We’ve often heard the old saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” While it may take more than one apple, Sophie Egan makes the case for eating fruit in a recent article in the New York Times. She cites Dr. David Ludwig who said “that sugar consumed in fruit is not linked to any adverse health effects, no matter how much you eat.” He further asserted that increased consumption of fruit leads to a decease in body weight and obesity-related diseases. “Whole fruits, he explained, contain a bounty of antioxidants and healthful nutrients, and their cellular scaffolding, made of fiber, make us feel full and provide other metabolic benefits.” Dr. Robert Lustig concurs: “‘As far as I’m concerned, fiber is the reason to eat fruit,’ since it promotes satiety and the slow release of sugar. He adds a third benefit from fiber: it changes our intestinal flora, or microbiome, by helping different species of healthy bacteria thrive.”
“Fiber provides ‘its greatest benefit when the cell walls that contain it remain intact,’ [Dr. Ludwig] said. Sugars are effectively sequestered in the fruit’s cells, he explained, and it takes time for the digestive tract to break down those cells. The sugars therefore enter the bloodstream slowly, giving the liver more time to metabolize them. Four apples may contain the same amount of sugar as 24 ounces of soda, but the slow rate of absorption minimizes any surge in blood sugar. Repeated surges in blood sugar make the pancreas work harder and can contribute to insulin resistance, thereby increasing the risk for Type 2 diabetes.”
The kind of fruit is less important than how it is prepared. Fresh fruit is best, followed closely by dried fruit, with sweetened dried fruit and juice far behind. The reason is simple: intact cell walls slow the absorption of the sugars. Juicing breaks down the cell walls and allows the sugars to be absorbed quickly. So the next time you want something sweet, grab a piece of fruit and enjoy a natural treat that’s good for you.