I’ve been on a weight loss program for several months and I have a question about adding fruit into my diet. I know fruit has natural sugar in it which is fructose. Is this bad for me in large amounts or can I eat as much fruit as I want during the day? How will this help or hinder my weight loss goals?
This is a really interesting question as it brings up a larger and perhaps more important topic. First let me say that yes, fruit does contain a natural sugar called fructose. Although fructose is quite healthy in this natural form, consuming anything in unlimited quantities is cause for concern. But I believe looking at the question in this way overlooks the bigger issue. That is, when speaking of nutrition, diet, weight loss and fitness we tend to start looking at food as just protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These basic building blocks of our diet are known as macronutrients. The fundamental purpose of these macronutrients is that they provide calories for energy expenditure. But providing calories is only part of the function of food.
Research is making it clear that from a health standpoint, it is the micronutrients and phytonutrients in foods that provide its greatest health benefits. Micronutrients include all of the vitamins and trace minerals such as iron, copper, chromium, selenium, manganese and zinc. Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that are non-vitamin and non-mineral. In plants, they act to protect the plant from disease, extreme weather, ultraviolet rays and naturally occurring pollutants. Essentially, they act to boost the plants immune system. Research is showing that these compounds have many of the same benefits to human health. In fact, foods that are rich in phytonutrients are increasingly being termed superfoods. The following is a list of a few of the most recognized phytonutrients and the foods in which they are found:
These are the pigments found in fruits and vegetables. They act as antioxidants that protect us from certain cancers and heart disease. Foods rich in carotenoids include carrots, kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, peaches, watermelon, mangos and sweet potatoes.
These are also antioxidants and are shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Foods rich in polyphenols include apples, onions, tea, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and certain nuts.
This is a plant estrogen. In plants it plays a vital role in its defense system, especially against fungi. In humans it plays an important role in the defense of hormone cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.
As you can see, there is much more to a piece of fruit than the amount of fructose it contains. Plants have incredible healing properties that research is only beginning to uncover. It is important for us to change the way we view our food to incorporate the power of these supernutrients. As long as we are viewing our nutrition as just protein, fat and carbs we are missing half of the picture. And this second half of the picture, as science is beginning to show, may indeed be the most important. The good news is that once we begin to view our foods under this new light, the changes we need to make become relatively simple. As long as we are eating a plant-based diet that includes small amounts of protein, we have little else to consider. Our nutrition is already set for us in nature.