This is a guest post by Sindy Ng. Sindy is a nutrition student at Ryerson with plans to become a Registered Dietitian. She does a great job investigating the benefits of fruits and fruit sugars.
Fruits and Fruit Sugar
This article addresses the health benefits of fruits, tips on eating more fruit, and a few simple recipes.
Natural Fructose vs. Industrialized Sugars
The health effects of sugar are complex. At some points in history, it was viewed as beneficial to health, but today, it’s demonized by many. However, there are several types of sugars, each with different nutritional effects.
Fructose is a main sugar naturally found in fruits and vegetables. It’s also a main component of high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar – another form of sugar called sucrose. Fructose from fruit is different from these types of industrialized sugars. The health issues associated with fructose, table sugar, cane sugar, honey, or fruit juice concentrates only on appear when they’re added to foods and drinks. These are what should be limited, not fruits and vegetables. They are called “empty calories”, providing calories but no essential nutrients. High intake of foods with added sugars has been shown to increase risk of liver toxicity, type two diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and obesity. Fruit and vegetable consumption on the other hand can help lower the risk of developing these diseases.
Benefits of Fruits
Natural sources of sugar, such as fruit, are beneficial. Here are just a few reasons why you should eat more of nature’s candy.
Fruits contain a lot of fibre, which attaches to fructose so that blood sugar isn’t raised as quickly. The soluble fibre in fruit also has the ability to act like a gel in our intestines so that sugars are released slowly. How about fruit consumption for diabetics? Most guidelines recommend a diet high in fiber-rich foods such as fruit. There was a study conducted with diabetics randomly put into two groups. One group was told to eat at least two pieces of fruit a day, and the other group could eat up to two pieces of fruit a day. The results showed that the second group had no change in their insulin control or weight. This means that patients with type 2 diabetes shouldn’t be restricting their fruit intake. Fructose can actually help control blood sugar. Adding fruit to a meal would lower, not raise, blood sugar. The great part is that blood sugar doesn’t fall dramatically shortly afterwards.
Your body is about 70% water, so it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. In addition to drinking water and other healthy beverages, fruits are an easy way to increase your nutrient and water intakes for the day. Each fruit has a different percentage of water. Strawberries and watermelons are 92% water!
Another great benefit of fruits are the antioxidants, such as vitamin C and anthocyanins. Bananas and apples are America’s most popular fruits but they don’t contain nearly as much antioxidants as berries. This is not to say you shouldn’t eat them anyways! Blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries provide the greatest sources of antioxidants, respectively. The next time you’re at the supermarket, try to opt for berries to add to your smoothies, oatmeal, and other dishes. They also make quick and easy snacks on their own.
Reduce Cancer Risk
The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce cancer cell growth. Fruits such as cranberries and lemons are the most effective, but again, we should be eating a variety as each fruit has different benefits.
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may decrease disease risk, no matter how much you eat. It’s the variety that’s important. There’s no difference in inflammation levels between those eating six servings of vegetables compared to those eating two servings a day. However, those eating more variety have significantly less inflammation. The American Heart Association also recommends eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Easy Ways to Eat More Fruits
Tip 1: Always be prepared
Make sure you always have ripe fruit around in the house. You’re much more likely to eat something that’s convenient. Similarly, if there are chocolate bars, chips, and other processed foods in the kitchen, you might be more tempted to eat them when you’re hungry, bored, or craving something sweet. Instead, keep fruits in the fridge or on the kitchen counter and snack on them.
Tip 2: Wash your fruit and store in the fridge
When you return home from the grocery store and have free-time, wash your fruit and store them into re-usable containers and keep them in the fridge. Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes are great for this. When you’re hungry, instead of going to the fridge and reaching for something processed, choose the containers of fruit. It also makes travelling easier. Take a container or two with you when you’re on the go. This habit can also save you money. Being a busy working student, I always prepare my meals and snacks beforehand and take them with me to school or work the next day. It has helped me tremendously with eating healthier while saving money.
Tip 3: Buy frozen fruit
Fresh and frozen fruit are both nutritious. Frozen fruits are picked at their peak ripeness and then frozen to preserve all the nutrients, so they can be just as healthy as fresh fruit. They can make it easier to make your morning smoothies, since you don’t need to cut or wash the fruit! Just take them out of the freezer and toss into your blender. I buy frozen fruit once in awhile so that I’ll always be prepared.
Tip 4: Freeze your smoothie ingredients
Another fun idea is to prepare your week of smoothies beforehand. In glass jars, add all the fruits and vegetables you want in each smoothie. Put them in the freezer and they’re ready for you to blend up whenever you want a healthy drink!
Having fruit on-hand is great, so here are three quick recipes to try out! They serve two adults, so feel free to increase the measurements to your desired portions.
Mango Ginger Kale Smoothie
This refreshing, detoxifying smoothie is tart and sweet.
Recipe and photo from Minimalist Baker (http://minimalistbaker.com/mango-ginger-kale-green-smoothie/)
- 1 cup kale, fresh or frozen
- ½ cup ripe frozen mango cubes
- ½ cup ripe frozen peaches
- ½ tbsp fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ¾ – 1 cup water
- optional: ½ cup ice
- Add ice to the blender first and crush. Then add kale, mango, peaches, ginger, lemon juice, and ¾ cup water.
- Blend until smooth, adding a little water as needed. You may need more if you’re using frozen fruits.
- Taste and adjust. If it’s too tart, add more fruit. For more zing, add ginger. And for more acidity, add more lemon juice. To make it thicker and colder, add more ice and blend.
- Pour into a serving glass and enjoy!
This is a simple ice cream recipe that requires only two ingredients! Since going vegan two years ago and discovering the magic of being able to make my own ice cream with just frozen bananas, I was hooked. Many vegans call this “nice cream” as it is kind to animals, kind for the planet, and kind to your body!
- 3 – 4 frozen bananas
- ¼ cup soy or almond milk
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional, for chocolate flavour)
- Add all of your ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth.
- Serve in a bowl and add more fruit and other toppings, or eat straight from the blender!
Note: Adding more almond or soy milk will create a thinner consistency. It can be omitted if you have a powerful blender to create a thicker ice cream.
What I love about making my own ice cream is that I can use a combination of any fruit. Try experimenting with your own combinations of frozen fruit! Peaches, pineapple, mangoes, and berries all work well. For additional nutrients, add a handful of baby spinach into your blender. I promise you won’t taste it. I also love adding superfoods and other toppings to my ice creams. Frozen berries, hemp hearts, chia seeds, slivered almonds, coconut flakes, granola, and goji berries are some of my favourites.
If you know me, you’d know I’m obsessed with chocolate-flavoured things; chocolate smoothies, chocolate oatmeal, hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, and even chocolate pancakes. I discovered this recipe last year when I learned that a mashed banana can replace an egg when baking. I decided to put it to the test with pancakes and the result was yummy!
- 1.5 cup oats
- 1 cup almond milk (sweet or unsweetened)
- 1 ripe banana*
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- Olive or coconut oil
- Blend the oats in a blender or food processor until it creates a fine flour consistency. If you already have oat flour, add a little under 1.5 cups into your blender or food processor.
- Add almond milk, banana, and cocoa powder. Blend until it becomes a smooth batter.
- Pre-heat a non-stick frying pan and keep it on a low-medium heat. Use a little bit of olive or coconut oil if you’re not using a non-stick frying pan.
- Pour batter into the pan to your desired size. Wait until the edges begin to brown and the top bubbles. The bubbles should pop and form holes that stay open on the surface. To check if the underside is cooked, lift the edge of the pancake with your spatula or a fork to see if it’s golden brown. You can also shake the pan back and forth to see if it slides around, which means it’s ready. Flip your pancake. This may take practice!
- Let the other side cook. Use your judgment when it’s ready. It should also be golden brown and not stick to the pan.
- Remove your pancakes from the pan, stack them, and decorate with fruit. I used frozen raspberries, frozen blueberries, kiwi slices, and cut up dates. Add coconut flakes or sweeten with some maple syrup or agave. Get creative!
Note: You should always eat your bananas ripe, meaning yellow and spotty! This is when the starchy, indigestible complex sugars are converted to fructose, a simple sugar that’s sweeter and easier to digest. Ripe bananas also have higher levels of antioxidants.
I hope you give these recipes a try, and incorporate fruits and vegetables into your daily life in other ways! The bottom line is that we should be conscious of food labels and the amount of added sugars we eat or drink. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sugar intake from processed products like sweetened beverages, desserts, and breakfast cereals. Sugars in their natural states found in fruits, vegetables, and grains are healthy for us. These foods provide an abundance of nutritional benefits and should be consumed daily.
Sindy’s Bio: Hi fellow health and nutrition enthusiasts! My name is Sindy Ng and I’m so honoured to have the opportunity to be a guest blogger on Dr. Pamela Fergusson’s website. I met Pamela at a Thanksgiving potluck last year and was so surprised to encounter a plant-based Registered Dietitian. I’m a Nutrition and Food student at Ryerson University and aspire to be a Registered Dietitian or Holistic Nutritionist after my undergraduate studies. I’m currently an outreach volunteer with the Toronto Vegetarian Association with a passion for helping people make healthier food and lifestyle choices.
All of the photos in this post, unless stated otherwise, are from my Instagram account.