I don’t know about you, but I grew up surrounded by the message that eating meat and veg was the key to health, with fruit as a treat. I fondly remember once a week we'd have fruit nights after dinner – oranges featured heavily!
But somewhere along the way, the meat and vegetable message has evolved into fruit and veg. Despite studies showing that we’ve increased our intake of fruit and veg, it hasn’t solved any of our health problems; in fact, they’re increasing.
So is fruit good for you? You might be surprised at the answer.
Is Fruit Good For You?
Doctor Gary Fettke is an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Launceston, Australia. After having to amputate the limbs of many of his diabetic patients, he became passionate about good nutrition. Realising his patients’ diets were a big part of the problem, Doctor Fettke decided to speak up about the benefits of low carbohydrate eating.
In an educational and thought provoking presentation for Low Carb Down Under (featured at the end of this article), Doctor Gary Fettke states: “We’re getting fatter and sicker because of what we eat…. Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer… are crippling us as a society. The enemy in our battle is what we eat, not what we do or don’t do”.
So, what is the enemy, exactly?
Doctor Fettke believes the enemy is processed food. And enemy number one is sugar.
The recommended daily servings of fruit is one of the greatest marketing campaigns of the last decade. But Doctor Fettke doesn’t believe fruit is nearly as good for us as we’ve been led to believe, and here’s why.
Fruit: A Processed Food?
Today, we have access to most of our favourite fruits all year round.
In your local city, even though fruit trees might be bare during the winter, supermarkets are stocked with a huge range of fruits.
The problem is, fruit was designed for scheduled obesity. You might know this concept as ‘fattening up for the winter’.
If you observe fruit trees in your own backyard, you might notice that just before you’re about to pick the fruit, an array of wildlife will beat you to it every time: they always know when the fruit is good to go.
It’s not their fault. Nature has designed it that way.
Fruit trees display their brilliantly attractive and brightly coloured fruits, and the sweet crop is there for the taking.
Animals then gorge on the fruit, to help them store fat for the winter, when there will be none available.
When the animals have eaten the fruits, the seeds drop to the earth to produce more trees.
Although gorging for the winter is a natural process, we now have fruit available all year round, so our bodies can take in the sugar-rich food at any time.
Not only that, there is another problem: fruit today is highly manipulated, and is no longer in its natural form.
Doctor Fettke explains that fruit is no longer completely natural. It’s been modified to have a higher sugar content (sugar acts as a preservative), and lower fibre content (which increases shelf life and improves transportability). Fruits, from seed to harvest and beyond, are also treated with chemicals.
Fruit today is a far cry from what it used to be.
But Fruit Is Full Of Antioxidants and Nutrients
This is a mainstream message that is touted by all and sundry.
Did you know coffee, for example, contains more antioxidants than fruit? Dark chocolate also beats fruit for antioxidant content. Even a cup of tea comes pretty close.
There are also higher levels of vitamins in many veggies, compared with fruit.
Take vitamin C, for example.
Spinach has five times the amount of vitamin C than an apple. Broccoli has 20 times the amount.
Many green veggies feature very highly on the vitamin content list… and without the sugar.
But Sugar In Fruit Is Healthy Because It's Natural, Right?
This is another common misconception about fruit.
Fruit contains a mixture of fructose (known as ‘fruit sugar’) and glucose.
Glucose And Fructose
Glucose is absorbed from the gut, then heads straight for the brain and muscles, under the influence of insulin. Whatever isn't used immediately is stored as fat.
At any one time, there are usually about 4 grams of glucose in the bloodstream. Anything more than one teaspoon goes into fat storage.
Fructose has a much more complex metabolism than glucose. In fact, understanding exactly how fructose is metabolised is a very recent development. Anything you’ll find in text books written before 2010 is pretty much obsolete.
Just like in wine production, fruit sugar is converted into a type of alcohol. It has a waste product – uric acid – which is associated with gout. Uric acid also inhibits nitric oxide, which is critical for maintaining circulation and health. As a result, there is decreased blood supply to the brain.
Without nitric oxide, Doctor Fettke says, the body can experience the following side effects:
- high blood pressure
- decreased white cell function
- poor immunity
- higher infection rates
- the possibility of cancer cell proliferation.
Of course, there’s also the development of insulin resistance in the muscles and the liver.
Fructose can make you crave more fruit, because it inhibits leptin (a hormone that helps limit hunger) which is normally secreted by fat. Our bodies crave more sugar when we eat fruit.
Fructose can also cause inflammation and a host of other problems. Too much fructose is associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- A slice of bread has around 5 teaspoons of sugar (mostly glucose), with excess being stored as fat.
- An apple has around 5 teaspoons of sugar, with excess being stored as fat.
The World Health Organisation recommends sugar should make up only 5% of an adult’s total energy intake; this equates to 25 grams or about 6 teaspoons. The amount is lower for women and children.
A documentary well worth watching is That Sugar Film. It is not only informative, but also entertaining, with star cameo appearances from, for example, Hugh Jackman, Stephen Fry and Isobel Lucas.
What Is The Healthiest Fruit To Eat?
Any nutrient found in fruit can be easily obtained from vegetables – without all the sugar. There’s simply no need for fruit! However, if you wish to consume fruit, this might help.
If your aim is to reduce your intake of carbs, the Diet Doctor website has some fantastic visual charts so you can see the range of low- to high-carb fruits, as well as other foods and drinks.
Grapes and bananas are the highest carb fruits and are best avoided, if you want to make lower carb choices.
The top 10 lowest carb fruits, according to Diet Doctor, are:
- Raspberries – half a cup (60 grams) contains 3 grams of carbs.
- Blackberries – half a cup (70 grams) contains 4 grams of carbs.
- Strawberries – half a cup (100 grams) contains 6 grams of carbs.
- Blueberries – half a cup (50 grams) contains 6 grams of carbs.
- Plum – one medium-sized (80 grams) contains 6 grams of carbs.
- Clementine – one medium-sized (75 grams) contains 7 grams of carbs.
- Kiwi – one medium-sized (70 grams) contains 8 grams of carbs.
- Cherries – half a cup (90 grams) contains 9 grams of carbs.
- Cantaloupe – one cup (160 grams) contains 11 grams of carbs.
- Peach – one medium-sized (150 grams) contains 13 grams of carbs.
How Much Fruit Should You Eat In A Day?
This depends on your own goals and dietary preferences.
Diet Doctor suggests:
- For a keto low-carb diet (fewer than 20 grams per day) choose berries instead of other fruits. A small fruit, such as a plum or a couple of cherries, could be an occasional treat. You can eat plenty of vegetables instead.
- For a moderate low-carb diet (20-50 grams per day), probably no more than about one a day. Make sure you keep track of what fruit you opt for, checking the carb level to ensure you are within your limits.
- For a liberal low-carb diet (50-100 grams per day), two or three fruits per day might be possible, if fruit is your biggest source of carbs.
Key Fruit Takeaways
Some of the key points Doctor Fettke makes at the end of his presentation are:
- Fruit is not necessary every day, or even during most of the year… it's what happened for the last 2 million years!
- Understand that sugar in fruit will make you hungry
- Fruit is in nature to make you gorge on more fruit (and whatever other food is available)
- Sugar is linked with obesity and inflammation; it’s linked with modern disease
- Fruit is simply doing its job of propagating seed
- No, fruit is not as good as it’s advertised to be
Watch the video of Doctor Gary Fettke's full 23-minute presentation below.