There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to eating fruit. While experts agree that as a society we eat too much sugar, many folks embark on the wrong kind of journey such as trying to avoid foods that shouldn’t be avoided at all. The natural sugars found in fruit are very different from sugar that you find in processed foods like protein bars, granola bars, or even bottled salad dressing. Fruit is a whole food, a product of nature that grows from the ground. The natural sugars in fruit work together on a cellular level with it’s fiber which prolongs the sugar’s break down in your digestive tract. This means the sugar enters your bloodstream more slowly. The slower rate of absorption helps control blood sugar spikes that would otherwise occur if you ate a processed snack like a protein bar. Not only that, fruit contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that are beneficial to your overall health.
Clearly our bodies need both simple and complex carbohydrates to function properly. Fresh fruit should be part of a healthful and balanced diet. One thing to keep in mind though, is that the fresh fruit simply cannot be replaced with fruit juice either. Not only does most store-bought fruit juice contain added sugar, juicing and blending fresh fruit also does not provide the same effect as biting into a whole piece of fruit. Fiber provides its greatest benefit only when the food remains intact. The biological effects of drinking rather than chewing prevent important digestive enzymes from being released in the saliva as you chew.
As most children do, mine enjoy fresh fruit, but sometimes you need a plan for when they ask for something like a ‘fruit roll-up”. Here’s a recipe to make your own fruit roll-ups by simply blending the fruit and then dehydrating it in the oven. Puree, spread on parchment paper, then bake at about 175 degrees for 4 hours (on the bottom rack). Allow it to cool and then cut into strips. Seal with a sticker.
So what is the moral of the story? Make sure you don’t avoid fresh fruit because you heard somewhere that it contains sugar, and if you do juice or blend your own, be sure that is supplemental to actually eating fresh fruit and vegetables and not a meal replacement. Finally, be sure your serving sizes are correct. Typically one serving of fruit is about 1/2 cup and while the amount of fruit you need to eat each day depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity, the recommended daily allowance falls between 1-2 cups (3-4 servings of fruit) per day.