Some time ago I was having my body fat percentage measured at a gym. I’d been putting quite a bit of effort into my workouts and diet so I wanted to know how I was doing. The lady doing it asked a few questions beforehand, and one of them was “How much fruit do you eat?” I thought this a great time to display my good dieting habits and said “Oh, I eat around 7-10 pieces a day.” Surprised, she said “Really! I’m amazed that you have such low body fat eating that amount each day!”
The conversation moved on and I didn’t think about it much more until a few years after the event when my interest in what to eat and when to eat it developed and I started to learn much more about nutrition and how vital it is to staying lean.
I didn’t think about it at the time but the reason is kind of obvious. Fruit contains a lot of sugar, fructose to be precise. If you are eating a lot of fruit each day you are also eating a lot of sugar and this may be impacting your weight loss goals.
Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely eat fruit. It’s full of amazing nutrients and vitamins that your body needs. It’s just that you need to have it in moderation. For example, eating 3 apples, a bunch of grapes, 2 oranges, 3 bananas and 3 kiwi fruit a day is really going to bump up your sugar levels.
Eating sugar creates a surge of insulin to be released by your body to help breakdown the sugar so it’s dealt with and used for energy. However, if your body doesn’t need the abundance of glucose (sugar in its usable form) that is available it will be stored as fat for use at a later date.
If you think about what you put into a smoothie you will find that you’re probably putting a lot of fruit in it. Some very popular smoothie manufacturers make a very big deal about how much fruit they are putting into a bottle. When would you ever eat that amount of fruit in one go? You wouldn’t, but because it’s in a blended state it’s easier to drink it without thinking about actually how much sugar you are consuming.
The important nutrients and vitamins that you get from eating fruit can be obtained from vegetables instead. So make your fruit salad more salad than fruit. Leafy greens like spinach, watercress and rocket are packed full of goodness. The greener the better.
Quick Tip: The darker red fruits also give the best bang for your buck! So stick to red or black grapes, for example, instead of green ones. Strawberries and blueberries are great, too.
Our foods today contain far fewer nutrients and vitamins than they did many years ago because of how intensively we farm the soil and because we import a lot of it from oversees so it is picked before it’s ripe and ready, thereby reducing the amount of time that the fruit or vegetable has to get the good stuff from the plant. This is one good reason to eat locally sourced, seasonal vegetables.
Everything in Moderation
The over-riding idea here is everything in moderation. You CAN have too much of a good thing, fruit in this example. Small amounts of fruit are good, especially in modern life where most people do very little exercise and sit in a chair all day. Make sure that you have a range of vegetables to fill your nutrient needs and if you think you aren’t getting enough look at the option of taking some supplements, such as a multi-vitamin.
If in any doubt ask your doctor for a blood test to see if you are deficient in anything and look for a suitable supplement or change your diet to address any issues.
Timing is Everything
The best time to eat fruit is definitely not in the morning. This will spike your blood sugar, produce insulin and store the glucose as body fat if you don’t use it. So when is the best time? It’s post exercise. Insulin is actually a very anabolic (muscle building) hormone when released after exercise and a very easy way to trigger insulin release is by having a piece of fruit which is high in sugar. This is the ideal time to replenish the glucose energy stores, too.
About the Author:
This year Robert Jackson became an Ironman! He believes in a balanced approach to exercise and nutrition and that anything to excess for a long period of time is not be good for you. He has created an independent protein powder website to demystify the buying process.