Sugary foods have a bad reputation. And they deserve it.
Supermarket shelves and fast food joints are filled with processed junk loaded with refined sugar. It comes in brightly colored packages, bears the names of famous food companies and sometimes even screams “Natural!” from the labels. But it can wreak havoc on your blood sugar, your heart health, your chances of cancer, your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and much more.
So you may be surprised to hear there are other sweet treats that improve health. They also come in brightly colored packages.
The packages of these healthy sweet treats are their natural coverings, their peels.
I’m talking about fruits. And while you don’t want to go overboard and eat a diet totally dominated by fruit, research shows that eating daily helpings of fresh fruit does good things for your body.
Fewer Heart Problems
A large study in Asia, for instance, shows that folks who consume fresh fruit every day run a significantly reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes than those who rarely indulge.1
This seven-year study involved about 500,000 people, The researchers who conducted it point out that fruit is an excellent source of potassium, antioxidants and dietary fiber along with other beneficial natural chemicals.
As I can tell you from years of poring over professional journals, almost every week scientists identify a new molecule in some fruit that brings us powerful health benefits.
In this new study, the primary fruits consumed were apples and oranges. Eating about 100 grams of fruit a day – which is a little less than a good-sized pear or apple or about a half cup of grapes – was linked to a 30 percent reduced risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke during the study.2
In another analysis of fruit consumption, researchers found that people who eat more fruit also have a slightly reduced risk of developing diabetes.3 It was not a very large decrease but it was still significant. The researchers in this analysis also found that people with diabetes who eat more fresh fruit are at a lower risk of dying during the five years that were analyzed. In addition, the people who ate the most fruit shrank their risk of developing serious heart disease complications connected to their diabetes.
Wide Range of Benefits
When my staff researched the overall benefits of eating fruit, they also suggested a long list of studies that highlighted the particular benefits of individual fruits – so many, in fact, that there are too many to describe here. But let me share some of the highlights with you:
When scientists at the Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at the diets of former smokers who were suffering from declining lung function, they found that those who ate a lot of fruits and tomatoes retained better breathing abilities than former smokers who didn’t eat these foods. They also discovered that apples were particularly effective at keeping lungs functioning better.4
In the ten-year study, eating more than three portions of fruit daily (or at least two tomatoes) helped people retain a greater lung capacity. By the way, tomatoes are a fruit, although we tend not to think of them that way.
The researchers also believe that, even for non-smokers, eating fruit every day can help keep lung capacity more robust as you age.
How to Save Seven Million Lives a Year
Eating more fruits (and vegetables) could potentially save more than seven million lives a year, according to researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In their review study, they found evidence that we should be eating at least ten portions of fruits and vegetables a day for optimum health.5
According to the Norwegian analysis, eating ten portions a day drops your risk of dying prematurely by almost a third and your chances of heart disease by a fourth.
Other research shows:
- Eating apples and grapes with curry (rich in turmeric) may help to starve cancer cells to death. A Texas study shows that natural compounds in these foods deprive cancer cells of glutamine, an amino acid they need to survive.6
- As health advocates have said for years, cranberries do in fact keep the urinary tract healthier. While some research has questioned the effectiveness of cranberries to fight off urinary tract infections, a large review study in Portugal shows they are useful in protecting this part of the body.7
- Red grapes, pomegranates and pears can reduce the risk of colon cancer. A study at the University of Warwick shows that these fruits have compounds that activate immune cells that defend the colon against inflammation and cancerous developments.8
Now, while I don’t think you should stuff yourself with fruit, there’s obviously no health reason to be overly cautious about fresh fruit, either. However, it’s a good idea to stay away from canned fruit. These products often include syrups that contain way too much refined sugar. They’ve also been cooked, very likely destroying valuable nutrients. Get this: European research into fruit shows that canned fruit actually is linked to an increased risk of heart issues.9 So stick with the fresh stuff.
Isn’t a No-Carb Diet Healthier?
I’m guessing I’ll get a few nasty emails from no-carb-diet fans who believe fruit is bad. My reply is that it’s a whole heap better than eating cakes, other pastries, candy, soda and all the packaged goods from catsup to cereal that contain added sugar.
Plus fruit contains so many other valuable molecules and healthy fiber, the benefits in my opinion far outweigh the negatives. I might add that all that fiber fills you up and it’s likely you’ll end up consuming far less sugar than people who start the day with a doughnut.
The no-carb diet is valuable – especially for cancer patients and people with diabetes – but most people are not able to stick with it long term. Sooner or later, carbs will creep back into their diets. When that happens, they should be sure those carbs are fruits.