By Dr. Joseph Mercola
Fruits can be a healthy part of your diet as they are generally rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
But, fruits can also be an extra source of sugar, particularly fructose, that you may be better off without.
To a large extent, whether or not fruits are good for you depends on several factors including:
- Your current state of health
- Your fructose sensitivity
- The type of fruit you consume
Fruits Are an Extra Source of Fructose …
The primary reason you need to be careful with fruit is because they contain fructose, which has been linked not only to weight gain but also to over 70 health conditions and chronic diseases.1
Whole fruits do contain vitamins and other antioxidants that reduce the hazardous effects of fructose, but the fact is, most people are not only eating fructose from fruit.
It's no secret that we are eating more sugar than at any other time in history. In 1700, the average person ate four pounds of sugar a year. Today, about 25 percent of all Americans consume over 134 grams of fructose a day, according to Dr. Richard Johnson's research.
The major problem with fructose lies in the excessive amounts so many people consume, which is why for most people, including if you're overweight or obese, it would actually be wise to limit your fruit fructose to 15 grams or less, as you're virtually guaranteed to get "hidden" fructose from just about any processed food you might eat, including condiments you might never have suspected would contain sugar. The idea is to keep your total fructose consumption at or below 25 grams per day.
As a general rule of thumb, if you're healthy and do not have insulin resistance, you can probably include some fruits in your diet, assuming you are not eating excess amounts of sugar and fructose elsewhere in your diet. But if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, or high cholesterol, then these are signs it is best to limit your fructose, even from fruits.
Checking Your Uric Acid Levels Can Help You Decide How Much Fruit Is Healthy
Some people may be able to process fructose more efficiently than others, and the key to assess this susceptibility to fructose-induced damage lies in evaluating your uric acid levels. The higher your uric acid, the more sensitive you are to the effects of fructose. The safest range of uric acid appears to be between 3 and 5.5 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), and there appears to be a steady relationship between uric acid levels and blood pressure and cardiovascular risk, even down to the range of 3 to 4 mg/dl.
Dr. Johnson suggests that the ideal uric acid level is probably around 4 mg/dl for men and 3.5 mg/dl for women. I would strongly encourage everyone to have their uric acid level checked to find out how sensitive you are to fructose.
Many people who are overweight likely have uric acid levels well above 5.5. Some may even be closer to 10 or above. Measuring your uric acid levels is a very practical way to determine just how strict you need to be when it comes to your fructose – and fruit -- consumption. I've included a chart below of fructose levels in fruit to give you an idea of what 25 grams a day looks like.
Not All Fruits Are Created Equal
The type of fruit will also make a difference in its nutrient value, as all fruits are definitely not equal in this respect. A great rule of thumb is to avoid hybrid varieties, which are fruits that have been altered by humans. Typically, hybrid fruits contain more sugar than regular varieties so they taste sweeter and can be picked out because they don't contain seeds (seedless watermelon, seedless grapes, etc.). Below I've listed some of the healthiest fruits available in terms of nutritional value along with some of their nutritional qualities.
- Lauric acid, the major fatty acid from coconut fat, has antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal functions.
- May help to normalize body lipids, thereby protecting against alcohol damage to the liver and improving the immune system's anti-inflammatory response
- Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils you can consume
- Contain powerful phytochemicals such as ellagic acid that provide antioxidant protection, as well as directly inhibit the DNA binding of certain carcinogens
- Excellent source of vitamin C, carotenes, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium
- High in fiber
- Low in sugar
- Contain polyphenols that help fight cancer and have an anti-inflammatory effect
- Rich in monounsaturated fat
- Rich in antioxidants like carotenes, vitamin C, and flavonoids
- Contains B vitamins, vitamin E, folate, and fiber
- Rich source of minerals, potassium, and magnesium
- Useful for digestion (papaya contains papain, an enzyme that helps with digestion by breaking down proteins)
- May provide protection against caner
- Provides support for the immune system
- Has anti-inflammatory effects
- Excellent source of raw fat, which many Americans are deficient in
- Rich in monounsaturated fat, which is easily burned for energy.
- An avocado has more than twice as much potassium as a banana.
- Good source of folate, dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, and vitamin B6
- Rich source of carotenoids, and vitamins B and C
- Contains calcium, iron, and potassium
- Good source of phosphorus, selenium, folate, and zinc
- Contains some protein and amino acids
- Contains an enzyme, bromelain, which aids digestion, reduces inflammation and swelling, and may have anti-cancer effects
- Rich in antioxidants like vitamin C
- Provides immune support
- Excellent source of manganese, thiamin, and riboflavin, which are important for energy production
- Excellent source of vitamin C, lycopene, carotenoids, folate, potassium, fiber, calcium, and iron
- Consumption of guava fruit may reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol
- Has anti-microbial properties that may fight bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and beta-streptococcus group A.
- Guava is sometimes used as a treatment for diarrhea by natural medicine workers in the tropics
- Excellent source of antioxidant vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene
- Rich in phytonutrients that appear to protect human DNA from free-radical damage
- Good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, and phosphorous