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To fruit or not to fruit?

We are very happy to have our very own Naturopath, Nicola Simpson joining us at AlkaWay.

Today we decided that with Nicola’s help, we would tackle a few dominant paradigms together. This morning was our first brainstorm and the subject was whether the fruit is actually bad for us, or the golden dream food we have been told it really is.

Cassie, Nicola and I met and brainstormed the history of fruit and what it really does.. or doesn’t do for us. Cassie made the point that a hundred years ago, long before the geneticists got to it, the fruit was smaller and contained less sugar. So a dozen peaches would have been less food and less sugar. The fruit was almost never eaten all year, simply because in our world (the West) they only bloomed after the snow receded. At best, people ate fruit for 3 months a year, never in the abundance, we experience today.

It seems fair to say, then, that fruit-as-it-is-today bears little resemblance in dietary terms to the fruit of our forefathers. Add to this bulk fruit juice availability – and the home electric juicer, and we have a situation of massively increased fruit consumption, sugar consumption (fructose) and juice consumption. The problem with excess consumption of any factor in our diet is that it just isn’t natural and lays us open to all sorts of compensatory behaviours or symptoms by the body. So like any other food, fruits consumed beyond our naturally evolved tolerances will begin to have a reactive effect., including malabsorption.

The foods we eat are made up of many components, including sugars. Fructose is a sugar found naturally in many foods, including honey, wheat, fruits and vegetables, but predominantly in fruit. Fructose is present in a single sugar form and also as a chain of fructose sugar units (fructans). Normally, fructose is absorbed in the small bowel. Fructose malabsorption is when normal healthy absorption of fructose is impaired. It can cause stomach bloating, wind, stomach pain, loose bowel motions and/or constipation. These are common symptoms but because fructose malabsorption is uncommon, it’s often called irritable bowel syndrome.

But there’s more. Fructose isn’t our only ‘fruit problem’.

Dr Sue Shepherd developed the FODMAP diet beginning in 2001 and has found it very effective for many people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). FODMAP is an acronym for the group of molecules that appear to affect sufferers. It also works well with gout.

Oligosaccharides  (eg. Fructans and Galactans)
Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)
Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)
Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)

The list of FODMAP foods is still under development, but the list below certainly shocked us. It doesn’t just contain fruit, but I have taken the liberty of highlighting the fruits.

  • Excess Fructose: Honey, Apples, Mango, Pear, Watermelon, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup Solids
  • Fructans: Artichokes (Globe), Artichokes(Jerusalem), Asparagus, Beetroot, Chicory, Dandelion leaves, Garlic (in large amounts), Leek, Onion (brown, white, Spanish, onion powder), Raddicio lettuce, Spring Onion (white part), Wheat (in large amounts), Rye (in large amounts), Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides.
  • Lactose: Milk, icecream, custard, dairy desserts, condensed and evaporated milk, milk powder, yoghurt, margarine, soft unripened cheeses (eg. ricotta, cottage, cream, marscarpone).
  • Galacto-Oligosaccharides (GOS): Legume beans (eg. baked beans, kidney beans, Bortolotti beans), Lentils, Chickpeas
  • Polyols: Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Cherries, Longon, Lychee, Nectarines, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Mushrooms, Sorbitol (420), mannitol (421), xylitol (967), maltitol (965) and Isomalt (953).

Taking a good look at the list, we can see that we do indeed have a problem with some of our most popular fruits.

So is fruit as we eat it today good for us or not?

Or is its sugar content so ‘improved’ that it becomes just another contributor to our acid overload? What is there in fruit that we ‘must have’?

Let’s take a sample fruit: the Apple. (Wikipedia)

Research suggests that apples may reduce the risk of colon cancerprostate cancer and lung cancer.[52] Compared to many other fruits and vegetables, apples contain relatively low amounts of vitamin C, but are a rich source of other  antioxidant   compounds.[47] Fibre content, while less than in most other fruits, helps regulate bowel movements and may thus reduce the risk of colon cancer. They may also help with heart disease,[57] weight loss,[57] and controlling cholesterol. The fiber contained in apples reduces cholesterol by preventing reabsorption, and (like most fruits and vegetables) they are bulky for their caloric content.[54][57]  There is evidence from laboratory experiments that apples possess phenolic compounds which may be cancer-protective and demonstrate antioxidant activity.[59] The predominant phenolic phytochemicals in apples are quercetinepicatechin, and procyanidin B2.[60]

Apple juice concentrate has been found to increase the production of the  neurotransmitter  acetylcholine in mice, providing a potential mechanism for the “prevention of the decline in cognitive performance that accompanies dietary and genetic deficiencies and aging.” Other studies have shown an “alleviation of oxidative damage and cognitive decline” in mice after the administration of apple juice.[55] Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong discovered that fruit flies who were fed an apple extract lived 10% longer than other flies who were fed a normal diet.[61]


There are obvious benefits to eating apples, and the general rule of 5 fruit or vegetable serves a day is an accepted motto for a healthy life.

But we are about to examine dominant paradigms here, so let’s be very cynical.

Let’s just suggest that you can get antioxidants from so many sources that apples could be bypassed and see where that leads us. Let’s acknowledge them as the poor Vitamin C providers they really are, but honour their potential ability to alleviate or reduce the risk of certain cancers. Apple fibre, of course, is another story. Eating any fibre is supposed to assist bowel movements, minimise colon cancer, prevent reabsorption, and so apples aren’t special there. The final study above where apple juice concentrate may provide a mechanism for the prevention of decline in cognitive performance is one of the thousands of ‘may’ studies we read and hope are true. May must be a good month for scientific studies.

The study does demonstrate our willingness to eat apples in any form, as unnatural as it may be. It goes without saying that apple juice concentrate is going to be massively high in sugar.

The question is: if apples contribute to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gout, can they be dropped off our shopping list for the sake of health? The answer is yes. This doesn’t mean we have to completely give them and the other fruits on the FODMAP list of baddies; it just means if we want to feel better, we need to reduce and perhaps reduce again.

So this just might be a new way of looking at our food choices. Are we choosing based on culture and habit, or are we choosing based on the real benefit? If a food we have grown to like is demonstrably contributing to poor health, do we have the confidence in our own health knowledge to stop eating it?

Fruit has spawned its own home processing Industry; the electric juicer.

An electric juicer can process masses of fruit, ejecting the pulp and fibre as it goes to give a ‘pure; fruit juice. Vendors of the slow-speed models add that the lack of heat generated by the process preserves vital enzymes.

Enzymes are, as we know, catalysts for chemical reactions within the body. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates sufficient for life. There are some 4000 known enzyme reactions. So ‘fresh’ enzymes would appear to be a useful component of our foods. Dr Norman Walker, a self-styled raw food pioneer, advocated a diet based solely on raw and fresh foods like vegetables, fruits nuts and seeds. He considered cooked or baked food ‘dead’ and therefore unhealthful, saying that “while such food can, and does, sustain life in the human system, it does so at the expense of progressively degenerating health, energy, and vitality.” He accepted frozen food, however, at this temperature the live enzymes did not seem to be killed. As a vegan, he did not recommend eating meat, dairy products (with the exception of raw goat milk), fish or eggs. However, some of his recipes include egg yolks, cottage cheese, and Swiss cheese, as well as raw cream.[8] His diet suggestions avoided such staple foods as bread, pasta and rice, and sugar.

According to Walker, the number one affliction underlying almost every ailment is constipation, stating that constipation is “the primary cause of nearly every disturbance of the human system.” He said this was because the blood vessels lining the colon collect nutrients missed by the small intestine. In his book Pure and Simple Natural Weight Control, Walker stated: “If the faeces in the colon have putrefied and fermented, any nutritional elements present in it would pass into the bloodstream as polluted products. What would otherwise be nutritional instead generates toxemia, a condition in which the blood contains poisonous products which are produced by the growth of pathogenic or disease-producing bacteria.”  Walker maintained that the Standard American Diet causes the colon to be filled with toxins that strain the eliminative channels and ultimately, the immune system.

Walker believed that dairy products especially had a deleterious effect on human health. He testified to the disappearance of many ailments upon the exclusion of dairy products. He explained that pathogenic organisms find an ideal breeding ground in the excess mucus that dairy products generate. He cited the following diseases as being aggravated or caused by mucus conditions in which dairy products are the major offender: undulant fever, colds, flu, bronchial troubles, tuberculosis, asthma, hay fever, sinus trouble, pneumonia and certain types of arthritis.

Walker never published a scientific study, so his claims must be viewed as more timely than timeless.

But let’s get back to his major claim; that only raw food has live enzymes. Here is a pretty typical statement from a raw food advocate.

“Once enzymes are exposed to heat, they are no longer able to provide the function for which they were designed. Cooked foods contribute to chronic illness because their enzyme content is damaged and thus requires us to make our own enzymes to process the food. The digestion of cooked food uses valuable metabolic enzymes in order to help digest your food. Digestion of cooked food demands much more energy than the digestion of raw food. In general, raw food is so much more easily digested that it passes through the digestive tract in 1/2 to 1/3 of the time it takes for cooked food.”

It’s a story echoed across cyberspace. But is it true? In the case of tomatoes, no. A study by the Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Stocking Hall, Cornell University in 2002 actually found that heating of tomatoes enhanced their antioxidant value and bio-accessible lycopene content in tomatoes and produced no significant changes in the total phenolics and total flavonoids content.

Another ‘Fruit Myth’ says that we would derive the real benefit of fruit only if we eat the whole fruit with the surrounding tissue. The theory goes that it is the walls of the cells holding the juice that hold the true benefits. Sadly, it’s just not true. The most fruit cell wall is composed of cellulose, a linear polysaccharide polymer with many glucose monosaccharide units. The acetal linkage is beta which makes it different from starch. This peculiar difference in acetal linkages results in a major difference in digestibility in humans. Humans are unable to digest cellulose because the appropriate enzymes to break down the beta acetal linkages are just not there.

The only upside of eating fruit cellulose is that it assists in supplying fibre, which assists healthy digestion in the lower intestinal tract.. something we could get from a myriad of alternative food sources.

Traditional Chinese: an alternative dietary system with a very long pedigree.

.Although raw fruits and vegetables are usually considered beneficial, in traditional Chinese medicine, eating too many raw fruits and vegetables cause an imbalance in the body. That’s because different foods are thought to have different energies, from cold to neutral to hot. Raw fruits and vegetables possess cool energy. TCM practitioners say that overconsumption can result in symptoms such as chilliness, mucus, congestion, fatigue and depletion, feeling cold, abdominal pain, poor appetite and bloating after meals. Hardly glowing health.

These symptoms are believed to improve when people change their diets by reducing their intake of raw fruits and vegetables, cold water and cold dairy products. In traditional Chinese medicine, the optimal ratio of raw to cooked foods is individual. Animal protein is very warming, so people who eat meat every day are thought to be able to handle more raw foods. Vegetarians, on the other hand, are thought to be able to eat less raw foods because they don’t consume animal protein. From a Western perspective, this is directly opposite to what advocates of vegan or raw diets tell us.

So where are we so far with the humble apple?

1. They have lots of useless fructose

2. They may or may not supply the ‘living enzymes’ that juice advocated and vendors talk about.

3. They are pretty poor antioxidant sources.

4. The pulp we consume is undigestible.

5. TCM says excess eating of fruit causes many adverse symptoms.

The question is; if you never saw an apple, or tasted an apple, would you eat something with these problems? And.. if apples have these unfavourable health aspects, what about the other fruits and vegetables on the list?

However, we digress. The simple fact is that people who live on fresh fruits and people who have less fresh fruits do not seem to have any measurable health difference. Both cases have some problems with health, both cases have average health.

It’s extremely hard to find real data on the improvement of health due to consuming more enzymes from raw fruit, but it isn’t hard to find studies where fruit and vegetables have been lumped together under a health claim. Surely this is a gross simplification, yet again and again, we are told that the latest study of people who eat fruits and vegetables reveals such-and-such. If we go back to the FODMAP list, it is pretty obvious that certain fruits and certain vegetables are better for us than others.

On the other hand, high fat, low carb  (and therefore low fructose and fructans) diets have shown specific health benefits quite separate from the benefits of fruit and vegetables. What no one seems to be able to measure is how many enzymes we need. So the argument for more enzymes becomes statistically meaningless until we get hard data.

We sell the Angel juicer and have seen real results from people who have reported various improvements in long-standing health conditions. Over the years we have come to realise that everyone is unique and that for every person who reports a health improvement there is an unknown number who do not. Given that some people have a diet obviously lacking in a full range of minerals and antioxidants, it isn’t unreasonable to expect improvements when mineral-rich vegetables and fruits return to the diet. But although reasonable, it isn’t provable. And as we said, fruits and vegetables are almost always lumped together in studies, so evaluating and isolating fruit’s effects are difficult.

In summarizing, there is certainly no evidence that fruit is bad food per se, but the FODMAP diet which is well researched and scientifically accepted does point out the adverse effects of some fruits and vegetables.

But let’s come back to why we are discussing the role of fruit. Fruit is not often referred to as sugar, but it has a huge effect on our total sugar load. Fruit in the form of juice is even more sugar-laden, and unavoidably, irreversibly, sugar equals acid.

Acid comes from sugar, and acid is the source of fat (fat is a lipid, or an acid) so an unnatural amount of sugar in the form of carbohydrate, or sugar, has to acidify the body, which in turn is a powerful precursor to ageing and degeneration.



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