Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: Should I Skip The Fruit?

Q&A Wednesday: Should I Skip The Fruit?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: My question is whether or not whole fruit is ok? It seems like it should be, since it’s fruit, but I know that fruit contains a lot of sugar too, and I didnt want to sabotage myself.

To me, this is a toss up – not between whether or not to eat fruit, but whether or not to temper one’s intake of it. I think it depends on the person.

I also think it’s complicated. To deny your body of nourishment for an external effect (weight loss) feels wrong to me but we’re also intimately familiar with sugar addiction, here, and that’s inherently internal. It’s not so simple.

To recap, let’s talk about sugar within the context of how we find it in our food. It comes in two ways – in our processed foods, or in our naturally-grown foods:

To be honest, I don’t know whether there’s much purpose to a “reasons to forgo food with added sugar” rant, simply because it breaks down to an understanding of “natural sugar” against “processed sugar.”

Okay, here goes.

In nature, the primary place you find sugar is in fruit (there’s also honey, but we’ll save that for another day.) The sugar in fruit is… fructose.

Sidebar: This, I presume, is why people always ask if they should “stop eating fruit,” mixing the anti-high fructose corn syrup message up with the understanding that fructose is a “natural sugar found in fruit.” There’s a big difference between the two.

Whenever you find fruit in nature, it is paired with two things: nutrients and fiber. Emphasis on the fiber. The fiber within the fruit blunts the impact of the sugar on your system and helps cleanse your insides out at the same time.

The difference between table sugar and the cane from which the sugar comes? There’s no possible way I’m getting as much sugar from chewing through (and swallowing) all that fiber as if I were simply swallowing a tablespoon of sugar. Why? Because with everything else in the sugar cane, I’ll fill up much quicker. There’s no possible way a tablespoon of sugar carries the nutrients that a stalk of sugar cane. Why? Because everything was filtered OUT Of the sugar cane to make the table sugar.. including the nutrients. Lastly, the fiber outright ensures that I’m not going to wreck havoc on my system. A tablespoon of table sugar cannot do that… and it comes from sugar cane.

The sweet part is separated from the part of the food that’s supposed to protect you from the element that, by itself, is harmful to your system. So no – most teas, coffees and juices with sugar added to them have the same effect. Baked goods made with “refined” flours (which go through a similar process, resulting in a flour devoid of fiber) have the same effect. Because of that fiber, it protects not only my insides, but my teeth as well. Something that, again, you won’t find in your average sugary item.

That’s the problem with sugar. In most cases – the way it’s used often results in there being very little to blunt the impact of the sugar on your system, thus resulting in it having the same effect as an overabundance of high fructose corn syrup in your daily diet. I won’t even get on the affects that an abundance of high fructose corn syrup, an abundance of sugar and a lack of fiber can have on our appearance. The difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup is simply that high fructose corn syrup is in almost every processed food item, and almost every processed food item is devoid of fiber.

Why is it devoid of fiber? Simple. Fiber expires quickly, and food manufacturers need their products to be able to sit on shelves for an extended period of time.

Excerpted from Q&A Wednesday: High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Table Sugar | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Now that we understand the difference between sugar in natural sources and processed resources… we can talk about the mechanics of this within the context of sugar addiction.

For me, I ate my fair share of fruits in the beginning. I was big on the cucumbers, pineapples, tomatoes and bananas. Things that, while they may have a bit of sweet to them, have more than enough fiber. For me, the fiber and the fullness of the food prevented me from being able to gorge on anything just because it had that “sweet” that I desired. The food was able to serve its purpose: the light sugar in the food allowed my mood to lift, the nutrients that were present allowed my body to feel nourished and the fiber allowed me to fill up. I mean, think about it – have you ever sat and ate a whole sweet potato in one sitting? Talk about struggle.

With fiber, it prevents us from reaching the “bliss point,” the “point of no return” where we’re no longer eating for nourishment and merely eating for emotional satisfaction. You don’t have to use herculean strength to stop yourself. The fullness of the food should stop you.  No matter how much you try to overindulge, the fact that you can actually become very full from eating them is more than enough to temper your intake. It’s that simple.

I DO have to admit that the thought of giving up fruits completely doesn’t sound particularly wise to me. There’s so much that your body needs and acquires from a varied and diverse diet.. especially in this wintery weather… I don’t know that I’d ever abstain from fruits entirely. If anything, trying to temper your intake is what’s important. You can’t abstain from fruits forever. You will have to learn how to live with them.

As far as what is considered “tempered use” for you? We’re all different and since there’s no humongous rush to find the answer… take your time. Listen to your body. Pay attention to how you’re acting after you eat certain amounts of fruit. Learn what works best for you. This is perfectly acceptable. It may take you days, weeks or a month or two. You deserve the time it takes to find the right answers.

In my mind, it’s a personal decision… and any decision that one makes is not permanent. If you think it’s best to wean yourself down from sugar slowly by making regular use of fruits in each meal (bananas in your oatmeal, orange slices in your lunch salad, mango slices in your fajitas at night), do that. If you think it’s best to work your way up to regular use, then by all means go for it. Remember that if something doesn’t feel like it’s working for you, it doesn’t mean you’re “failing” and that you “need to just give up and go back to the way you used to eat.” It simply means that this particular plan of action isn’t for you, and that you’ve got to find a new way.

The biggest thing to do, here, is to find a way that allows you to eat healthily, happily and without guilt. Once you’ve discovered that, you’re good to go!

Anyone else have any advice on tempering fruit intake or learning how to live with fruit being their only source of “sweet?” Let’s hear it!

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Kitty December 15, 2010 - 1:21 PM

Great article!

Fruit can be a wonderful thing! They are full of anioxidants and nutrients, that’s why they are so colorful. And combined with vegetables, whole grains, and protein, they complete the nutritional spectrum.

The only people I think may need to limit or may not be able to eat fruit are diabetics and the sugar sensitive.

Leah December 15, 2010 - 8:33 PM

Great Q & A. There is so much off the wall info out there I really appreciate your common sense approach. As a sidebar, I have a friend who was so addicted to sugar that fruit wasn’t sweet to her. Once she eliminated the processed sugar from her diet and started eating clean she was amazed at how good and sweet fruit really is. It was like she was eating it for the first time.

Thirteenlbs December 15, 2010 - 10:07 PM

I found that slowly adding fruit in was the way to go for me. At first, I felt HUGE swings, but that is because I was on a carbohydrate- restricted plan. Eating fruit with fat (cheese, cream) or protein really helped too. As my body adjusted, I could eat more without feeling like I’d eaten a slice of pie! I still moderate it– one serving a day does it.

Love the blog. I recommend it all over the place.

JoAnna December 16, 2010 - 1:45 AM

@Leah. I once dated a guy who loved canned pineapple and mangoes juices, but couldn’t stand the fresh fruit. I spent 3 years overseas as a child with 2 mango trees in our backyard so I’m a crazed fan when they’re in season about twice a year here: champagne/alphonso mangoes in March/April and Keitt/Kent in August/September.

Anyway, he told me the fresh fruit didn’t taste right. He tended to drink juices, but I thought that was one of those “green food” fads with wheat grass and stuff. He sincerely believed that the fresh fruit I gave him was “off”. He told me as a diabetic that I should incorporate more fruit juices and processed protein powders into my diet, as they have more nutrition than “regular” foods. Yeah, right. I didn’t listen, but did give him my juicer as a parting “Have a good life” gift.

@ Erika: My own sister can’t stand fresh blueberries unless they’re in a muffin or pie. She had a fit when I brought out a berry bowl with bluberries, raspberries and cherries to be drizzled with a light lime whipped cream and told me I’d done to make a berry pie! I’ve made most of my desserts fresh fruit and I try to eat what’s seasonal. Fruit and nuts are one of those few foods that you can pluck and eat as is. A lot of veggies you have to cook to get their full nutrtional value, but not with fruit or nuts. That’s why they’re perfect snacks.I don’t understand the misdirection of information regarding the sugar content of fresh fruit unless it’s to prod a consumer into buying some of that “lite” fruit cocktail juice nonsense…

Sarah December 16, 2010 - 12:09 PM

I find that dried fruit carries more of the sugar punch than fresh, so I try to limit dried fruit consumption. A dried date can be as sweet as a piece of good chocolate!

My problems are with grain carbs (bread, pasta, rice, chips, etc.). My nutritionist has prescribed a certain number of carbs during the day (grain, fruit, dairy), so I’ve been taking to eating more fruit carbs than grain carbs.

Sheretha Edwards April 20, 2011 - 6:16 PM

Oranges. Navel Oranges to be exact are my kryptonite. I hate bananas. Abhor apples but give me an orange a really good one and I am in heaven.

Maia June 29, 2011 - 4:34 PM

I’m allergic to fresh fruit, itchy throat/tongue, rash, etc however I can eat canned/frozen fruit without problem. Thing is that it’s hard to find canned fruit without the syrup and I’m limited on the selection of frozen fruit. Any suggestions?

JoAnna June 30, 2011 - 2:37 AM

I had that problem and it became progressively worst ( No raw vegetables or fruits) until I went to an allergist. Found out I was allergic to ragweed enzyme that’s in most edible fruits and vegetables. It’s killed with cooking, processing. I took vaccine therapy for 4 years but now just take a daily Claritin and have no problems except during hayfever season when I have to take a pill twice a day for the increased allergens. Ask your doctor for the test or if can take an over-the-counter pill for your reaction. Hope this helps!

sadiqua June 29, 2011 - 11:51 PM

@Maia have u gone to an allergist to be tested? I went for what i thought was fruit allergies, the dr said any fruit sensitivities are related to tree allergies. Long story short, an antihistamine beforehand did the trick.

Marsha August 3, 2011 - 7:53 PM

When I tried eating raw foods 80-99% of the time for a few weeks, eating fruit was a must! I enjoyed it. I actually lost weight, not counting calories. yes, the fiber and the sweet does the trick. Cravings for certain foods – sugary or junk, pastas,even coffee, diminished or disappeared.

My body can handle more fruit (unprocessed, of course) or so it seems since I’ve been eating more vegetables, less meat (0-3 servings weekly), and almost zero processed foods.

I’ve learned a lot reading the comments though. I never thought about allergies related to raw fruits. You’re right. Listen to your body.

Danielle August 4, 2011 - 1:06 PM

Love fruits 🙂

Just wanted to say that if you DO overdo them you WILL be running to the bathroom ! So nature has her checks and balances.

Curlsz May 30, 2012 - 9:55 PM

Recently I read this article http://www.jonathangoodman.ca/anytime-meals-made-easy/ where the author (Jason maxwell) put some guidelines for those feeling they needed to regulate fruit, for those wanting to loose fat he says eat fruit only on days you work out, easy enough. Jonathen wrote a post as well ‘no one got fat eating fruit’ was also good

Ceej March 3, 2013 - 3:39 AM

i had a trainer tell me not to eat fruit ever because “fruit has sugar and sugar turns to FAT!” i really hope she doesn’t get scurvy.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 4, 2013 - 9:46 AM

Sigh. “Trainers” are the worst.

Crystal March 4, 2013 - 4:48 PM

I find that I used to stay away from fruit. It always seemed to go bad before I could eat it, therefore being too expensive. Then I thought about the extra sugar which I don’t need.

After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that for myself, if I eat 3 pieces of fruit a day that’s okay. When I say 3 pieces, I don’t mean one large orange counts as a serving. Only half of that is actually a serving or one small apple.

For sweet cravings I do go for the dried fruit – better than processed sugary food snacks. I limit dried fruit as it has more calories. So, an ounce here or there.

I decided one month to allow fruit in my diet to see if I could still lose weight (or if it had any effect) and I found that yes, I can still lose weight even if i eat fruit each day.

Kami March 6, 2013 - 9:06 AM

I love fruit with all its nutrients. I go for the organic fruits and let it ripen in the summer by leaving it out. I buy frozen fruit and thaw them out as a snack. I never tried dried fruit so I will buy some to see how it taste.

Ashley March 20, 2013 - 6:09 PM

I just read a post today from a guy on Facebook (a trainer) stating that in order to truly lose weight, one should “abstain from all simple sugars (including fruit) and from all bread products (including whole wheat/whole grain options).” Now – this IS not how Erika teaches me to eat! LOL! I’ve lost 32lbs since January following the knowledge I’ve gained here so I’m not going to change up now, but why would he say that? Is there any truth to it in any kind of way?

Erika Nicole Kendall March 20, 2013 - 10:24 PM

Look at it this way: if I told you to cut out nearly a third of everything you have available to you to eat, regardless of what it is, you’re going to lose weight.

Losing weight isn’t what’s hard. MAINTAINING the loss is where the challenge lies. You can starve yourself to lose all you want. When the weight is all lost… then what?

You have to learn how to live in order to lose it…and KEEP it off. Some trainers specialize in “weight loss.” They literally don’t know shit else. “Maintenance” is a foreign concept.

Ceej August 14, 2013 - 10:38 PM

I eat fruit because scurvy is not fun. Just ask a pirate.

Shannon August 14, 2013 - 11:43 PM

When I’m craving dessert, I make myself a bowl of fresh pineapple chunks and red grapes; it’s a sweet, sweet combo and it’s so filling I rarely finish what I dish out.

Cynthia April 8, 2014 - 3:56 PM

I am a vegetarian so fruits are a mainstay. I do make a point to eat whole fruits however for all the reasons Erika mentioned in the post. I stay away from dried fruits or fruit juices.

One sidebar, my husband is a diabetic and has always been leary of eating fruit, however what we have come to see is that whole fruit does very little in spiking his sugars. This is simply because of the fiber. In the last 2 months he has begun drinking green smoothies made with spinach or kale, an orange, banana and a apple each morning. This is his breakfast. What he found is this simple change has resulted in an over 40 point reduction in his sugars. My point is just to echo Erika that folks confuse the sugar added to almost everything with the sugar found in whole foods. The fiber makes all the difference.

AMarie October 11, 2017 - 6:33 PM

One other thing is that in nature, fruit is primarily available in warm weather. People are more active in warm weather and sugar, natural or otherwise, that is immediately used for fuel doesn’t build up and cause a lot of damage. Also interesting- lower sugar and higher fiber fruits, like apples, tend to be ripe when it gets cooler. Might be a bit of guidance as to what is “natural”- whole fruit sugars when you’re active.

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