The Power of Fruits
Among our food groups, fruits provide some of the most exotic and nutrient-dense dietary options known to humanity. Fruits are loaded with antioxidants which help to combat disease and protect the body. There’s such an expansive diversity of fruits available to us, and in each group there can be up to thousands of variations! Apples alone constitute over seven thousand varieties! This article will touch on the benefits of pears which, unlike apples, has only 10 varieties, each with its own distinctive color, flavor and texture. We will also look at some of the most compelling facts about fruit that research has found.
Bartlett Pears have a definitive pear shape and a classic pear flavor; this beautiful yellow/green fruit is the quintessential pear for canning and cuisine, which is why this pear was perfectly incorporated in my delicious low-calorie, nutrient-dense Cast Iron Skillet Bartlett Pear Cake recipe.
Pears contain a natural sweetener called Erythritol, which is also found in grapes. Most artificial sweeteners, like aspartame or saccharine, have bad reputations for causing harm to health when consumed regularly over a period of years. However, Erythritol is a natural sweetener which has recently been found to be beneficial to health and is termed in literature as an antioxidant (1). Structurally, Erythritol looks very similar to Mannitol, a well-known antioxidant, but Mannitol, Xylitol, and Sorbitol are problematic in that they are not absorbed and can cause gastrointestinal problems in the colon area.
On the other hand, Erythritol is well tolerated and shows no signs of toxicity, therefore termed an excellent sugar alternative for those who have diabetes mellitus, or those wanting to restrict their caloric intake. One of the benefits of Erythritol is that it may help reduce the glycemic impact of foods or beverages. You can purchase Erythritol at your local health foods store.
The 6 most compelling facts about fruits
Below, I compiled a short list of some of the most compelling findings on fruits and their benefits. I hope you will find the information beneficial!
Fruits and Obesity
Fruits contain weight-lowering properties related to their polyphenol content’s effect on gut microbiota. To date, there is mounting evidence that the gut microbiota of lean/healthy individuals is different from more obese/unhealthy individuals. What’s primarily involved here is the difference in the ratio of the two main bacterial phyla found in the intestinal tract, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes. You can think about the Bacteriodetes as the “good guys” and the Firmicutes as the “not-so-good guys”.
Leaner, healthier individuals who eat a more plant-based diet (fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds) actually have more Bacteriodetes to Firmicutes. On the other hand, obese individuals who consume a less healthy diet have more Firmicutes to Bacteriodetes. This in turn affects the body’s weight gain pattern. The weight-lowering property of fruits specifically may be related to their polyphenol content which consequently alters the balance between the two groups of Bacteriodetes and the Firmicutes in favor of the Bateriodetes (2).
The power of the humble Blueberry
Blueberries can help to blunt the high glycemic index of foods. According to a recent study, eating a bowl of cereal with no blueberries puts your body in a state of oxidative debt, which is a fancy term for depleting your antioxidants. Half a cup of blueberries is sufficient to inhibit post-prandial oxidation (3).
Shouldn’t the intake of fruit be restricted for people with Type 2 diabetes?
According to a clinical trial completed on two groups of diabetic patients (one instructed to consume no more than 2 fruits a day, the other instructed to consume at least 2 fruits per day), it was found that there was no effect on the patients’ A1C, weight loss, or waist circumference. This article went on to state, “We recommend that the intake of fruit SHOULD NOT be restricted in patients with type 2 diabetes" (4).
Is it beneficial to have fruit in almost any amount?
It’s important to note the nutritional problems associated with fructose occur when it is ADDED to foods. On the other hand, fruit in their natural state is beneficial in “almost any amount”! But isn’t too much of a good thing a bad thing? Perhaps not, as a clinical trial was conducted in the 1970s where 17 people consumed 20 servings of fruit per day. That’s approximately 8 cans of soda in terms of sugar, BUT despite the extraordinary high fructose content of this diet, the investigators reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit) for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels after 12-24 weeks (5).
A more recent study conducted by Jenkins found that consuming 20 servings of fruit per day had no adverse effects on weight, triglycerides, blood pressure, and actually exhibited an astounding drop in LDL cholesterol (6).
Fruit & Cancer
Which fruits are the most effective for controlling cancer proliferation? In a study it was found that:
- Pineapples, pears and oranges have the same effect on cancer cells as water, but don’t let this deter you from consuming these, as they provide other benefits!
- Peaches begin to pull away from the pack and cancer proliferation drops about 10%
- Bananas and grapefruits decrease cancer proliferation by 40%
- Red grapes, strawberries and apples do even better at reducing cancer growth by 50%
- BUT cranberries and lemons are the winners at cutting back cancer proliferation by 80% (7)
Healthiest thing to add to your fruit smoothie
Indian Gooseberry (amla) powder contains an immensely high antioxidant content, 782 antioxidant units found in just 1 teaspoon (as compared with 535 antioxidant units in ½ C of frozen blueberries)! You can pack up to 1500 antioxidant units in one healthy and balanced fruit smoothie. Compared with a maximum of just 15-20 antioxidant units that you’d get from a typical American breakfast (i.e. cereal with milk, a breakfast bagel with cream cheese, an egg muffin, or scrambled eggs), that is quite a powerful difference!
My recommendation to you is this- do not be afraid of fruit! Pick up that extra piece after lunch, incorporate it into your baking and in your salads, or load up regularly with a refreshing fruit smoothie in the morning! Fruit has the power to provide our bodies with an abundance of health benefits.
Cheers to the power of Fruits!
Fay Kazzi, PhD, MS, RD
Dr. Fay Kazzi has a BS and MS in Nutrition and Dietetics, is a Registered Dietitian, and earned her PhD in Rehabilitation Science at Loma Linda University. She is a published scientific author and her research explored the effects of probiotics on bariatric surgery in a randomized controlled clinical trial. Dr. Kazzi is also a plant-based culinary chef and nutrition consultant and owns her own corporation - FK Nutrition Consulting Inc. She runs a nutrition culinary program for medical students and the community at Loma Linda University. She is also a recipe creator and food photographer for high-end markets and other clients. Her website is www.theearthycanvas.com
den Hartog GJ, Boots AW, Adam-Perrot A, Brouns F, Verkooijen IW, Weseler AR, Haenen GR, Bast A. Erythritol is a sweet antioxidant. Nutrition. 2010 Apr;26(4):449-58.
Rastmanesh R. High polyphenol, low probiotic diet for weight loss because of intestinal microbiota interaction. Chem Biol Interact. 2011 Jan 15;189(1-2):1-8.
B C Blacker, S M Snyder, D L Eggett, T L Parker. Consumption of blueberries with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat breakfast decreases postprandial serum markers of oxidation. Br J Nutr. 2013 May;109(9):1670-7.
A S Christensen, L Viggers, K Hasselström, S Gregersen. Effect of fruit restriction on glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes--a randomized trial. Nutr J. 2013 Mar 5;12:29.
B J Meyer, E J de Bruin, D G Du Plessis, M van der Merwe, A C Meyer. Some biochemical effects of a mainly fruit diet in man. S Afr Med J. 1971 Mar 6;45(10):253-61.
D J Jenkins, C W Kendall, D G Popovich, E Vidgen, C C Mehling, V Vuksan, T P Ransom, A V Rao, R Rosenberg-Zand, N Tariq, P Corey, P J Jones, M Raeini, J A Story, E J Furumoto, D R Illingworth, A S Pappu, P W Connelly. Effect of a very-high-fiber vegetable, fruit, and nut diet on serum lipids and colonic function. Metabolism. 2001 Apr;50(4):494-503.
J. Sun, Y.-F. Chu, X. Wu, R. H. Liu. Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common fruits. J. Agric. Food. Chem. 2002 50(25):7449 - 7454
Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, Bøhn SK, Dragland S, Sampson L, Willey C, Senoo H, Umezono Y, Sanada C, Barikmo I, Berhe N, Willett WC, Phillips KM, Jacobs DR Jr, Blomhoff R. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutr J. 2010 Jan 22; 9:3.