, glucose is absolutely fundamental to life. Fructose, on the other hand, is not.
Every cell in our bodies use glucose for energy, whereas only our livers can metabolise fructose.
When we eat too much fructose, our liver goes into overdrive and starts turning any excess fructose into fat.
This over-consumption of fructose has been linked to obesity, type II diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, gout and insulin resistance.
The fructose catch
Fructose is naturally derived from fruits, vegetables and honey; as well as man-made from sugar cane, sugar beets and corn. It’s been used as a sweetener for foods since the mid-1850s and is, as you’d assume, one of the key components in high fructose corn syrup.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the body recognises the difference between naturally occurring fructose, found in fruit, and fructose found in processed foods like table sugar (a mix of fructose and glucose) but your body responds to natural and processed fructose in exactly the same way.
Any excess fructose, whether from fruit, table sugar or any foods with added fructose, will be converted into fat.
Fructose isn’t the be all and end all of fruit. Fruits are real foods. Compared to foods with added sugars, there’s no question that fruit is a far better option. The goodness found in fruits: vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, more than balances the presence of fructose. You would need to gorge yourself on a ridiculous amount of fruit to accelerate diseases and conditions linked with a high-sugar diet.
How much is enough?
There’s no doubt eating a piece of fruit is a fast and tasty way of upping your vitamin intake and fuelling your body with a wholesome source of nutrients. Plus, it’s much easier to eat on the go than vegetables. You can pick up and eat a banana anywhere. But a courgette? You’d get a few funny looks.
However, most vegetables have a stronger nutritional profile, and are much lower in fructose, than fruit. That’s why most nutritionists and dietitians recommend the majority of your 5 a day be made up of vegetables. One or two portions of fruit a day is a good balance and, if part of a healthy diet, are unlikely to be processed as excess fructose in your body.
Fruit IS your friend. Provided you don’t go overboard. Don’t cut your fruit consumption because of the fear mongers but do be aware of excess fructose in foods. Check the labels of all foods – fructose and other sugars are hidden everywhere.