One thing I’ve noticed about the Sunshine Coast of Australia is that fruit is consumed in massive quantities. This is primarily by those who adhere to the high carb, raw vegan way of eating. The amount of raw vegans here truly puts southern California to shame (Not hating on raw vegans. I love that I can find raw desserts in any cafe here!).
Many people that promote a high-fruit, vegan diet advocate weight loss, energy (duh, sugar) and an almost immortal skin. But I would like to propose that fruit is not the miracle food we think it is. Just because something is natural, does not mean we should eat it with abandon. Just like table sugar, fruit is made of fructose which can cause a host of health problems if eaten in excess. People often have no trouble believing the health consequences of High Fructose Corn Syrup, but aren’t willing to see fault in high fructose fruit.
Here are 6 reasons you may want to consider avoiding a fruit based diet:
Fructose contributes to a fatty liver- While every cell in the body can use glucose, fructose can only be broken down by the liver. It is here that lipogenesis takes place and small fat pieces are created and stored. The effect is a sluggish liver similar to that of an alcoholic.
It increases your appetite and causes weight gain- Glucose consumption effectively causes the pancreas to secrete insulin which stabilises blood sugar levels. Fructose however does not cause the secretion of insulin. This makes it difficult for sugars to enter cells and be used for energy, explaining why it can only metabolised in the liver. Although fructose does not cause insulin to be secreted, it does block insulin receptor concentration further causing insulin resistance, a precursor to type II diabetes. This faulty metabolic process causes weight gain, specifically in the form of visceral fat.
More specifically, fructose is shown to inhibit leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) production causing an increase in appetite during the day. Of course, if you’re only eating fruit or severely restricting fat and protein then you will quite possibly loose weight, however it will be from macro & micronutrient malnutrition not overall health.
Fructose actually increases triglycerides: Triglycerides, are commonly known as the most accurate sign of potential heart disease. Fructose consumption has been shown to cause inflammation, furthermore increasing triglyceride levels and very low density lipoprotein levels which show oxidised cholesterol. A University of Minnesota study tested the response of 24 young adults who were fed an almost equal diet, the only change being source of carbohydrates. In men, the fructose diet raised plasma triglycerides by 32% on average.
It feeds candida- Candida is an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut that feeds on sugars and simple carbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose and glucose. Candida is responsible for not only digestive problems but lowered immunity, increased cravings, skin issues like eczema, fatigue and mental health problems.
Mental instability- One of the most obvious side effects of too much sugar is a lack of stable moods. Whether it be from a cane or mango, fructose causes a quick spike in blood sugar followed by a often hyperactive, state. But what goes up must come down, so naturally this excited state is followed by an equally dramatic fatigue or cranky mood. Sugar also increases inflammation in the body and brain as well as surpasses the activity of the hormone BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which is responsible for maintaining stable moods.
Fructose causes the multiplication of cancer cells- It is common knowledge that cancer cells feed on sugar. It’s easy to assume they feed specifically on refined, white sugar, but natural occurring fruit sugars are just as guilty. There is a strong connection between sugar and pancreatic cancer specifically, which shouldn’t be surprising as the pancreas is in charge of regulating blood sugar levels and secreting insulin when carbohydrates (sugars) are consumed. The over-stimulation of any organ, over time causes the break down of healthy cells. According to Dr. Warburg, Nobel Prize winner, tumors feed on glucose, but it is fructose that encourages the division and multiplication of cells therefore, spreading the growth.
Can you still eat fruit?
While I would never suggest removing fruit from a diet, the benefits of fruit can definitely be exaggerated. Of course replacing processed sugars with fruit is a huge step in the right direction, but the simple health advice of “eat more fruit” can be very misleading. Fruit is not something to eat unlimited amounts of simply because it grows on a tree or bush. If you maintain a low sugar diet, then a piece of fruit a day (paired with fat and protein) can be a great snack. But please, don’t eat 10 bananas a day or replace protein rich meals with giant smoothies. I promise, regardless of how “natural” it is, it will contribute to bacterial overgrowth in the gut, and blood sugar issues which take a long time to reverse. I have seen it happen many times, especially amongst those who pride themselves in eating a processed sugar free diet.