Not all sugars are equal: why it's time to bust the 'Forbidden Fruit' myth
To dismiss the food category known as 'fruit' is to dismiss nature itself and its intention for our good health. I spend many man-hours convincing clients of the benefits of fruit.
Many have grown wary of this food group as a result of years of bombardment with misinformation, as peddled by Atkins, Dukan and other high-protein diet 'oficionados'.
The practicalities of fruit
Fruit is phenomenally good for you. It will extend your life. It will ward off illness. It will bolster your immune system against attack.
Fruit, when eaten plentifully, will keep you trim; your cholesterol under control; your bowels moving. Fruit will never make you fat.
Now, how many other foods are you able to say all of the above about? Okay, yes, vegetables, of course. But which is more enjoyable in traffic on the way home from work? Fruit of course.
What fills the gap between breakfast and lunch better than a powdery white scone? Fruit!
What can satisfy at night that does not pile on the pounds? You guessed it, fruit!
The science of fruit
Before I get into the specific nutritional value of fruit, it is worth having a look at the GI scale, as it pertains to fruit.
The GI (glycaemic index) is a method by which the impact a particular food has on your blood sugar is measured.
The lower on the GI a food is, the less the effect it has on your blood sugar. Low GI foods are, thus, considered better for health, as they do not raise your blood glucose levels too suddenly and as a result do not trigger insulin whose job it is to take glucose out of the blood.
This is where fat storage takes place, when excess amounts of sugar-containing foods are eaten.
I understand that you may find my claims for fruit hard to believe, given how often I am asked such questions as: "Are bananas fattening?"; "Does eating fruit at night turn to fat?"; "Are fruit sugary and therefore bad for you?" etc.
Rather than my trying to convince you, let's have a look at the science of fruit.
1 Fruit are low in fat, with the exception of the avocado. There is simply no fat in a banana, a grape, or a papaya, of any note. They are not fattening.
2 Yes, fruit contain lots of sugar. These are not the 'free' sugars, however, as found in biscuits, confectionary, fizzy drinks. The fruit in sugar is held in a fibre matrix and therefore has a low, or sometimes moderate, GI.
Fruit sugars are released slowly into the blood and can be consumed safe in the knowledge that they will not turn to fat, as would 'free' sugars found in confectioneries, when eaten to excess.
3 Fruits contain lots of fibre and it could be argued that this is the reason fruit taste so sweet. It is our nature to love sweet tasting foods and nature ensured we got plenty of fibre by attracting us to sweet fruit.
Fruit may well have been designed by nature as a fibre-delivery system! Not only is fruit a great source of fibre, but a great source of soluble fibre, specifically, which works to keep our blood cholesterol levels under control.
4 I write a lot about the importance of anti-oxidants in the fight against everything from skin ageing to cancers.
Nature gave us fruit as a powerful source of anti-oxidant nutrients. Such substances as anthocyanins, flavonoids and even the humble vitamin C are to be found aplenty in every richly coloured berry and fruit.
Blue or black fruit, specifically, hold vast amounts of anthocyanins (think blackberries, blueberries, black grapes, acai berries) which help to remove free-radicals (damage-causing particles) from our body.
5 Not to be overlooked is the vitamin and mineral content of fruits. Amongst a plethora of vitamins we get alpha and beta carotenes from yellow and orange fruit as well as the all-important zea-xantin, currently implicated in age-related macular degeneration.
We get vitamin C, a powerful anti-oxidant implicated in immune response, from citrus, kiwi, berries and others.
Dried fruit, then, such as raisins, apricots, dates and figs prove to be great sources of such vital minerals as iron, zinc and calcium along with Selenium and manganese.
In review, there is little more I could give, in terms of advice, for anyone who wants to live as long a life as possible, as well as possible, remain trim and as strong as possible as "eat at least three pieces of fruit every day".
Protect yourself from premature ageing and its many manifestations; from colon cancer to Alzheimer's disease; from wrinkles to accelerated macular degeneration of the retina; from hair loss to memory loss. Enjoy fruit.
Keep it as seasonal as possible.
Summer is the season of peaches, berries, melons. Autumn and winter are the seasons for the less exciting, but nonetheless, powerfully good for you, apples, bananas, oranges.
Dried fruit are a great addition to a hungry afternoon's snack all year round and because of the joy of international sourcing and freezing, we can now get to enjoy our favourites all year long, if so inclined.
ditch the smoothies and chew
Do not mix fruit up (and I mean this literally) with fruit smoothies and fruit juice. Chew your own fruit.
By chewing, you get to release the sugars slowly and in a controlled manner.
By letting the liquidiser do the job, you have raised the GI score significantly.
Fruit juice is not fruit. It is only part of it.
I often go back to the notion of a child meticulously peeling off the white pith from a mandarin orange, I'm sure most of you can picture it.
They stick the pith on to everything from car seats to car windows to the kitchen table in an effort not to consume the stuff.
As luck has it, the white pith contains a nutrient caller rutin that has been implicated in the fight against cancer.
This you will not find in a carton of juice bought from the supermarket!