UnFRUITful Nonsense

Late last week, I had a client tell me the following: "My friend in Weight Watchers told me I'm not supposed to eat a banana and an apple on the same day." 

I laughed, and pressed the issue of why?  Why would a banana and an apple - yes, on the same day - be bad for you?  "Because it's too much sugar."

I mean, it's OK.  We all make mistakes.  For example, when I was younger, I thought the proper name for our glutes was "bootyus maximus." (LOL, I was adorable.) 

But, saying that fruit is bad for us because of the sugar is akin to saying that airbags are responsible for car-related injuries and deaths....in reality, it's horrible drivers that are the cause of accidents and injuries in the first place. In fact, if someone decided to start an anti-airbag movement, it'd probably elicit the same collective response as yelling "the beer has gone bad!!!!!" at a high school party:

Now, I get how diet advice and guidance always comes from the best intentions.  But, what I can't get my head around is how Jennifer Love Hewitt's acting career pretty much went downhill after she launched her solo music career (on second thought, it makes complete sense)....or how fruit ended up morphing into this sugar-ladened product that is just as bad as poptarts.  Frankly, it's insane.  

To be blunt, fruit is A) naturally low in fat, B) naturally low in calories, C) more satiating than processed foods due to it's natural fiber and water content, and D) chock full of vitamins and nutrients.  I'm sorry, but isn't that something we could all use a little more of in our diet?

 If you're an adult and drinking Kool-Aid, then it's not the fruit that's causing weight gain..

If you're an adult and drinking Kool-Aid, then it's not the fruit that's causing weight gain..

But ah, yes, let's come back to the sugar argument.  There have been a few studies (and misguided individuals) that have suggested the fructose in fruit is harmful, and one I wanted to highlight was this study from 2009.  In it, they had overweight or obese participants eat their normal diet, but add Kool-Aid (ohhhhhh yeahhhhhhhhh!) with either glucose or fructose to make up 25% of their total calorie intake.  So, if a person were to eat 2,000 calories/day, they would need to drink 500 calories of Kool-Aid on top of that.  As you could probably predict, everyone gained weight over the 10 weeks of this study....but mostly because there's no way in hell you should be drinking that much Kool-Aid!

Now there's a few ways to look at this study:

  1. Eating fruit and drinking Kool-aid are in no way, shape, or form the same thing (more on this later)
  2. This study crossed ethical boundaries, as it had already overweight or obese people supplement their diets with MORE sugar.
  3. Or, the way the researchers looked at it, the Kool-Aid with fructose had more negative effects than glucose.  Therefore, fructose is bad.

But, when you broke down the numbers, things get even murkier. In order to simulate this study, and the effect of gaining weight from consuming the same amount of fructose, we need to remember that you would need to eat 25% of your daily calories from fructose.  After some fancy arithmetic, here's a nice chart illustrating just much fruit you would need to consume if you ate either 2,000 or 4,000 calories/day:

 Courtesy of Precision Nutrition.

Courtesy of Precision Nutrition.

If you're eating 20 apples and/or pears each day, then you should check yourself into a hospital anyway.  You probably have a tapeworm.

 The average American diet....and no, this doesn't include sugar from fruit (nor should it!)

The average American diet....and no, this doesn't include sugar from fruit (nor should it!)

In all seriousness, it's next to impossible to consume THAT much fruit.  And, the above argument ignores a not-so-small inconvenient fact for the anti-fruities: sugar is digested completely differently in your body based on the source.  In other words, drinking a lemonade is much worse for you then eating an orange.  The fiber, nutrients, and vitamins in fruit is going to have your body digest the sugar in a more gradual way, so it's not a complete bum rush of sugar to your liver.  On the flip side, drinking lemonade is going to rush your system with sugar - something we know contributes to fat.

So before we start demonizing a food, let's use our common sense.  Fruit is not making us fat, instead it's everything else - alcohol, burgers, pizza, cookies, baked lays, nachos, etc.  Cut out the crap, eat like a grown up, and everything will turn out just fine.