To lose a few unwanted pounds, look to the produce aisle instead of the medicine cabinet. Some popular diets center around the consumption of fruit: the raw food diet, juice cleanse, grapefruit diet, and the banana diet all feature a higher intake of fruit. The hype behind fruit and weight loss is justified based on their unique nutritional properties.
Fruit contains three keys that promote weight loss: fiber, vitamins, and water. Fiber creates a feeling of satiety and helps clean the digestive tract. Dr. T. Colin Campbell explains the importance of fiber in the book, The China Study. He states that dietary fiber, found exclusively in plant based foods like fruit, creates a feeling of fullness. Fiber also gathers toxic chemicals in the digestive tract and sends it through the body for elimination. The vitamin content of fruit allows the body to crave less food because it satisfies nutrient requirements. If the body is depleted of nutrients, one becomes hungry to satisfy those deficiencies. Therefore, diets high in foods that contain these nutrients, like fruit, keep hunger at bay. Fruits are also high in water, which keeps the body hydrated. Hydration is important for weight loss because it helps the body flush toxins and maintains body temperature.
Some fruits are more appropriate than others for weight loss. The best fruits for snacking are the most water-rich, like watermelon and honeydew. The high water content and low-calorie combination is great for combating mild hunger. The best fruits for satiety, on the other hand, include nutrient-dense and calorie-dense fruits like bananas and avocados. Bananas also have more calories than other fruits, but they contain a good combination of sugar and fiber: the body can turn sugar into energy instantly, and fiber burns the simple sugar at a slower rate.
Many people have misconceptions about fats and sugar, both found in fruit. Instead of steering clear of avocados and almonds because of their high calorie and fat content, embrace them for a quick pick-me-up. Though these foods are high in calories and fat, they contain “good” fats that help mental acuity and keep joints lubricated. All fats are not created equal. Gabriel Cousins elaborates on the importance of raw fats in his book, Conscious Eating: raw fats from avocados and nuts are actually very healthy, while cooked fats from animal proteins can be harmful, leading to an increased risk of heart disease. Sugar is another misconception: refined sugar is very different from natural sugars. Refined sugars can cause a shock to the body, causing a spike in glucose levels that set the pancreas into overdrive to regulate sugar levels. Raw sugars from fruits are slowly digested and burned at a steady rate. Thus, while fruit is high in sugar, such natural sugar should not be avoided. Even if soda and fruit contain an equal amount of sugar, gram for gram, the sugar in each can cause very different effects in the body. Ditch soda to lose weight, but keep the kiwis.
A fruitful diet is a healthy diet. Integrating fruits into one’s daily meals is easy: pack a piece with you to work, make a fruit-based dessert, or keep it handy in a fruit bowl for a quick snack. Whole fruit is healthier than fruit-based products which might contain added sugars and artificial colors. While all fruits have fiber, sugar, and vitamins, each fruit has its own benefits: orange-colored fruits are high in vitamin A, while darker-colored fruits are high in antioxidants.
Fruit is highly perishable, which means gauging how much fruit to purchase can make a difference of a few dollars. Also, the more expensive fruits do not necessarily mean they are healthier. Acai, goji berries, and mangosteen are fruits that have generated much hype and can be very expensive. While all of these fruits contain antioxidants, other fruits like blackberries and blueberries have the same benefit at a fraction of the cost. Fruit-based pills are not any more effective than consuming whole fruits for weight loss. Another cost-saving tip is to buy in season to avoid paying a premium for fruit.