By Dr. Mercola
With summer comes heaps of fresh fruit at your farmer's market, and you might find you've brought home more than your family can eat. If you have fruit about to spoil, you don't have to toss it in the trash. Put it in your freezer instead.
The New York Times recently featured five recipes for fruit ice, which make great use of ripe fruit.1 Unfortunately, the recipes, including Mango Lime Sorbet, Watermelon Granita, and others, all call for sugar and corn syrup, which I don't recommend.
You can, however, make a tasty treat using just frozen fruit – no added sugar necessary. Some people enjoy plain frozen fruit, for instance, as a sweet (and cooling) treat in the summer months. Frozen grapes are popular but you can also try frozen bananas and berries. The latter work wonderfully when added to homemade smoothies.
If you want a sorbet-like texture, all you need to do is blend up frozen fruit with a bit of lemon juice (optional) and you'll have homemade sorbet in a flash. Take the incredibly simple watermelon sorbet recipe from Real Food Kosher, below, for example:2
- Half or whole watermelon, cut into chunks, rind and seeds removed
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice – optional
- Freeze watermelon chunks overnight.
- Place frozen chunks in blender, add lemon juice if using, and blend. Depending on your blender, you may need to add a bit of water or juice to help crush the chunks.
Freezing Your Fruit Helps Cut Down of Food Waste
You might not think throwing a bunch of rotten bananas or mangoes in your trash is a big deal, but organic waste is actually the second highest component of landfills in the US. Organic landfill waste has increased by 50 percent per capita since 1974.3
Further, a report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) revealed that 40 percent of food in the US goes uneaten, which amounts to a waste of more than 20 pounds of food per person, every month.
This amounts to upwards of $2,275 in annual losses for the average US household of four.4 This isn't simply a matter of the food itself, as with this waste comes:
- $165 billion that is essentially "thrown out"
- 25 percent of freshwater usage, wasted
- Huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land use, also wasted
- Rotting food in landfills, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of US methane emissions
The NRDC report also estimates:5
"…food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables."
In all, it's estimated US families throw out about 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. In the UK, about two-thirds of household food waste is due to food spoiling before it is used. And shockingly, more fruits and vegetables are wasted in the US food system than are actually consumed (52% are wasted versus 48% consumed)!6
How You Store Your Fruit Matters
Freezing your fruit is one way to stop the ripening process and extend their usability. However, even before this point proper storage can extend their shelf life. Here are some tips for storing various types of fruits:7
Apples: Store on the counter, then move to the refrigerator after seven days. Store apples away from other produce, as the ethylene gases they produce can damage other fruits and vegetables. Avocados: Let them ripen on the counter, then store in the refrigerator. Bananas: Store on the counter, put them in the fridge when ripe to extend them for another couple of days. Berries: Refrigerate berries in their original container, unwashed. Raspberries and blackberries last only about two days so eat these soon after purchase. Citrus fruits: Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit can be stored on the counter and will last up to two weeks. Peaches: Store in a paper bag punched with holes on the counter (out of sunlight). Once ripe, put them in your refrigerator for another three to four days (this also works for plums and nectarines). Pears: Store on the counter until ripe, then refrigerate. Tropical Fruit: Mangoes, papayas, pineapples, and kiwi fruit should be ripened on the counter. Watermelon: Allow to ripen at room temperature, then refrigerate once cut.
Is Fruit Good for You?
There's compelling evidence supporting the notion that high-fructose diets are responsible for many chronic diseases and conditions, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Fruits contain fructose, which is why some caution is warranted with their consumption.
That being said, in vegetables and fruits, the fructose is mixed in with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all of which help moderate the negative metabolic effects. If you are healthy, eating small amounts of whole fruits is fine and potentially beneficial.
However, if you suffer with any fructose-related health issues, such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, obesity, or cancer, you would be wise to limit your total fructose consumption to 15 grams of fructose per day. This includes fructose from ALL sources, including whole fruit.
If you are not insulin resistant, you may increase this to 25 grams of total fructose per day on average. Let me restate my recommendations on fruit and fructose consumption as simply as possible:
- If you're insulin or leptin resistant (are overweight, diabetic, hypertensive, or have high cholesterol), then it would be advisable for you to limit your fruit intake. As a general rule, I recommend limiting your fructose intake to a maximum of 15 grams of fructose per day from ALL sources, including whole fruit.
- If you are not insulin/leptin resistant, (are normal weight without diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol) and regularly engage in strenuous physical activity or manual labor, then higher fructose intake is unlikely to cause any health problems. In this case, you can probably eat more fruit without giving it much thought.
- However, if you are in category two above, you might benefit from a further refinement. Fruit will still increase your blood sugar and many experts believe this will increase your protein glycosylation. So my approach is to consume the fruit typically after a workout as your body will use the sugar as fuel rather than raise your blood sugar.
- Additionally, if you're an endurance athlete, you can probably get away with eating fairly large amounts of fruits, since your body will use most of the glucose during exercise, so it won't be stored as fat.
- If you're still unsure of just how stringent you need to be, get your uric acid levels checked and use that as a guide. See below for details…
Measuring Your Uric Acid Level Can Help You Determine How Much Fruit Is Right for You
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.
According to Dr. Richard Johnson, the ideal uric acid level is probably around 4 mg/dl for men and 3.5 mg/dl for women. If you are one of those who believes fruit is healthy no matter how much you eat, I would strongly encourage you to have your uric acid level checked to find out how sensitive you are to fructose. Eat the amount of fruit you feel is right for you for a few weeks and then check your uric acid level and see if your levels are healthy.
If they are elevated, you might try reducing the fruit to recommended levels and rechecking your uric acid level. Many 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. The chart below can help you determine how much fructose is in your favorite fruits:
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Limes 1 medium 0 Lemons 1 medium 0.6 Cranberries 1 cup 0.7 Passion fruit 1 medium 0.9 Prune 1 medium 1.2 Apricot 1 medium 1.3 Guava 2 medium 2.2 Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 medium 2.6 Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8 Raspberries 1 cup 3.0 Clementine 1 medium 3.4 Kiwifruit 1 medium 3.4 Blackberries 1 cup 3.5 Star fruit 1 medium 3.6 Cherries, sweet 10 3.8 Strawberries 1 cup 3.8 Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0 Pineapple 1 slice
(3.5" x .75")
4.0 Grapefruit, pink or red ½ medium 4.3
Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6 Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 medium 4.8 Nectarine 1 medium 5.4 Peach 1 medium 5.9 Orange (navel) 1 medium 6.1 Papaya ½ medium 6.3 Honeydew 1/8 of med. melon 6.7 Banana 1 medium 7.1 Blueberries 1 cup 7.4 Date (Medjool) 1 medium 7.7 Apple (composite) 1 medium 9.5 Persimmon 1 medium 10.6 Watermelon 1/16 med. melon 11.3 Pear 1 medium 11.8 Raisins ¼ cup 12.3 Grapes, seedless (green or red) 1 cup 12.4 Mango ½ medium 16.2 Apricots, dried 1 cup 16.4 Figs, dried 1 cup 23.0