What's up with too little?
It’s common knowledge that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables and that’s the general advice. New research last year showed that there was a positive association between the portions of fruit and vegetables we eat daily and the associated health benefits – the more the better!1 So, it was suggested as a result of this, we should be aiming for up to 10 portions daily.
Let’s just do a quick recap of why we don’t want to be scrimping on those fruit and veggies:
- We need fresh fruit and vegetables to support brain function – Fruit and vegetables are a source of glucose which we need for energy. The simplest unit of carbohydrates glucose acts as fuel for the brain which we need to keep our cognitive functions and even our mood in tip top condition
- They help prevent disease – We’ve known this for many years but the evidence is growing and it seems the more our diet revolves around fresh fruit and vegetables, the better. Fruit provides a whole number of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants including vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and dietary fibre which can support our cardiovascular system and help protect us against disease1
- It’s what we should be eating! – Eating fresh is the key to good health. Traditionally people lived off of the land and ate what was in season and we should be continuing to do this as much as possible. When fruit is in season it is at its most nutrient-dense, literally bursting full of the essential vitamins and minerals needed to support our health. By eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and aiming to include all of the colours of the rainbow, you’ll ensure your intake of nutrients is varied and more complete.
So, why are people still so worried about fruit?
What’s the truth about fruit sugar?
As above, we need fruit for fuel, so why is it being shunned? Well, it’s all down to the big sugar debate that’s so topical right now. So, if fruit is really such a good source of glucose, do we need to be careful?
The thing with our fruit and veggies is, although they are a source of carbohydrates and glucose or fructose, these are naturally occurring in the food. This means they haven’t been tampered with, refined, and when eating wholefoods, these come together alongside some fibre plus a whole range of other nutrients.
These all work nicely in combination to fuel you up, but avoid causing havoc with your blood glucose like sources of refined sugar will. Fructose syrups or refined sugar found in a number of processed foods don’t have the fibre to slow down their release and will cause extreme highs and lows in blood sugar which will be coupled with extreme responses from the hormone insulin. The natural sugar in fruit in isn’t associated with all the negative effects of refined sugar such as obesity and chronic disease, and it seems that all the other antioxidants and phenols that are present in combination may actually help to have the opposite effect and exert positive effects on our metabolic responses instead.2
But is there such a thing as too much fruit?
Now, here’s the thing, just like anything too much of a good thing can be problematic. So, is there such a thing as too much fruit? Fruitarians would argue otherwise but with fad diets such as ketogenic diets on the rise, the intake of fruit is being questioned more openly – but is there good reason? Let’s explore some of the theories behind this.
- Too many carbs? – I’ve explained why your fruit shouldn’t be compared to refined sources of sugar, but at the end of the day they are still carbs. If your body isn’t in energy balance, even fruit could contribute to you piling on the pounds if you ate enough of it. So, this is just something to be aware of and remember that balance is always key
- Juices and smoothies mean you lose the fibre – Juicing and smoothie-making is all the rage but we do have the tendency to think more is better! With juices especially, you remove the fibre content which means you concentrate the natural sugars which means you have more of a sugar hit when drinking them. They’re still nutrient packed so just be sure to stick to smaller quantities of juices or smoothies daily and consume as part of a balanced diet
- Keep your teeth in mind – Although its natural sugars, excess fruit can still make a beeline for your teeth! Eating and drinking your fruit in combination with other foods, for example some healthy fats, is preferable
- Can fruit contribute to bloating? The fruit sugar fructose is a FODMAP which means it’s absorption in the small intestine is limited and much of it undergoes fermentation when it reaches the large intestine instead. Too much at once could make you feel gassy as the bacteria in your gut feast, so it’s best to keep your portions sensible if you notice you tend to balloon after overindulging.
What's the best advice?
After taking all of this on board, what’s the best advice when it comes to your fruit intake? Here I outline my tips:
- Aim for 2-3 portions daily – Eating a sensible amount of fruit is the best approach. My thoughts are if you eat too much of one thing you aren’t eating enough of other important dietary elements! Eat your fruit, but also include a good proportion of vegetables and your healthy protein and fats. This will help support everything from your blood sugar responses to oral health
- Eat more veggies than fruit – Rather than getting too obsessed over fruit, don’t forget about your vegetables! Vegetables, like your fruit, are a great source of nutrients and fibre but have a lower sugar count. So, if you’re eating 2 portions of fruit daily, aim for 3-4 of vegetables. Just as with fruit, aim to eat the colour of the rainbow
- Prioritise berries – It seems that there is more convincing evidence for the health benefits of berries than some other fruit as they are packed chock-full of beneficial antioxidants. Variety is still most definitely key though, but you’ll win some bonus points for adding more berries into your diet
- Be sensible with the juicing and smoothies – Juices and smoothies can most certainly support a healthy balanced diet – take our Juice Boost for example! But your diet shouldn’t be solely based on these. Variety is key and eating nutritious wholefoods should be priority. However, when opting for juices, fermented vegetable juices such as in the Biotta range are a good option as this helps to manage the sugar content, or sensible portions of smoothies mean you’ve got some added fibre in there.
1. Aune, D, Giovannucci, E and Boffetta, P. Et al. (2017) Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality – a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol, DOI: https://doi.org/10/1093/ije/dyw319/
2. Burton-Freeman B, Linares, D and Kappagoda T. Et al. (2010) Strawberry modulates LDL oxidation and postprandial lipemia in response to hight fat meal in overweight hyperlipidemic men and women. J Am Coll Nutr, 29(1), 46-54