The summer season is almost upon us, bringing with it an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods to include in your diet. Packed with vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and fiber, they’re truly super foods.
But if you’ve been following a low carb, paleo or ketogenic diet, you may have developed a case of fruit-phobia. Or fructose-phobia, to be more specific, from fear of creating unhealthy blood sugar spikes.
By now you’re well aware that eating sugar can take a toll on your health.
This includes sucrose, table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. Both are about half glucose, half fructose.
One reason that excessive added sugar intake is harmful is the negative metabolic effects of fructose. Especially when consumed in large amounts.
Nevertheless, its effects depend on the context.
Some people now believe that because added sugars are bad, this applies to fruits too because they also contain fructose.
However, this is a misconception. Let’s dispel it.
As previously mentioned, fructose is only harmful in large amounts. It’s very difficult to get excessive amounts of fructose from fruit.
Considering all the health benefits of fruits, let’s explore the effects of fruit consumption on blood glucose levels. Both as whole fruits and in the form of fruit juice.
Simple carbohydrates and dietary sugars are turned into glucose to provide our cells energy.
These carbohydrates are primarily the monosaccharides glucose and fructose, the disaccharide sucrose, consisting of equal amounts of glucose and fructose, and digestible starches. These carbohydrates are processed and rapidly absorbed in the small intestine.
Your body produces insulin to deliver these absorbed sugars into your cells for fuel.
Any carbohydrates not used up by your body become converted into glycogen. Glycogen is then stored in muscle cells and the liver. Excessive glycogen, however, becomes converted to triglycerides/fat.
Not all carbohydrates are created equal.
Complex carbohydrates are composed of a number of sugar molecules. They cannot be broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. They must travel down the small intestine and into the large intestine. Once there they are broken down by your gut microbes into short chain fatty acids.
And this, my friends, is a very good thing. Gotta love those short chain fatty acids.
That’s because short chain fatty acids, in particular butyrate, have a range of anti-inflammatory effects in your gut and throughout your body.
Meet your MACs.
You an also refer to complex carbohydrates as Microbiome Accessible Carbohydrates or MACs.
As opposed to simple carbohydrates, they are not converted into easily absorbable sugars by your small intestine. They are converted into anti-inflammatory, health promoting molecules by your gut microbes.
Whole grains are very different from refined grains in that they have retained their indigestible carbohydrate component, e.g., fiber from lack of processing.
Studies have shown that foods containing complex carbohydrates, those fiber-rich foods, slow gastric emptying. This, in turn, leads to a slower absorption of sugars. This process maintains a steady blood glucose level rather than causing sharp spikes which demand more insulin.
Understanding how the Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) of foods you eat effects sugar absorption can make weight loss easier.
The GI is a tool used to measure how much carbohydrate-containing foods you eat increase blood glucose levels.
Listed foods are classified as low, medium, or high glycemic foods. They’re ranked 0-100; low being 0-55, medium being 56-69, and high being 70-100.
While this is a helpful tool, telling you how rapidly 50g of the food turns into glucose, it’s short-coming is that it doesn’t tell you how much of that glucose is in a serving of that particular food.
This is where the Glycemic Load (GL) comes in. The GL estimates how much the food you’re eating will raise your blood glucose level after eating it. One unit of GL approximates the effect of eating one gram of glucose.
Similar to GI values, GL values breakdown into three ranges; 0-10 is low, 11-19 is medium, 20+ is high. The GL is based on the GI, but it is calculated by multiplying the grams of available carbohydrate in the food by the foods GI, then dividing by 100. The GI of a watermelon is 72 (high), but the GL of a typical serving (120g) of watermelon is 4 (low). That’s due to its high water content and fiber.
Because of their high content of nonabsorbable carbohydrates, e.g. fiber, most fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grain products fall within the low to medium-low GI values.
Refined grains (white rice, white bread), potatoes, and anything processed to have its fiber removed, including both added-sugar as well as pulp-less fruit juice, all have high GI values.
Since fiber slows gastric emptying and therefore the absorption of these foods, if you remove the fiber, you’re going to get a rapid absorption of sugar. That spikes your blood glucose levels.
Is juicing a healthy alternative?
Fiber plays a huge role in whether or not a food causes your blood sugar to rise.
Focusing in on fruits, it has been shown that a fruit’s GI value can be affected by a number of factors, including variety, ripeness, processing, cooking, and storage.
A meta-analysis found that 100% fruit juice (unprocessed, no added sugar) hasn’t been shown to alter blood glucose significantly more than consuming the whole fruit itself.
That being said, fruit juice that has its fiber removed (pulp-less) or has sugar added to it (commercial juices can contain high amounts of high fructose corn syrup), well that’s a different story.
Both added sugar, as well as removing the pulp causes quick absorption, leading to rapid blood sugar spikes.
If you are a fan of fruit juice, the best option is to blend the whole fruit yourself. Avoid any processed fruit juices with added sugar. Make sure to fully mix in the pulp with the juice to slow absorption.
Fruit vs. fruit Juice, whole fruit is still the clear winner.
It’s completely misleading to say you should avoid fruit if you’re concerned about spiking your blood glucose.
We now know that the natural fiber in fruits will slow the absorption of sugar, preventing your blood glucose from spiking.
Not only is fruit okay to eat, but it actually has also been shown to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
A study looking at 7,675 Australians found that total fruit intake was inversely associated with serum insulin, and insulin resistance of β-cell function. And that it was positively associated with insulin sensitivity.
Interestingly, this study states that fruit intake, but not fruit juice intake, may reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. It does this because you’re eating more dietary fiber. This fiber is converted into those lovely anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids and phytochemicals (flavonoids).
Another study looked at healthy participants, 66,105 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2008), 85,104 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991-2009), and 36,173 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986-2008). The study found that fruit consumption was associated with lower risk of type-2 diabetes.
They found that greater consumption of specific whole fruits — particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples (all of which contain high amounts of flavonoids) — was significantly associated with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes. They also found that greater fruit juice consumption was associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes.
It is unclear whether these juices were 100% fruit juice or not, but they reference this study from 1981 which looked at blood glucose when consuming oranges vs. orange juice, as well as grapes vs. grape juice. There the researchers found that with oranges, as previously reported with apples, there was a significantly smaller insulin response to fruit than to juice, and less of a post absorptive fall in plasma glucose.
Consume whole fruits to make sustainable weight loss easier.
When you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you don’t need to worry about consuming too much sugar. Or driving health damaging insulin spikes.
The complex carbohydrates and the polyphenols slow gastric emptying. They provide your gut microbes with the raw materials to generate health promoting anti-inflammatory molecules. This reduces your risk for metabolic disease, including type-2 diabetes.
I call that winning!
Isn’t it about time to question your beliefs around all the foods in your daily diet?
You do not have to believe everything you think or have thought for most of your life. Especially the old weight loss dogmas and food myths that science has proven to be mistaken, wrong or even dangerous to your long term health.
Let’s take a closer look at the thinking that could be impeding successful weight loss.
Please take me up on my offer for your FREE Strategy Call. Then you can see for yourself how it’s possible to jump start weight loss by intentionally increasing your ability to shape your thinking.
This exploration can help you reach your weight loss goals with a lot less stress and drama.
It’s totally possible to make 2022 your year to create the healthiest you. No matter your age, stage or past disappointments.
Jump start your fresh start. A year from now you will thank yourself you reached out to me today.
I’m looking forward to meeting you soon.
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