"Is There a Food Better Than Fruit?"
by Frederic Patenaude
Fruits are such a delight to the senses. Of all the foods available to us, fruits are the most attractive, delicious and enjoyable. Of all natural foods, that is, the foods we can eat in their natural state, fruit is the food we are most attracted to and that first entices our senses. Humans are born with a natural instinct for sweet foods and in nature, that instinct naturally draws us to fruit.
When we are hungry - and I mean really hungry - fruit is often the most satisfying food we can eat. Is there anything better than to devour a delicious ripe mango on a hot summer day? Or to bite into a luscious, freshly-picked apple? Or to enjoy a sweet, juicy ripe orange? Is there any man-made dish that can beat the perfection of a fully ripe cherry?
Fruits have been consumed by human beings going as far back in time as we know, whereas grains, legumes and dairy products have only been cultivated for 10,000 years or less, which is just a breath in the life of humanity. Anthropological studies have shown that fruit has been an important part of the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years.
Fruit has always been recognized as one of the healthiest foods there is. In the minds of most people, fruit is seen as a healthy food we should eat more of due to its vitamin content. But even when realizing the exceptional nutritional qualities of fruit, very few people actually give it the place it deserves in the diet. Fruit is still eaten as a snack or a dessert, but is rarely seen as a staple food. In the mind of the masses, fruit is a healthy snack but not something that can really sustain a hard-working man, like meat or bread. They dont realize that fruit should be a staple in the diet, and has been for thousands upon thousands of years, long before bread and rice were cultivated, and long before cheese, sandwiches and twinkies were invented.
Fruit eating offers many benefits:
* Fruit is the best source of the natural sugar needed for energy.
* Fruit is packed with vitamins, and still represents the best source of vitamins in any food.
* Fruit is packed with anti-oxidants.
* Fruit is easier to digest than grains. Fruit is basically pre-digested. Digesting ripe fruit hardly requires any digestive enzymes, and is thus less taxing to the body.
* Fruit is alkaline forming (whereas meat, fish, grains and legumes are acid-forming).
* Fruit contains an abundance of pure water.
* Fruit is easy to eat. It doesnt require much preparation.
* Fruit is beautiful. All of our senses are nourished by fruit, not just our taste buds.
* People who eat lots of fruit live longer. A study published in the British Medical Journal (September 2001), showed that fresh fruit offers the best bet for a long life. The results of a study showed that frequent fruit eaters had a 32 percent lower risk of dying from cerebrovascular disease such as stroke, and a 24 percent lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, than those who ate fruit less than once a day.
* Fruit contains lots of fiber, which is necessary for optimum digestion.
Eating fruit before meals and other food combining rules
Natural Hygienists have known for a long time that fruit doesnt combine well with other foods. The reason is that fruit contains simple sugars that require no digestion. Thus, they will not stay for a long time in the stomach. Other foods, such as foods rich in fat, protein and starch, will stay in the stomach for a longer period of time because they require more digestion. So if you eat fruit after a meal, the fruit sugar will stay for too long in the stomach and ferment. This is why people experience digestive trouble when eating fruit that way. They then blame that particular fruit for their trouble and claim that they are allergic to it.
Natural Hygienists have been recommending for a long time that fruit be eaten alone with no other foods. They have also recommended eating melons alone and avoiding mixing acid fruits with sweet fruits such as bananas. These are great recommendations, but can be definitely be simplified.
Many people have a difficult time eating a meal of fruit alone. Theyll eat a meal of melon and not so long after theyll be hungry again, for the simple and obvious reason that melons are not calorie dense. Eating a small cantaloupe (200 calories) is not going to sustain you for very long. But because they have read somewhere that mixing melons with other fruits is not allowed, theyll try to wait until the next meal to eat something else and then will often in the meantime overeat on dried fruits and nuts to compensate.
The solution to this is very simple: since fruit digests so fast, it is possible to eat fruit before any other food. You can, when you are hungry, eat as much fruit as you care for. One type of fruit only would be ideal. Then wait a little bit, like 5-10 minutes, and have any other food you desire. This can be a salad, a little avocado with tomatoes, some nuts, or anything. It can be cooked food too. If youve been trying to follow food-combining rules without success, this new information could be very valuable to you.
The same goes with mixing other fruits together. You can eat all the melon you want, and then, if you are still hungry, eat another type of fruit to satisfy your appetite. It is not necessary to eat melons alone if they are eaten before another foods. You can even have melon and then have an avocado after. The only thing that is important to remember is to have the fruit first - not after, and ideally only have one variety at a time.
Fruit & Physical Exercise
Fruit is the ideal food for exercise. The best post workout snack or meal is not muffins, yogurt, or protein shakes, but fresh fruit. Runners and other athletes have long known that there is nothing better than high-water content, sweet fruit, such as oranges or melons, after a workout. They contain enough water to hydrate the body and their natural sugars are quickly utilized for energy production.
Regular physical activity improves insulin sensitivity, which is the effectiveness of insulin in transporting sugar to your cells. In other words, if you exercise, youll be able to utilize fruit sugar a lot better and will be less likely to experience sugar swings and blood sugar fluctuations.
Is Fruit Alkaline or Acid Forming?
It has been known for a long time that fruit is one of the most alkaline forming foods there is. Even if it is acid to the taste, like oranges, after digestion the end result is alkaline-forming.
However, some authors have recently claimed the contrary. According to Dr. Robert Young, author of The pH Miracle, fruit is acid-forming due to its high sugar content. He then goes on to explain his unproven theory that the sugar in fruit ferments and produces acidity in the body.
Dr. Robert Young is completely mistaken on this point. Fruit is alkaline-forming, even if it contains sugar. The natural sugar that fruit contains is perfectly utilized by the body and doesnt necessarily ferment to produce acidity. The fact is that fruit diets have been used for hundreds of years to combat acidosis. People go on grape cures, oranges cures, etc., and it helps to eliminate excess acidity in their bodies. It has been known for hundreds of years by naturopaths and Natural Hygienists and other health practitioners, both traditional and alternative, that fruit is alkaline forming - and that fact is not at all challenged by the nonsensical theories of Dr. Young about fruit being acid-forming.
Fruit & Minerals
Some authors now recommend that we should avoid eating a lot of fruit because it doesnt contain enough minerals. According to them, fruit grown today with modern agricultural methods, even when its organic, doesnt contain enough minerals. They recommend that we eat more vegetables instead.
But do these people realize that if fruit grown today has less minerals than it used to have, then vegetables, which are grown in the same soil, have less minerals too? Are they suggesting that we eat fewer vegetables too? Then we shouldnt eat anything at all? Common sense warns us against such advice. Fruit grown today still contains minerals and is still packed with vitamins. The solution is not to stop eating fruit, but rather to seek out the best-quality fruit we can find. Fruit is still essential in the diet as it provides natural sugars for energy and is still the best source of vitamins.
Is fruit too hybridized?
Many authors now claim that we should avoid fruit because it is too hybridized. According to them, hybridized fruit contains too much sugar. Lets look at those arguments for a minute. The process of hybridization is a natural one. There is nothing wrong there. What humans have done is the same that nature has done for thousands of years. We have selected the seeds from the best-tasting fruits and planted those seeds instead of the seeds of inferior fruits. The same process of hybridization and seed selection has been done for all vegetables, such as tomatoes, lettuce, etc., so that today all the food that we buy has been hybridized for hundreds of years.
Problems arise when fruits are hybridized for purely commercial reasons. For example, we have witnessed the arrival of seedless fruits in the marketplace in the last few years. These fruits have been hybridized extensively solely in order to produce a fruit of inferior nutritional quality but with other qualities that the market is looking for (such as a seedless fruit). With that in mind, I totally agree with the hybridization detractors who have launched a war against seedless grapes and watermelons. Those fruits are certainly of inferior quality.
In the future, we can hope that humanity will come back to its senses and grow food with exceptional taste and nutritional value, not food with certain cosmetic aspects that the market seeks.
In the meantime, we will still have to buy the best fruit that we can find. By eating a large variety of foods, we can still ensure a complete nutritional balance on the foods that we find in the stores.
And the fact that these fruits contain a lot of sugar is certainly not a problem, unless one decides to eat only fruit, which I do not recommend. Fruit sugar is utilized perfectly by the body and is the most natural source of energy we can consume. As long as we eat whole fresh fruit with all of its natural water and fiber, that fruit sugar is not going to be a problem.
Of course, I would not recommend that you base your diet on one fruit, such as bananas. I believe in eating a large variety of foods. Bananas are of no more importance in the diet than kiwis or blueberries. I believe in eating according to the season and not eating one food, such as bananas, every day - even though they may be available all year round.
Is fruit too high in sugar?
The body needs natural sugar as a source of energy. When starchy foods such as potatoes and bread are eaten, the digestive enzymes break down complex sugar (starch) into simpler sugars. When fruit is eaten, the body uses the simple sugars (fructose or others) directly, without needing to break them down any further. However, this is not like eating refined sugar. In the case of refined sugar, the food is devoid of nutrients and fiber. Thus, the sugar enters the blood quickly and is not slowed down by the process of digesting fiber. Plus, the calories found in sugar are empty because they do not provide any vitamins or minerals. Fruit, on the other hand, is a nutrient-dense food. Which means that for every calorie it provides, it also gives many micro-nutrients - vitamins and minerals.
If you cut out most sweet fruit (sugar) and most or all complex carbohydrates (starch), then you will need to get your calories from other sources - protein or fat. It is difficult to get a lot of calories from protein, and high-protein diets are generally recognized to be harmful for health. So what will happen inevitably is that youll end up eating large amounts of fats. The consequences of eating a high-fat diet are well-researched. (See Klaper, McDougall, Fuhrman, Barnard, etc.)
Most leading vegetarian and vegan experts recommend a diet with about 10-15% of the calories coming from fat. Certainly, no credible health expert would recommend a diet with more than 20-25% of the calories coming from fat.
But many raw-food enthusiasts are not aware of this. They live on a very high-fat diet. They eat raw nut butters, nut pates, refined oils, flax crackers, etc. Theyll make a salad with 2-3 avocados thrown in there (sometimes more!), and the bag of macadamia nuts becomes their comfort food. On average, they get more than 50% of their calories from fat, often up to 70%. Without a doubt, such a large amount of fat in the diet is extremely unhealthy and is the main reason why most people fail on those diets.
An unfortunate side-effect of that unhealthy diet is that they can no longer handle sweet fruit. It has been proven that high-fat diets decrease insulin sensitivity (the effectiveness of insulin in carrying sugar to the cells), and thus raise blood sugar levels. 1 So those living on high-fat diets, that is, most raw-foodists, will inevitably experience more blood sugar swings when they eat fruit. So the problem is not the fruit per se, but the high amounts of fat consumed. Once you substantially reduce the amount of fat that you eat, by eliminating all oils and reducing the quantities of avocados, nuts, and other fatty foods, your body will be able to process and utilize fruit sugar much more efficiently.
With the knowledge that the primary source of fuel for the human body is natural sugar, the concept of fruit having too much sugar becomes illogical. The only way you can consume too much sugar in the form of fruit would be to overeat, which is difficult to achieve when eating high-water content fruit.
A fruit based diet - what is it?
A fruit-based diet would be where you would get most of your calories from sweet fruit. That means at least 50% of your calories from fresh fruit. Does that sound like a lot? Ive designed for you some seasonal fruit menus that come out to about 1000 calories each. Remember that Im not suggesting that you eat this fruit all at once. It could be throughout the day. Im giving you examples so you can get an idea of how much fruit it takes to account for 1000 calories. So for a person needing 2000 calories per day, that would account for half of their caloric intake.
And remember how enjoyable and vitamin-packed all that fruit is! Im also giving you an idea as to which nutrients are being met by eating all that fruit everyday. I did the values for myself (5 10, male, 28 years old), so it is approximate.
1000 calories of fruit is about:
A big bowl of cherries (about 50 cherries): 250 calories
1 pint of strawberries (100 calories)
15 apricots (250 calories)
3 mangoes (400 calories)
(That fruit, by the way, will provide 750% of your vitamin C, 385% of your vitamin A, 125% of your vitamin E, 110% of your vitamin B-6, as well as good amounts of magnesium (42%), phosphorus (42%), iron (65%), calcium (23%), thiamin (63%), riboflavin (77%), niacin (55%), and folate (55%))
1000 calories of fruit is about:
4 bananas (435 calories)
3 large oranges (250 calories)
2 pomegranates (200 calories)
1 large apple (125 calories)
(That fruit will provide 612.48% of your vitamin C, 268.04% of your vitamin B-6, as well as a good amount of vitamin E (49.72%), folate (70%), niacin (30%), iron (33%), and calcium (27%), phosphorus (30%), and magnesium (52%))
1000 calories of fruit is about:
4 apples (350 calories)
4 large persimmons (475 calories)
2 pears (200 calories)
(That fruit will provide 149.25% of your vitamin A, 158.57% of your vitamin C, as well as good amounts of vitamin E (73%), thiamin (30%), riboflavin (26%), vitamin B-6 (76%), iron (28%), phosphorus (27%), and magnesium (27%))
1000 calories of fruit is about:
1 large cantaloupe (285 calories)
1 pound of fresh figs (350 calories)
2 cups of grapes (225 calories)
2 apples (165 calories)
(That fruit will provide 265.73% of your vitamin A, 7977.1% of your vitamin E(!), 670.51% of your vitamin C, 289.11% of your thiamin, and 152.89% of your vitamin B-6, as well as good amounts of riboflavin (30%), niacin (36%), folate (39%), iron (30%), calcium (28%), and magnesium (30%))
Fruit and your Teeth
It has long been known by dentists that fresh fruit doesnt encourage tooth decay. Even though fruit contains sugar, it is generally not a problem because nature has packed a lot of fiber and water along with that natural sugar. The combined effect of fiber and water rinses and cleans the mouth. With that in mind, we can clearly see the danger of dried fruit and fruit juice. With dried fruit, the water has been removed. Because of that, dried fruit will stick to your teeth and gums, greatly encouraging tooth decay and gum disease. Many perfectly healthy teeth have been ruined by the daily consumption of raisins, dates and other dried fruits. With fruit juice, the water is still present, but the fiber has been removed. You then end up with a product more concentrated in acids and sugar. If the fruit juice is sipped and not drunk at once, it will encourage tooth decay. The fiber is no longer present to clean the teeth. This has long been known by preventative dentists, who have blamed apple juice for ruining the teeth of many of our children.
Acids in fruits can have a negative impact on the teeth and contribute to enamel erosion and decay. That goes especially for the citrus fruits and unripe fruits. For that reason, and also the fact that many of us are prone to tooth decay, I highly recommend rinsing your mouth with water after eating fruit.
Eating Fruit Only
With any good thing, there always seems to be someone to take it to the extreme. Very few people are claiming that since fruit is an ideal food, it is all we should eat.
Every credible nutrition expert knows that living on fruit alone will deteriorate health. That doesnt mean that fruit is not healthy. Eating green vegetables only will also prove to be unsustainable - but that doesnt change the fact that green vegetables are healthy food.
In this article I have used the culinary definition of fruit: sweet fruits. Of course, anyone with a little knowledge of botany knows that in nature, not all fruits are sweet. Cucumbers, squash, eggplant (aubergine), and tomatoes are all examples of non-sweet fruits. However, for the purpose of clarity in nutritional information, those fruits are best classified as vegetables.
Eating More Fruit
A great way to eat more fruit is to make fresh fruit smoothies. Smoothies need not to be complicated to be tasty. For example, I like to blend bananas with water and have that as a smoothie. When I make that smoothie, I will blend a few bananas with about 1 cup of water and drink it after my exercise session. I also like blending mangoes with other fruits. For example, mango blended with papaya or peaches is amazingly delicious.
Frozen bananas go pretty well in all sorts of fruit smoothies. Try, for example, blending a few frozen bananas with a little water and some fresh berries. Youll be amazed by the taste.
I hope that this article will encourage you to incorporate more fresh fruit into your diet. In conclusion, remember the following formulas:
Fresh fruit + more exercise + less grains and refined foods = better health and energy
Less fat + more fruit + more green vegetables = even better health and energy
A good diet + a balanced mind + fun - extremism = unexpected benefits
For more information on fruits and their nutritional qualities, consult my book The Sunfood Cuisine.
1 See Eat to Live, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. (Little Brown), and Breaking the Food Seduction, by Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D. (St. Martins Press)
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