It’s usually the first question people ask me when they hear about my Sugar-Free Year: Absolute Zero: “Do you eat fruit?”
Yes, I do.
I’m avoiding all *added* sugars, so this means the natural sugars in fruit are fine — but I do exercise moderation when it comes to fruit. Check out my reasons below.
Modern fruit is unnaturally large and sweet
Although fruit offers many benefits — vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fibre — modern fruit is quite different from the fruit humans evolved with. It’s much larger and much sweeter — perhaps even too sweet for some people’s metabolisms to handle.
A modern apple bears little resemblance to its ancient ancestors. For example, see the tiny apples below, an ancient variety from China, described as “so astringent…immediately dries the mouth out as the teeth break into the flesh of the fruit.” Yum!
Photo courtesy of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Likewise, the wild strawberries, blueberries and Sasktoon berries that grow here in northern British Columbia are smaller, more fibrous, and less sweet (and much more delicious) than their modern counterparts.
Tiny wild strawberries vs. modern ones. Photo courtesy of Real Food Traveler
Modern fruit is available year round
Ripe, sweet fruit used to be available only in the late summer and fall (in the temperate zones, anyway). Some people think our enjoyment of sweetness was designed to encourage us to eat lots of fruit, so we could lay down extra fat to enable us to survive the winter (think of a bear gorging on berries).
The hungrier you are, the more fruit you eat, the more fat you lay down, the more likely you are to survive the winter and pass on your genes.
Research shows that fructose, a sugar found in fruit, does indeed make us hungry. A 2013 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated, “when the human brain is exposed to fructose, neurobiological pathways involved in appetite regulation are modulated, thereby promoting increased food intake.”
In other words, the sugars found in fruit don’t switch on the parts of the brain that tell us we’ve had enough. Instead, we keep eating.
However, this backfires big time if it’s “late summer” all year, with luscious, large, sweet fruits available 24/7.
“Fruit is nature’s candy“
You’ll often hear people say this as a justification for eating lots of fruit. My response is, “Yes, and you know what I think about candy!”
Many people seem to think it’s OK to eat unlimited amounts of fruit. A banana is certainly a much healthier choice than a cookie, but it still packs a lot sugar. As Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt points out, “Five servings of fruit per day is equivalent to the amount of sugar in 16 ounces of soda (500 ml) [2 cups].”
Whether we get 20 g of sugars from a mango smoothie or whether we get them from a chocolate chip muffin, sugar triggers insulin, and insulin triggers fat storage.
My fruit preferences
- I love berries!
- They’re the lowest-carb type of fruit. For example, 3 handfuls of raspberries have only 5 grams of carbs, vs. 18 grams for a medium apple or 35 for a medium mango.
- The carbs in berries are accompanied by a lot of healthy fiber, which slows digestion and blunts the impact of the carbohydrates on your blood sugar.
- I look for wild blueberries rather than farmed ones. I find the large, sweet farmed ones to be almost addictive.
- I especially like this wild berry mix.
- I have the occasional banana – maybe three or four times a month. They have about 20 grams of carbs each, so I usually use them to sweeten recipes like my Paleo Pancakes, rather than eating them as is. Easy to digest and potassium-rich, bananas can also help you get through episodes of intestinal unhappiness (i.e., “stomach flu”).
- I have a Granny Smith apple (12 g. carbs) two or three times a week. They’re the least sweet modern apple variety I’ve found – the others taste unpleasantly sweet to me now. I love them sliced with the skin on (fiber!) and sprinkled with lots of cinnamon.
- During the sugar-free year, I’m avoiding dried fruit 100%. To eat it wouldn’t be breaking the “no added sugar” rule, but it’s so high in natural sugars that I know it would trigger my cravings:
- 1/3 cup of raisins has 28 g of natural sugars and 36 g of carbs
- 1/3 cup of pitted Medjool dates has 37 g natural sugars and 40 g of carbs
What do you think about fruit? Do you eat a lot of it? Does it satisfy you, or does it make you hungry? Let me know in the comments!