Fruit Does Not Make You Fat

Sugar has  been making headlines as of late, with celebrities and trainers alike singling  it out as one of the key culprits in America’s obesity crisis. Trouble is, fruit  — because it contains natural sugar — sometimes gets lumped in with foods like  baked goods, candy, and sugary drinks, and as a result, unnecessarily shunned.  But in my private practice, I still recommend eating fruit — even for clients  trying to lose weight. 

Here are five important reasons to  continue to enjoy cherries, berries, melon and other juicy gems, as part of a  healthy weight loss strategy.

Fruit Eaters Tend to Weigh  Less

Even I, a nutritionist, was surprised by the research, which has found that  people who eat more servings of fruit have lower BMIs, even more so than veggie  eaters. Scientists aren’t sure why, but it may be because fruits tend to replace  higher calorie goodies and treats, whereas veggies tend to be add-ons. In other  words, you’re much more likely to choose an apple (rather than broccoli) instead  of a cookie. And that swap-out strategy can result in significant calorie  savings over time. Even just once a week, reaching for one cup of fresh  blueberries rather than a blueberry muffin would save 19,552 calories in a  year’s time, enough to shed at least five pounds of body fat. In addition,  emerging research indicates that consuming more produce is tied to smaller waist  measurements, and lower body fat percentages, even without taking in fewer  calories, meaning that the quality of your calories is key.

Fruit is Packed with Water and  Fiber

Apart from impressive nutrients, fresh fruit is high in water and fiber, so  its naturally occurring sugar is less concentrated than other sweet foods. For  example, one cup of whole strawberries naturally contains about 7 grams of  sugar, compared to about 13 grams in one tablespoon of maple syrup, 17 in a  tablespoon of honey, 21 grams in 17 gummy bears, or 30 in a 12-ounce can of  cola. And even in fruits that pack more sweetness per bite, the sugar is bundled  with valuable protective substances. Mango, for example, has been shown to  prevent or stop the growth of breast and colon cancer cells.

Fruit Has Awesome  Antioxidants

While you’ll find some of the same vitamins and minerals in both veggies and  fruits, eliminating the latter altogether would cut out a broad spectrum of  antioxidants that are unique to specific fruits or fruit “families.” In other  words, the antioxidants found in stone fruits (cherries, peaches, plums) differ  from those found in pomes (apples, pears), citrus (oranges, grapefruits,  tangerines), melon (honeydew, cantaloupe), berries (raspberries, blueberries,  strawberries, blackberries), and tropical fruits (banana, mango, papaya). That’s  key, because different types of antioxidants do different things. One study, in  female volunteers, found that eating a wider array of the exact same amount of  produce for two weeks resulted in significantly less oxidation, a marker for  premature aging and disease. In other words, even at the same quantity, a  greater diversity offers more benefits. If you think of antioxidants as “cell  defenders,” it just makes sense — smaller numbers of troops from a larger number  of armed services, each with distinct abilities — offer more overall protection.  To reap the rewards, the smartest strategy is to not only eat fruit, but mix it  up–rather than munching an apple every day, alternate the types of fruit you  buy, as well as the colors.

Fruit Has Beauty  Benefits

More good news about those aforementioned antioxidants — the rewards of  consuming a wider assortment can literally be seen in your skin. One recent  study tracked the diets of 35 people, took photos of them, and asked others to  rate the pics. Those who ate an average of 2.9 more portions of produce daily,  including both veggies and fruits, were rated as healthier looking, and those  who downed an extra 3.3 portions per day were ranked as more attractive.  Researchers say antioxidants are the explanation — in addition to affecting skin  pigment, they also improve circulation, which boosts blood flow to the skin  surface, imparting a natural glow. Antioxidants also fend off compounds that  damage skin from the outside in, including free radicals produced by sun  exposure, pollution, and cigarette smoke.

Fruit Provides Endurance-Boosting  Energy

If you’re active, consuming fruit  pre-workout is a great way to fuel exercise and energize your cells. One study,  which compared bananas to a sports drink during intense cycling, found that in  addition to providing antioxidants and nutrients not found in sports drinks,  bananas triggered a greater shift in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a  role in movement and mood (some research also indicates that a low dopamine  level may be tied to obesity). Other studies, that compared raisins to sports  supplements, found that shrunken grapes were just as effective at supporting  endurance, but raisins provide bonus nutrients. These include antioxidants, as  well as boron, a mineral that helps keep bones strong, and inulin, a fiber-like  carbohydrate that acts as a prebiotic, a substance that helps support the growth  of probiotics, the “good” bacteria in your GI tract that boost immunity and keep  your digestive system healthy. I guess what I’m getting at here is there’s far  more to fruit than sugar alone. And if you’re active, a moderate amount of fruit  sugar will fuel your cells, not fatten them.

Bottom Line: With so many  benefits, fruit is definitely worth including in your daily diet. But that  doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited quantities. Because fruits do pack about  three to four times as much carbohydrate as veggies, your daily intake should be  based on your body’s energy needs. For most women, a healthy goal is two daily  servings, with one serving being one cup fresh, about the size of a tennis ball.  In my newest book “S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose  Inches,” I include one serving of fruit in each breakfast meal and one in  every snack. For most of my clients, this is the perfect amount to reap fruits’  nutritional and health rewards, without interfering with weight loss.

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian  with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently  seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately  counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is  currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and  the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports  dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is “S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim:  Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.” Connect with Cynthia on  Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Published in: on July 3, 2013 at 6:10 am  Leave a Comment  

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