Elyse and I are here today to defend one of our best friends – fruit!
As part of the low carb and low sugar diet craze, fruits have come under attack. As you probably know by now, Elyse and I do not subscribe to these diets and instead believe strongly that you should focus your energy on eating whole, nutritious foods, including fruits, and avoid processed foods at all costs.
However, taking this a step further, we wanted to pose a simple question to you. Has anyone ever said to you “I have really let my weight creep up – must be too much fruit.” Or “If only I did not have fruit at breakfast, I would probably be at my ideal weight”. We are guessing no! So why the hate for fruit? We are guessing this comes from ideas that blindly say “avoid carbs” as opposed to better ideas that say “avoid crap”.
Even though we do not advocate for food scales, or counting calories, we want to come to the defense of fruit by looking at the actual nutrition facts of 1 large banana. We chose bananas because they often get the most amount of hate of all the fruits, so they could use a little love!
1 large banana has about 110 calories, 450mg of Potassium, 3 g of Fiber, and 30 g of Carbs.
Bananas are the perfect example of “good carbs” as opposed to “empty carbs”. Empty carbs such as white flour, pasta, etc. provide little nutritional value and can elevate your blood sugar, making you feel hungry. However, good carbs from whole foods, such as bananas, provide other nutrients that make your body feel much different after eating them. To avoid going into too much detail, we will look at just three of the main benefits of bananas – fiber, glycemic index, and energy levels, in order to show that fruit provides amazing benefits and should not be eliminated from your diet.
Most fruits, including bananas, are excellent sources of fiber. Fiber is a miracle worker in your diet that helps prevent disease and regulate bowel movements. Fiber also helps you to feel full and satisfied so that you aren’t immediately craving something else right after you eat.
2. Glycemic Index
So what about the blood sugar spikes? Bananas actually have a low to medium glycemic index value, depending on the ripeness (between 40-60). This means that you won’t experience a blood sugar spike from eating a banana, which when combined with the fiber, will leave you feeling satisfied and less hungry.
3. Energy Levels
Carbohydrates provide the energy for life. They give you energy to crush your workouts, but also give you energy for the rest of the day to keep your brain and body sharp. Listen to your body and give it the energy it needs from carbs, just make sure it is good carbs like fruit that are loaded with valuable nutrients.
But what about all the negatives?
A common criticism of fruit comes from their high sugar content. Numerous studies have shown that when it comes to sugar, added sugar (like you would find in a soda) is significantly worse than sugars naturally found in fruit. In fact even for those consuming large quantities of fruit each day, blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight levels have not been adversely affected (and in some cases they improve). This further encourages the idea of eating whole-foods, as the combination of the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and yes sugar levels in fruit all work together to provide health benefits, and do not contribute to health problems, such as diabetes.
These same studies have also shown that fruit intake should not be restricted for those with type 2 diabetes. This may seem counter-intuitive because it may seem natural to restrict all food with sugar for those with diabetes. However, studies have shown that not only does restricting fruit intake have no benefits for those with type 2 diabetes, but fruit may actually help to stabilize blood sugar levels. We will stress that any nutrition changes, especially if you are diabetic, should be discussed with your doctor. We more want to point out that your instincts about the role fruit plays in your diet may not be correct.
The Bottom Line
Be weary of diets that blindly advocate low carbs and do not distinguish between high quality and low quality foods. Be especially skeptical if a diet advocates replacing nutritious, whole foods with shakes and supplements loaded with unrecognizable ingredients. By pausing and asking simple questions like “Who do I know who has had health problems because of fruit?” you can get to the bottom of what you should and should not put into your body.