We all know that fruit is good for us. With its high fibre content, vitamins, minerals and rich array of antioxidants, it should be a staple part of a healthy diet. But can we overdo it? Absolutely, and I am seeing it more and more commonly in clinic. Fruit is a very tempting snack option, being deliciously sweet, readily available, not requiring any prep time and easy to eat on-the-go – but this can add up to more servings in a day than you may realise, especially, if you are also starting with fruit at breakfast.
For the very active, the sugars in fruit will be used effectively for energy. But for the more sedentary, these sugars will follow the same pathway as refined sugars – converted to fat and stored in the liver and other cells throughout the body. This is where we have to be careful. For most of us, two servings a day of whole, fresh fruit is plenty. If you have been trying unsuccessfully to lose weight, despite eating a clean and healthy diet, too much fruit may be the culprit. Be realistic about your energy requirements and aware of your daily servings, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Fruit (just like soft drinks or desserts) is comprised of two types of sugar, glucose and fructose. Your body processes these sugars differently. Fructose is metabolised in the liver, while glucose goes into the bloodstream, requiring a release of insulin to be metabolised. Thankfully, the fibre in fruit slows down the release of glucose that can lead to high spikes in blood sugar. This is why fruit juices aren’t a great choice – they keep all the sugars, with none of the fibre. Smoothies are a better option, because the whole fruit is used, but people commonly add more than two servings to their smoothie, and then continue to snack on more fruit throughout the day.
Besides difficulty losing weight, bloating may be another hint you’re giving fruit a too hard a nudge. Many people suffer from fructose malabsorption, which causes fruit to sit in the gut and ferment, causing gas, bloating and discomfort. In fact, any digestion issues – including IBS, poor gut flora, leaky gut or bacterial overgrowth – will be aggravated by too much fruit.
Despite being convenient, fruit isn’t actually the best snack option. Lacking in satiating fat and protein, fruit will not sustain you for very long. When snacking on fruit, add some nut butter, seeds or yoghurt to slow down the release of energy, keep sweet cravings at bay, and keep you fuller for longer.
But, before the forbidden fruit becomes even sweeter – of course it is still a nutritional powerhouse that we should all enjoy. But pay attention to your body, you may just be biting off more than you can chew.