The Top 10 Myths About Eating Fruit

Saturday Jul 15 | BY |
| Comments (8)

Berries And Fruits

Fruit is a symbol of “health food,” yet it’s also the one natural food that’s vilified the most by many trends of the natural health and raw food movements.

This unscientific trend has also been picked up by the largest proportion of the raw food theorists, many of which go to the extreme of saying that eating lots of sweet fruit is unnatural and unhealthy.

Even the Hippocrates Health Institute has launched a fear campaign on eating fruit, claiming that fruit eating is responsible for the common health problems experienced by the majority of raw foodists.

So let’s take a look at the most common myths about fruit, and bust them once and for all.

1-Eating too much fruit will cause symptoms of blood sugar problems. 

It’s no secret that a proper, healthy raw food diet contains a lot of fruit. In fact, the quantity of fruit that I consume in one single day probably exceeds the amount consumed by an average family on a weekly, if not monthly basis.

When people look at all that fruit, they’re suddenly afraid that eating so much of it will cause them health problems, the most common being cited is blood sugar issues.

I’ve known many people who are convinced that whenever they eat a lot of sweet fruit, their blood sugar “goes out of wack.” Their interpretation of what is happening to them is often “getting sudden energy, followed by a blood sugar crash.”

In other words, they compare their body’s response to eating fruit to a typical response to stimulants such as alcohol or caffeine: a sudden stimulation followed by a depressed, “recovery” state.

In reality, blood sugar remains stable after eating fruit, because it contains different types of sugar that are bound with fiber, slowing down the absorption.

I have tested my blood sugar throughout the day, and I found that it didn’t matter how many bananas I ate: my blood sugar remained normal throughout the day.

In fact, even when I eat more than 20 bananas in a day ), my blood sugar stayed stable.

Steve Pavlina, who’s a professional author and speaker and whose website is one of the most visited on the web, did a 30-day trial of a 100%, low-fat, fruit-based raw food diet. During these 30 days, he recorded every single meal he ate. He also monitored his blood sugar, weight, blood pressure and other vital stats carefully. Here’s what he has to say about the effects of eating fruit on his blood sugar:

I monitored my blood sugar using a blood sugar testing device, the same kind diabetics may use. It showed no discernible spikes in blood sugar throughout the trial whatsoever — absolutely none. In fact, my blood sugar remained incredibly steady throughout the trial. My highest blood sugar reading of the trial was 94, which is still medium-low. All that sweet fruit in my diet simply did not have any adverse effect on my blood sugar.

Eating this way gave my blood sugar more consistency than ever. I couldn’t spike my blood sugar on this diet if I tried. Even eating 19 bananas in one day made no difference.

(from: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2008/02/raw-food-diet/)

I think that it’s still possible for some people to experience an adverse reaction from eating sweet fruit. However, it’s not the fruit that’s to blame in this case, but their overall diet which is too high in fat. This situation is best explained in the book “Breaking the Food Seduction”, by Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D.

“It may surprise you to know that you can actually change your body’s response to any food so that you are better able to handle whatever sugars it might contain. (…)
Marjorie was one of our research volunteers. In a laboratory test, we asked her to drink a syrup containing 75 grams of pure sugar. Taking blood samples over the next two hours, we saw what happened to her blood sugar. (…) It peaked at about thirty minutes, then quickly cascaded downwward. That’s a pretty typical pattern. If your bolod sugar falls too precipitously you may be set up for another binge, which is your body’s way of bringing your blood sugar back up again.

Here’s the problem: insulin is the hormone that escorts sugar from your blood stream into the cells of the body. It is like a doorman who turns the knob on the door to each cell, helps sugar go inside, and then closes the door. (…)

But everything changes when you eat fatty foods, or when you gain a significant amount of weight. Insulin can’t work in an oil slick. When there is too much fat in the bloodstream, insulin’s hand slips on the knob. Unable to open the door to the cells, insulin lets sugar build up in the blood. Your body responds by making more and more insulin and eventually it will get the sugar into the cells.

(…) Cutting fat from your meals improves what is called insulin sensitivity, meaning that insulin efficiently escorts sugar into the cells of the body. (…)

With our guidance, Marjorie adjusted her diet to scrupulously cut fat and boost fiber. A few weeks later we repeated the test. She again drank exactly the same sugar solution, but the changes in her blood sugar were very different. Because the low-fat diet had tuned up her insulin, the blood-sugar was more muted, the peak was lower, and the fall was gentler than before. (…) In our clinical studies, we have found that simple diet changes alone boost insulin sensitivity by an average of 24 percent, and it can increase even more if you also exercise.”

2- Diabetics Should Not Eat Fruit

What about diabetes? Should people with diabetes avoid fruit altogether or should they not worry about it?

Again, it’s best to look at the root of the problem, rather than analyze it superficially.

Fruit eating will NOT cause diabetes. Type-2 diabetes is caused by intra-cellular fat, preventing insulin to do its job.

While type 1 diabetes occurs early in life and is rarely reversible, type 2 diabetes is simply an acute form of insulin resistance or “reduced insulin sensitivity.” This type is reversible when a person addresses the root of the problem in time.

If you want to improve your body’s response to the natural sugar in fruit — and all of the food you eat for that matter — all you have to do is improve your insulin sensitivity by doing the following:

  • Reduce your body fat to a healthy level
  • Eat a high-fiber diet (or should we say an “adequate” fiber diet)
  • Eat a low-fat diet (15% or less of total calories)
  • Exercise regularly (and favor cardio type of exercises)
  • Avoid animal foods

These recommendations, endorsed by many health professionals with extensive experience healing with diabetes naturally (Fuhrman, Mc.Dougall, Ornish, Barnard, etc.), are perfectly compatible with a high-fruit, low-fat diet.

Most diabetics I know have done incredibly well on a fruit-based diet (as long as it’s a low-fat one), by reducing dramatically the quantity of insulin they have to take, or eliminating it altogether.

You should pay attention to all the important factors that can improve insulin sensitivity, the main ones being: losing weight, a low-fat diet, regular exercise.

3- Fruit Causes Candida. 

Candida used to be a buzz word, and we don’t hear much about it anymore. It has always been my opinion that it was a “fake illness,” in most cases.

The real problem with Candida was that once you were convinced of the problem, you followed what was called the “Candida Diet,” which did what it claimed in its name: it gave you more symptoms of Candida! It’s funny that they didn’t call it the “Anti-Candida diet” but the “Candida Diet.”

On a real anti-candida diet, you will eliminate any overly fatty foods from your diet (such as oils, avocados, nuts, and seeds) for several weeks or months. You will also pay attention to the other factors I have mentioned that can improve your insulin sensitivity.

Eating at least one pound of greens per day is also essential.

And if you’re afraid of going on a “no-fat” diet, remember that all fruits and vegetables contain a tiny but sufficient percentage of fat, enough to meet your basic needs.

4- Eating too much fruit, especially bananas, will have you overdose on potassium

It’s important to make the difference between artificial, supplemental potassium (K), and the naturally occurring potassium in fruits. The FDA does not allow a supplement to contain more than 99 mg. of potassium, and injecting yourself with 200 mg of artificial potassium can rush you to the hospital. But three bananas contain up to 1,200 mg of natural potassium, which will not cause any negative symptoms.

There’s no point to fear any potassium “overdose” even when eating a fair number of bananas. Research done on wild monkeys showed that they eat over 6500 milligrams of potassium per day. It would take you over 15 bananas to eat as much potassium as they do. Plus wild monkeys are much smaller in size than we are, so we could eat even more bananas and not even reach the potassium intake of a monkey on a daily basis.

I have previously stated in my e-zine that early humans consumed 40 times as much potassium as sodium. It makes sense because we lose potassium a lot faster than sodium.

The “official” recommendations by nutritionists are to eat more potassium and less sodium.

Even standard nutritionists agree that most people do not eat enough potassium and that ideally, they should consume close to 5000 milligrams per day, and even more for active people.

5- Fruit causes cancer. 

The theory is that since cancer cells feed on sugar, cancer patients should avoid fruit to make sure those cells don’t grow out of control.

Even if you avoid sweet fruit but eat more protein or fat, those nutrients will be converted to glucose and fed to the cells. So what’s the solution?

Again, it’s best to address the root of the problem. Does eating fruit cause cancer? If it did, how many scientific studies can you cite that have linked sweet fruit consumption to increased incidence of cancer?

6 — Today’s fruits are too hybridized and contain too much sugar. 

We often hear the claim that “modern” fruit contains too much sugar, as opposed to the low-sugar wild fruits, which are not available for sale in most grocery stores. The critics of fruit tend to view the cultivars and varieties that are available today as “unnatural.” Their claim is that the artificial hybridization of fruit creates an inferior product that is too high in sugar and too low in minerals.

Let’s take a look at these claims one by one.

First, the idea that cultivated fruit contains “too much” sugar.

It’s entirely possible that on average, cultivated fruits contain more sugar than wild fruits. There are a variety of reasons for that and I won’t go into all of them.

One of those reasons is because as humans moved away from a hunter-gatherer type of lifestyle to a more agricultural one, thousands of years ago, we have perfected certain techniques for fruit cultivation which enabled us to get the best varieties that we preferred. Many wild fruits were left on their own, so to speak, and didn’t evolve with the qualities that we seek (such as sweetness).

This is not to say that all wild fruit is sour and low in sugar. I have tasted various types of completely unknown fruits in my travels. Many of them were quite sweet and tasty.

For example, in Brazil, I tasted at least five different types of fruits I had never seen before — all of which grew 100% wild. The sweetness was comparable to a very sweet white peach.

But even if it were true that commercial fruits contain more sugar than wild ones, the real question is: does it contain too much?

An anti-fruitarian site states the following:

“As I have seen an elaborate argument purporting to prove that, in effect, fruits cannot contain excess sugar, let me list some of the symptoms of excess sugar consumption: excess urination, frequent thirst, mood swings such as exhilaration followed by depression (sugar highs/lows), frequent fatigue, intermittent blurred vision, pains in large joints, etc. Such symptoms are more common among fruitarians (and are usually dismissed as “detox”) than the extremists care to admit.”

In the same line of thought, this author points out that “hybridized” fruit acts like processed sugar in the body. He does not explain how but says that overconsumption of this fruit can lead to dehydration and a slightly diabetic situation.

All of the symptoms are attributable to the high-fat diet that is so common in the raw food world.

So does modern fruit contain “too much sugar”? The answer is a definite no. Unless you consumed more calories than you need, you would not take in “too much sugar,” even if all you ate were dates.

As for the mineral content of fruits, it’s fair to say that it’s probably not as high as it could be. But it’s not that much of an issue since the diet I recommend includes at least one pound of greens per day. Vegetables contain a higher mineral content than most fruits, and will perfectly balance an otherwise high-fruit diet.

The word “hybrid” means nothing bad. It’s simply the description of a process that also occurs in nature. The fruits and plants that are preferred by animals are spread around more and tend to be “hybridized” naturally.

The truth is that every single fruit OR vegetable you buy has been hybridized to the point of being almost unrecognizable from its wild counterpart.

Is that a bad thing? Well, a complete return to the wild would mean eating bitter celery, ridiculously sour oranges and mushy and tasteless watermelon.

Myth #7 — Tropical fruits are too high on the glycemic index

Another strange recommendation that I hear a lot these days is to avoid certain fruits because they are too high on the glycemic index. The culprits are the high-sugar, tropic fruits such as bananas and mangoes.

What is the glycemic index? It’s a table which describes the average response in blood sugar after the ingestion of a fixed portion of carbohydrate.

Now how is this average created? By averaging the data collected by a certain number of human subjects.

So here’s my problem: about 99.9% of the American population eats a diet that is too high in fat, and that on averages contains 45% fat per calorie. Their response to food is not going to be healthy, no matter what they eat! I explained the reasons for that in the first part of my article.

But even considering these, every single fruit is listed as “low” to “moderate” on the index.

Myth #8 — Fruit Causes Dental Decay

It’s entirely legitimate to worry about the possible effects of a diet high in sweet fruit on your dental health. To answer this question, we have to first understand the cause of dental decay: a proliferation of certain types of bacteria in the oral environment. As we know, these bacteria will feed on carbohydrates and produce acid by-products, which will eat into the enamel, causing decay.

If someone already has dental problems, to begin with (even just one cavity), there can be potential dangers to introducing greater quantities of carbohydrates in the diet.

The solution is obviously to deal with the problem at its root by stopping the proliferation of the bacteria. This means to go on a more aggressive dental hygiene program which will dramatically reduce the bacteria count and keep it under control.(see our course on the topic).

Myth #9 — Sugar is sugar, and too much of it is bad, even if it comes from fruit

On this topic, I would suggest reading my article “Is Sugar a Drug?

Myth #10 — Eating only fruits will lead to dangerous deficiencies

It might come as a surprise for you to learn that most deficiencies come from a “surplus,” rather than a lack of any particular nutrient. For example, osteoporosis is not caused by a lack of calcium in the diet, but by certain lifestyle and diet factors that prevent its proper absorption and assimilation. Eating all the calcium in the world won’t make a difference if you want to “prevent” osteoporosis. To prove that point, just look at the countries in the world that have the highest calcium intake… they also have the highest rates of osteoporosis.

If you were to eat fruit only, and stay within the guidelines of a low-fat diet, you would not develop any deficiencies as long as you consumed enough to meet your caloric needs. You could maintain this diet for months or years and stay in perfect health during that time.

At some point, however, you could get certain imbalances caused by a lack of minerals that are more abundant in vegetables and greens. For this reason, I do not recommend a pure fruitarian diet. You should include vegetables such as lettuce, celery, spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers in your daily diet.

Conclusion 

If you were afraid somewhat of fruit, I hope that reading this article has helped you eliminate your fears of it completely. Remember that every study ever done on the effects of eating a lot of fruit in the diet has only come up with positive results in favor of fruit consumption.

Nobody gets sick from eating fruit. But because it’s easy or they have something to sell, they might try to make you believe that fruit was the reason for your problems.

All of the so-called “fruitarians” who crashed on a diet were making some glaring mistakes, such as:

  • Not eating enough calories
  • Eating lots of dried fruits and dates
  • Eating large quantities of avocados, thinking that’s it’s okay because it’s a “fruit” (botanically speaking, it is)

For the record, I do not recommend a diet of only fruit, but one where fruit dominates by calories, with plenty of greens added for variety and overall nutrition. Fats such as avocados, nuts, and seeds can be consumed, but in small amounts. You can also eat cooked greens, vegetables, potatoes, beans, and other healthy plant foods.

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Larkspur says:

    Thank you for this article. I love fruit of all kinds, but I find the conflicting advice from various health gurus totally confusing.
    For instance, Dr Mercola advocates a high fat (healthy fat) diet, low protein and lots of vegetables but very limited net carbs – and limited fruit intake. The rationale being that good fat is a cleaner fuel for the body to burn with less oxidisation.

    Whereas you advocate a high raw food diet and it seems with unlimited vegetables AND fruit.

    I am mostly vegan and have been trying the high (non animal) fat change, but finding it really difficult to limit my fruit intake – as I love all the different flavours; though seem to be building more muscle. I don’t have a weight or BP issue.

    However, I remain very confused re these polarised views.

    • Linda says:

      I used to read Dr Mercola’s stuff but decided he is only interested in supporting meat and dairy industry and making money from his supplements. Evidence suggests that a meat and dairy diet will lead to heart disease. You can never eat too much fruit. My mum is 80 and eats a lot of fruit, most of her friends have ailments but she is well and fit, although she does have a bit too much bread with jam and could lose a few kilo’s, she eats mainly vegan with very little diary here and there, but I am working on getting her to break her bad habits even more.

    • Jan says:

      I definitely have the same question….Mercola’s logic also seems to make sense, and I would love to hear what Frederick has to say on this. If you look at the longest living groups groups of people, their diet was high carb…..thank you!

    • The solution to this confusion is to listen to trustworthy health experts. I do not consider Dr. Mercola in that category. He’s a salesman. Instead, look at Dr. Greger, Dr. Esselsstyn, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard, and many others.

  2. CRISTIANA says:

    Thank you Frederic ! I love fruit. Your insight and advice about fruit, is great ! It does confirm what I experienced and thought about fruit consumption.

  3. Neil says:

    100% agree. Good article.

  4. Melinda says:

    This is such a refreshing article to read! I would choose fruit any day over adding oils and fat to my food. It gets confusing, though, with all the advice out there that we need more healthy fats, especially for hormonal balance, a healthy brain, and to synthesize the use of other minerals and vitamins in the body.

    What do you think of this, Frederic? You seem to be in the minority on this, but what you say makes total sense to me. I’m a fairly new health coach trying to help women with hormonal balance, digestive issues, and calming inflammation…and often feel quite confused with all the contending arguments on fats and carbohydrates. I’ve tried both and feel much heavier on a diet with added fats (like coconut or olive oil). And what do you think of bio-individuality? Do some people require more fats or protein, or is it a one-size-fits-all plan?

    • Hi Melinda,

      First, there’s the question of adaptation. It takes about 90 days or more to adapt to a low-fat diet, when coming from a high-fat one. During that period, you may not feel as satisfied. It’s entirely possible that some people require more protein. It’s also possible that eating more fat is useful for people who burn a lot of calories, like top athlete. But as for bio-individuality, while it’s a real thing, it’s often used as an excuse to promote just any diet diet, and also as an excuse that “this can’t work for me.” We can tell from population studies that there are some principles that work in nearly everybody. Tweaks are required here and there, but on the whole, I would say that 95% will thrive eating a diet of low-fat plant foods, once they’ve figured out the pitfalls and gone through the transition. For the other 5%, some additional tweaks may be necessary.

    Comments are closed for this post.