Often times I am asked if I ever eat fruits and the answer is yes, I eat fruits everyday.
Fruits as well as vegetables are important for overall good health. Fruits offer a wide range of health benefits and in my personal opinion should not be eliminated from the diet. Fruits and vegetables help fight off cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, coronary artery disease and can help improve one’s immune system. Fruits are loaded in antioxidants that can help fight off free radicals and help prevent Cancer. Fruits are also loaded with fiber, which help keep your digestive tract healthy and regular as well as help keep you feeling full longer. They are rich in vitamin C, as well as other important vitamins and minerals and are a great source of energy. With all that being said, all fruits are not created equal and, some more than others, are loaded with natural sugars that fall high on the glycemic index.
The glycemic index is a measure of the rate at which an ingested food causes the levels of glucose in the blood to rise. Meaning that foods such as certain fruits (watermelon, and raisins) containing higher-levels of natural sugar will raise the blood levels of glucose at a fast rate. The smaller or lower the glycemic index number on fruits or foods in general, the less impact that food has on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Glycemic Index of foods:
55 or less = Low (good)
56- 69 = Medium
70 or higher = High (bad) (Web.MD, 2015).
Now, lets talk a little about insulin and its role on your fitness goals.
Insulin is a hormone made by the healthy and normally working pancreas that allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store the glucose for future use.
Anytime one eats food and the blood sugar level rises, cells in our pancreas are signaled to release insulin into our bloodstream. Insulin then attaches to and signals cells in your body to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and enter the cell to be used for energy.
When we eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar, such as high glycemic index fruits, the blood levels of glucose and insulin increases at a faster rate as well. Because high glycemic index foods are broken down into sugar so quickly, this also causes blood insulin levels to spike. Low glycemic index foods such as complex carbohydrates, are broken down more slowly in the digestive system, therefore entering your blood cells at a lower speed, and keeping insulin levels more steady and consistently.
When you eat more calories than you need to maintain a healthy weight, and eat foods that are high in simple carbohydrates and sugar, your cells will get more glucose than what they need to maintain normal body functions. More insulin is also needed to send this excess level of glucose into your cells, including to your fat cells. Excess Glucose (sugar) that your cells don't use for energy eventually accumulate as fat.
This is one of the reasons why it is important to monitor your intake of simple carbohydrates (white rice, white flour, table sugar), and other high glycemic index foods such as fruit, and choose wisely. I often see a lot of people have the misconception that eating tons of fruits everyday is healthy for them. When you are constantly feeding your body high glycemic index fruits and other foods, you are running the risk of also adding the extra-unwanted pounds of fat, as a result of overloading your body with large amount of sugar and carbohydrates.
When choosing foods and fruits I prefer to choose foods that have a lower glycemic index such as complex carbohydrates (Quinoa, Steel-Cut Oatmeal, Whole Grains, Brown Rice), and fruits including: Strawberries, Grapefruits, Apples, Pears, Plums, Peaches, Oranges, Blueberries and small Bananas.
I also prefer to eat fruits first thing in the morning with my protein/veggie smoothie. While we sleep throughout the night our bodies are in a fasted state, therefore, having fruits early in the am after waking up is a more ideal time. The glucose found in the fruits would more than likely be used to restock the body’s glycogen levels, get you out of the fasted mode, and be used for energy instead of being stored as fat.
I also prefer to have fruits right after finishing my workouts along with my Labrada Lean Body For Her (Jamie Eason Series) Whey Protein shake. Post workout intake of fruits such as Banana can help increase your insulin levels which will then drive the carbohydrates, amino acids and protein into your muscles cells. This helps stop the breakdown of muscle fibers from your workouts, restore your glycogen levels and start the rebuilding process that much quicker.
I suggest to anyone wanting to become a healthier individual working on his or her fitness goals, to choose their foods wisely in order to prevent your blood sugar and insulin levels from soaring after meals. I have found that eating smaller meals through out the day helps maintain a steady flow of sugar and insulin levels in the blood and also helps curve my appetite and cravings.
You should aim to have your meals be composed of a variety of green leafy vegetables (which are low in sugar, carbohydrates, and calories), whole grains, lean meats such as chicken, fish and turkey breast, and lower glycemic index fruits.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water through out the day to keep you hydrated and improve bodily functions. Stay consistent, and be aware of your diet, particularly how many carbohydrates and sugar you are eating and your portion sizes as well.
Learn about the glycemic index of the foods you are eating, when to ingest certain foods and listen to your body to see what works for you. Don’t shy away from having fruits in your diet, they are important for overall health and helping fight-off disease. The goal for anyone looking to becoming healthier is to find balance in his or her life. Drastic measures are never beneficial and completely cutting out fruits from your diet, are not conductive to living a healthy life.
With all that being said, here is a list of 100 foods and their glycemic index list, created by Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods
For more information on how much fruits and vegetables you should be eaten according to your age, sex and activity level, check out this link from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables/howmany.html