Does fruit make you fat?

Posted: November 8, 2010 in Nutrition
Tags: , , , , ,

How easily can the body make use of the sugars in fruit?

Many of us think of fruit as something we should be eating on a regular basis.   The ‘5 a day campaign’ certainly seems to push the benefits of eating fruit regularly, but what are the downsides?

The real answer here is that fruit can be both good and bad for your body, depending on your fitness goals.  If you are keen to lose body fat then you need to understand how food reacts once it is in the body before you can decide if, and when you should be eating it.  One of the key properties of most fruits is that they contain fructose.  Fructose is a sugar and in its native state cannot be directly absorbed by the body.  The body has to convert the fructose into glucose, which it does through the liver.  Once this process is complete the body will then release the glucose into the bloodstream.

It all sounds good so far.  Especially when you consider that this process actually helps to keep your blood sugar levels under control.  The slow release helps to fuel your body during workouts and won’t cause your insulin levels to spike.  That last sentence is a big indicator as to when you would be best eating fruit … and that is pre-workout.  The slow release energy will keep your body working hard during your session.

So far I’ve been singing the praises of fruit but there is a downside in all of this.  The liver can only convert fructose to glucose if it is void of glycogen.  In the worst case scenario the liver is full of glycogen – it will convert the fructose into fat and not glucose.  Exactly what you don’t want to be happening.
I’m not suggesting that you should avoid fruit completely though.  Fruit has many other benefits that outweigh the chance of adding a few pounds.  Fruit contains crucial antioxidants and phytochemicals which are essential to keeping you healthy., you just need to keep an eye on how much fruit you comsume during the day.

As we’ve seen so far the best plan of action is to get your fruit in the morning or before a workout.  Even better if your workouts take place before midday, as you will be getting the essential benefits from fruit without any of the downsides.

Recent studies have shown that it is the type of sugar you consume and not just the amount of calories which is important.  The same study indicated that people who took more of their calories from fructose and fruit sugars had a greater amount of intra-abdominal fat .. the type of fat which gives you a belly and wraps around your internal organs.  Additionally they suffered from higher levels of cholesterol.  We all know that eating too much sugar is a bad thing anyway but hopefully this serves as a reminder to watch where you get your calories from.  A couple of portions of fruit a day is about right and eaten at the right time will certainly provide benefit. A lot of the antioxidants and phytochemicals you need to stay healthy can be found in vegetables so try to include more of these in your daily eating plan instead.

 

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