As a Health Coach, my coaching method with new clients is getting to the root of what they see as good and bad foods. What foods are they eating that they believe are healthy, and what other choices are less than healthy? “I eat a lot of fruit every day,” is often what many clients say when they think they are doing well.
Unfortunately, for most, it is exactly the opposite of the healthy path they should be on. “An apple a day…” as the old adage goes, may be on the money, but let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of fruit and why too much could be sabotaging our healthy efforts, especially when looking to get back to a healthy weight. The fact is fruit is full of sugars, can be problematic if not kept in check.
The latest in health fads like paleo or neotlithic, journey back to times when our ancient ancestors walked the earth and looked at what their diets consisted of. Often less then a true scientific or an anthropologic study, they do remind of us a time before abundant food sources (primarily in the first world) and worldwide fruits were easily available.
In the distant past, fruit was a rarity unless you lived in the tropics. When a human or animal came upon a fruit tree or bush, they would often gorge on the fruit to fill up and beef-up their fat stores to help them live off the fat when food sources were scarce. You heard that right, fruit goes straight to the liver and fructose, the sugar in fruit, is converted directly into fat. Something our clients often do not know or fail to recognize.
Now, for fear of getting into hot water, let’s take a moment to talk about the myriad of health benefits of fruit:
- A great source of soluble dietary fiber.
- Full of antioxidants.
- Packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Perfect for keeping hydrated.
- Full of simple sugars for instant energy.
- Disease fighter.
Fruit is a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. There is no question, but as it is full of sugars, it is often helpful to be conscious of how much you are eating and which ways are best to enjoy your daily allowance.
I hate the words “in moderation” as it often is used as an excuse to keep processed foods in people’s lives (thanks nutritionists and dietitians!). I will reserve the right to use it here in that munching on fruit all day long cannot only add to weight, but may increase the risk of some diseases.
One of my mentors, Dr. Andrew Weil, warns that excess fruit can raise serum triglycerides which may increase cardiovascular risk. He says the high glycemic load of some fruits may worsen your metabolic syndrome — a collection of conditions that increase risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Dr. Weil recommends three to four servings a day and here are some of my easy tips to include fruit in your healthy lifestyle while not going overboard:
Be careful with juicing fruits. Not only does juicing remove the important dietary fiber, it concentrates the sugars and often times it will contain your three to four servings suggested by the good doctor in one sitting. Opt for more vegetables and a smaller amount of fruits in your juice for a natural sweetener.
Eat fruit first thing in the morning. Fruit digests very fast and it is suggested that when eaten after a meal, may digest more quickly then your big dinner and will decompose on top of your dinner and possibly ferment. Eating fruit in the morning also gives you a quick burst of energy to get your day started.
Know your portion size. Clearly a serving is not a pint of delicious cherries or a bag of grapes. A good reference from Eating Well suggests one small apple, half a grapefruit, a cup of melon, 4 ounces of juice, a cup of mixed berries. Be cautious of dried fruits which concentrate the sugars.
Opt for lower glycemic index (GI) fruits. Dr. Weil suggests low-ranking fruits like apples, cherries, pears and plums. He also suggests to pay attention to the size of the fruit and opt for small or medium sized apples over giant ones and a quick measure is if it can comfortably fit in the palm of your hand.
Eat local, organic and seasonal/frozen. Not only do you avoid nasty pesticides, but often conventional fruit is picked well before it is ripe and shipped thousands of miles where it looses much of its vitamins and nutrients. Organic frozen is a great option as they are often frozen immediately after picking, retaining all of their good stuff.
Your take away from today’s column is not to be afraid of fruit. It is wonderful and refreshing and packed with a lot of great nutrients.
I caution you not to fall into the habit of thinking that eating a lot of fruit all day will lead to a trim and healthy body. Be aware of your portions and also realize the natural sugars may trigger your sweet cravings or addictions. Avoid commercial juices and unhealthy spots like smoothie shops, which often have more sugar then soda. My final suggestion is that with the medium GI bananas, buy them green, slice into chunks and freeze as they have lower sugars than when ripe.
Healthy lifestyle Coach, Chip Allman-Burgard, has studied over 100 dietary theories and coaches his clients through his 6-month ‘Lifestyle Overhaul’ program and the 3-month ‘Fast Track to Health.’