I’ve sat on this post for a week because I was (am) worried about how it may be interpreted. When I told Project H I was going to do a post titled on “Is Fruit Good Or Bad for us?” he said “That’s crazy talk!” and “Claire, if you’re telling me fruit is bad then that’s just ridiculous and if you start telling people then no one is going to take you seriously.” So of course I replied very defensively that this wasn’t what my post was going to do and that it was more nuanced than all that and proceeded to bombard him with facts and figures. Unsurprisingly he remained unconvinced. But I’ve taken the plunge and posted anyway.
I’ve been thinking of writing on this topic for some time as I continue to read widely on all things health and nutrition and particularly in the field of ancestral health. But the catalyst for finally getting this finished and published is a talk by Gary Fettke that he put up on social media recently. My key takeaways from the talk are as follows:
1. Fruit is not bad but it’s one of the biggest marketing success stories of the last 25 years.
2. You don’t need to avoid fruit entirely but rather it can be helpful to be mindful of your consumption of it.
3. As with all things nutrition: Keep an open mind and make your own conclusions.
So we all know fruit is good for us right? Well the thing is that it has certainly been ‘advertised’ to us as being good for us. And marketed accordingly by the food industry with fruit producers and governments in many countries encouraging consumption of 5+ a day of fruit and veggies which often seems to translate into 5 pieces of fruit. But is fruit everyday good for us or are we just succumbing to a marketing spiel which benefits the food industry? Listen to Gary’s talk to get the full picture but here is a short snippet:
“Look, I’m sorry to break the news to you. Fruit is not necessary every day. You can actually get away without having it most of the year. That is what we did for most of the last 2 million years. The sugar in fruit will make you hungry. That sugar is there in nature to help us gorge on more fruit. It is linked with obesity and inflammation and it is linked with modern disease.
So, if you have the right information, you can make an informed choice. For me it’s about having my fruit fresh … in season, from my environment. It’s about knowing that I’ll crave more when I have it…. knowing that the fruit will make me hungry for the next few hours. And I don’t feel bad about that.”
Some thoughts I have on Is Fruit Good Or Bad?
Here are some thoughts I have on fruit from what I’ve been reading lately:
1. Fruit is not what it once was. It’s generally bigger, sweeter, more prevalent and available all year around than was the case previously. Fruit these days can contain 3 teaspoons of sugar a piece with some fruits more than that and more ( a large banana for example could be 17 grams plus – being over 4 teaspoons of sugar).
2. If children are loading up on fruit they’re often (but not always) doing so at the expense of vegetables.
3. Green leafy vegetables smash fruit gram for gram for fibre, nutrients, minerals and vitamins without the issues associated with sugar! And they’re available all year round.
4. Eating a lot of fruit primes our taste buds for sweetness and can make us crave more sugary tastes – which we may satisfy from eating yet more fruit (which may or may not be problematic depending on the quantities and individual tolerance) or we may satisfy by eating more sweetened processed foods (which is unlikely to be good for anyone).
So please again I reiterate, this is not a post to demonise fruit. It’s simply a call to consider how fruit is working for you and your family.
What does this mean in real life then?
Well you can take this information in 2 ways I suppose.
First, you just think it’s going one step too far to consider fruit in any kind of less than ideal light and dismiss this post as being over the top and unhelpful and just yet another bit of information that makes it impossible to be healthy because, well, if fruit is not the perfect health food then really what is??!!
Or, you could choose to see the information here as extra pieces of the puzzle that is health and wellness. Then in that case you may consider that either you’re comfortable with your current level of fruit intake or on the other hand that reducing your fruit intake is a potential solution to a problem you’ve been facing.
For example, imagine this scenario: It’s dinner time and your children are declaring they’re not hungry or that they don’t like the vegetables you’ve served or that they’re full or that they only want dessert (fruit). They’ve eaten fruit for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea and would be getting it habitually after dinner as well as a reward for eating their dinner. In this scenario you could try to see if reducing the fruit helps with them eating more vegetables and/or eating more varied foods generally or simply with general behavioural issues.
It’s certainly not about beating yourself up for the fruit or going on an anti-fruit crusade.
In our family it means that I definitely don’t aim for us to be eating 5+ a day.
For myself I prefer not to eat fruit most of the time. (That’s not new. I’ve been eating limited fruit for at over 20 years since my body building days. I prefer to eat vegetables and then for the sweeter things I do like to eat dark chocolate and bliss balls rather than have the equivalent sugar in fruit.)
For Dom I aim to keep his fruit to 2 palm size (or equivalent) pieces a day and also prioritise locally grown fruit over imported fruit and fruit that is in season where we live and also go for kiwifruit and berries over other fruit (such as grapes or bananas because they’re high in fructose and those available not usually local*). If organic is a practical option then I try to get organic too but I’m not stressed over it.
So like I said it’s something I aim for and for the most part achieve. But there are still plenty of occasions where Dom eats more than 2 pieces a day and/or where what he’s eating is not local or seasonal. And whenever there is a party or we’re staying with other people he’ll tend to eat much more than this (and then as a consequence go off his veggies or not be hungry for dinner).
I’m mostly OK with the status quo. I’d rather he eat fruit at parties than highly processed foods. I do believe it’s what we do most of the time that counts. And yes – it’s taken me a bit to get to this point on all things about real food. Because like I’ve alluded to many times over in my blogging – moderation is not something I do that well (and nor do I necessarily think that its always as appropriate as we’re led to believe).
Thanks for reading this far and for keeping an open mind. And if you haven’t listened to Gary’s talk then please do that now. It will get you thinking. While you’re there you might check out some of his other talks – they’re all brilliant.
PS. Please do give me feedback. What you think about this post? Do you agree or disagree? Perhaps you agree but think there are bigger things to be worrying about than fruit.
*Dom’s earlier lunch boxes featured grapes frequently. As we get more recent lunch boxes loaded you’ll notice have changed to primarily berries and local fruit.