Somehow fruits seem to have have earned themselves a bad name. Why? Because fruits contain fructose—fruit sugar. Nonetheless, it’s fructose that gives glorious organic navel oranges, blueberries, apples, and golden kiwis their marvelous sweetness. And the right amount of organically grown, whole fruits do a lot to keep us well. Fruit plays an important part in any high-raw way of eating. These colorful gifts of nature cleanse the body of the toxicity we absorb from our environment, the water we drink, and the dreadful packaged convenience foods people eat. That’s why fruits are so valuable to any serious detox program.
THEN AND NOW
So what’s the problem with fructose? First of all, there is evidence which indicates that people who eat too much fruit can make themselves vulnerable to chronic problems like insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity. And this is important. For most fruits we eat today contain between 30 and 50 times the amount of fructose compared to the fruit our hunter-gatherer forefathers munched on. This has come about because, during the 20th century, enormous hybridization projects continue to make fruits sweeter and sweeter. As a result, not only has the incidence of chronic illnesses—from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and mental disorders—exploded in developed countries: So has our consumption of sugar in its many forms—of which fructose is one.
If you are someone with high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, insulin or leptin resistance or hypertension, then it is best to limit your fruit intake so you only get, say, 15 grams of fructose a day. How do you do this? Choose your fruits carefully so that most of them are low-fructose.
If you do not fall into these categories, you should be able to eat a lot more fruit and have it do you nothing but good. That is, of course, provided the fruits you choose are organic and therefore not sprayed with chemicals. Make sure they have not been GMO grown. Under no circumstances do you want to put genetically modified foods of any kind into your body. All GMO crops are dangerous, despite all the corporate hype designed to make us think otherwise.
But findings about the effects of fruit eating are contradictory, to say the least. The British Medical Journal is soon to publish three observational studies that examined the effects of fruit-eating on human health. These studies analyzed the diets of almost 200,000 people between 1984 and 2008—none of whom had indications of heart disease, diabetes or cancer when the studies began. On completion, the studies indicated that, far from fruits predisposing us to degenerative diseases, some fruits including grapes, blueberries and apples may actually reduce the risk of diabetes. This is great news and somewhat unexpected, since apples and grapes contain a lot of fructose. But beware. Drinking juices made from these fruits that are bought, rather than being homemade from fresh produce, do contribute to the development of the same diseases that eating whole fruit can help prevent. Steer clear of all packaged and tinned fruit juices and fruit drinks.
One aspect of fructose is as dangerous as hell—high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). If you value your health and the health of your children you’ll want to avoid it at all costs. But avoiding it is not easy. HFCS is added to just about every packaged food and drink you buy. So read every label on every packaged food or drink you buy, and reject every food or drink containing it. HFCS is deadly stuff. A highly processed form of liquid sugar extracted by a nasty chemical solvent called glutaraldehyde, not only is HFCS frequently contaminated with mercury. Putting it into the body is a major cause of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, mood disorders, and hyperactivity in children.
A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
High-fructose corn syrup is similar in composition to sucrose, with levels of around 45% glucose to 55% fructose. And, as with sucrose, its harmful effects are concealed from view. It does not raise blood sugar, as it is processed by the liver. There it promptly turns into fat.
In 1978, HFCS was brought in as a substitute for sugar in soft drinks. This quickly became a real game-changer, but not in a good way. By the year 2000, sugar consumption in America increased by 25 pounds per person per year, nearly ALL of it in the form of HFCS. These days the average American consumes a massive 35 pounds of HFCS each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s no coincidence that the obesity rate in the US has reached epidemic proportions worldwide.
You’ll find HFCS in thousands of grocery items, even in places you might never suspect—such as pizza sauce, salad dressings, foods from sodas, drinks and sweets to sauces, breads, and delicatessen foods like smoked salmon, luncheon meats and salami. Farcically, HFCS is often labeled "all natural" because fructose is found in fruit—even though it is mass-factory-produced, using a process which dramatically increases the fructose content of corn syrup. Fructose in these protucts bears little resemblance to fructose found in fresh fruit. It also lacks the fiber, antioxidants and nutrients found in fresh fruit. As pediatric specialist and childhood obesity expert Robert Lustig puts it, high-fructose corn syrup is “a poison all by itself”. Lustig doesn’t distinguish between plain sugar and HFCS when it comes to health perils—they are “equally dangerous”, he insists, like two sides of the same coin. And what’s so insidious about HFCS is that it is sold to the public as a “healthy alternative” to regular sugar. You should avoid it at all costs.
MY OWN FRUIT EXPERIMENT
Most of you know that I am a passionate fan of organic raw food and have been for almost half a century. A high-raw way of eating in my mid-twenties healed me from so many illnesses contracted as a result of being raised on junk food throughout most of my unpredictable childhood. A few weeks ago, Aaron and I decided to experiment by returning to being on an all-raw fruits and vegetables diet for a period of six weeks. We wanted to check out what, if any, ill effects eating an all raw diet containing lots of fresh, organic fruits would have on us. The results of our little experiment have turned out to be excellent. We ate a lot of fruit. We put it in our salads, we made juice from a mixture of fruits and included in it much of the pulp produced from the juicing. We loved the way this made us look and feel. I’m happy to report that the results of our little experiment have been nothing but good.
Like vegetables and herbs, fruits are not only a storehouse for vitamins and minerals; they boast high levels of phytochemicals. These powerhouses for health and vitality are not nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Yet they carry colored plant factors which play an important role in our health. A good supply of these phyto-nutrients helps minimize the incidence of cancer and heart disease and protect from degenerative conditions associated with aging, such as inflammation of the joints, loss of memory and concentration. They even help slow the aging process itself. Large quantities of these plant factors with many different names are found in common fruits, from berries, oranges, lemons and grapes to cantaloupe, kiwis, cranberries and cherries. However, in any diet based on manufactured convenience foods, they are scarce as hen’s teeth.
FRUITS CAN BE FABULOUS
Berries, grapes and cherries as well as citrus fruits are excellent sources of water-soluble phyto-chemicals known as flavonoids. Flavonoids guard the integrity of collagen within the body. They work together with vitamin C and—as do many of the other phyto-nutrients—enhance the positive effects of antioxidant vitamins, improving the function and the integrity of tiny blood vessels known as capillaries, which deliver nutrients and oxygen to our cells. This helps raise overall energy. It also helps keep skin smooth and elastic, and protects against bruising while improving memory and eyesight. Phyto-nutrients often carry weird names like catechin, quercetin and hesperidin. Among the more than 20,000 known, hesperidin, rutin, quercetin, catechin and pycnogenol are especially important. Catechin reduces allergic reactions by calming histamine release in the body. Rutin helps guard the integrity and health of capillaries, veins and arteries, as well as the skin itself.
Many phytochemicals protect our health by interfering with or blocking specific disease processes. They do this either by acting as antioxidants and preventing free radical damage, or by inhibiting enzymes which promote the development of diseases like cancer. Some plant factors found in fruits and vegetables clear our cells of toxins and other damaging substances, such as herbicides and pesticides we take in from our environment.
At Tufts University in the United States, scientists developed a method of quantifying the anti-oxidant power of specific fruits and vegetables by measuring their ability to quench free radicals in a laboratory test tube. To test a food’s oxygen radical absorbance capacity, called the ORAC test, scientists have been able to categorize a fruit or vegetable according to its overall anti-oxidant power. Fruits like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are at the top of the list. These can be highly protective of our health. While we’re talking of lists, here is a list of some of the most common fruits, indicating how much fructose is in each. Become familiar with it and, given the state of your own body, you can easily make your own decision about what kind and how much of each fruit suits you best, as well as how much you want to eat of it.
GRAMS OF FRUCTOSE
Here are my suggestions on how to get the very best from fruits, now and always:
If you know you have insulin or leptin resistance, suffer from food cravings and are overweight, pick your fruits from those with the lowest levels of fructose and limit your fruit intake to around 15 grams of fructose a day.
If you are not troubled by any of these conditions, you can experiment by eating fruits which give you from 20 to 40 grams of fructose a day and work out by trial and error what levels of fructose best work for you.
Always eat your fruits whole, if possible. If you choose to juice them yourself, make sure you keep the valuable pulp from the juicing process and add a good quantity of it back to the juice.
Go for organic fruits. You might even try growing a lot of your fruit in your garden if you have the space.
Never eat GMO fruits—something difficult to ascertain in most countries these days, since corporate interests have lobbied hard to prevent GMO labeling. This is another reason to choose organic.
Never eat or drink anything with high-fructose corn syrup in it. It’s deadly stuff—so read labels carefully.
Fruits are one of nature’s most glorious gifts to us. Enjoy them.