Fruit is a "health food", yes. The foods that grow from the ground, available through natural causes are typically designed to be of optimal use to the human body.
Unfortunately however, too many people are still throwing back a ton of fruit which is then catapulting their sugar levels, causing problems when it comes to energy, performance and fat loss.
I want to share a couple of guidelines I give to clients with regards to fruit, in order to keep their blood sugar levels stable, fat burning levels peaked (for those who need it) and cravings at bay.
Beware of High Sugar Breakfasts - We often associate fruit with breakfast and breakfast with fruit. And I do indeed like to get a serving in, here. But, if you have a serving of fruit with breakfast, the breakfast should otherwise be very low in sugar. Have half a banana, a slice of gluten-free or sprouted wheat toast, some natural nut butter and a hard boiled egg. Why? The protein and fat from the egg and the nut butter will balance out the fruit and bread, slowing the release of insulin into the bloodstream. What you have then are more sustained energy levels - meaning, you will stay fuller longer and you won't have as steep of a crash, which typically leads to craving MORE sugar because the body gets desperate. So, "invest" in your breakfast by keeping the sugar lower, adding quality proteins and fats, and your cravings for the rest of the day will be smaller, if existent at all. Stay away from smoothies, although considered a health item, that contain multiple fruits. In my opinion, you should not have more than two servings of fruit in one sitting, ever. Greens? YES.
Stick to 2-3 Servings of Fruit / Day - People hate this one. But it's healthy, right? Canada's Food Guide lumps them together with vegetables, so we feel all produce is one and the same. Vegetables are lower in calories, first of all (but not most importantly), and friendlier to blood sugar spikes and drops. 2-3 servings of fruit is more than sufficient, assuming that you get in 4+ servings of vegetables a day -(which you really need to find a way to do.) Choose 1/2 banana with breakfast, 1/2 cup of berries or an apple for your midmorning snack, and perhaps 1 more sprinkle of something as or with a dessert, if needed.
Balance Out Your Fruit - I'm beginning to repeat myself here a little bit. But, even as a snack, you want to add a healthy fat AND/OR protein to that serving of fruit. In the interest of hormonal balance and blood sugar stabilization, you do not want to eat fruit on its own. Healthy fat makes the energy from the carb more sustaining. It keeps you in better balance, and less likely to fly off the handle at your next meal with record high hunger levels. Have you ever been hangry? Bet it wasn't a few hours after an omelette, bet it was after a yogurt parfait! Oh and while we're on topic... Do not eat yogurt parfaits with sugary yogurt! AND granola? NO! Sugar mania. You'll be all over the map with road rage and 3pm chocolate cravings and who knows what other kind of mood disorders. Imagine if we were all stable all the time... what a different world it would be.
Skip the Juice - Please, please ignore all of the health marketing schemes on boxes of juice. I don't care how many bloody (!) oranges are in there - you don't want that many all at once. If you're craving juice, you are craving a piece of fruit and a ton of water. You're thirsty. Don't suck back a concentration of sugar, it's going to kick you in the butt when it comes to sugar cravings later on. Then, you will be stuck in a sugar vortex. If you are opting for high energy levels, great performance, lower cravings, less body fat - trust me on this one. Toss a ton of vegetables in that juice and have it with an egg, or forgo it altogether. If you are hungover, fine. You may have a little. But pair it with protein, extra water and sleep. ;)
So, used correctly, fruit is a powerful tool. Fantastic before a workout, or even for refuelling afterwards with immediate energy. Complete with flavonoids, antioxidants - one zillion illness fighters. Now I'm getting technical. It's delicious, satisfying and really does a body good in the right doses at the right time. Just, like anything, be careful not to abuse it, or it too can work against you just like anything else.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go pluck a couple strawberries off the balcony plant, follow them with a couple of almonds and go re-direct my bossiness to my own workout in the gym. Have a great day!