My Fruit-Filled Aussie Childhood

orangesI grew up in a small Australian country town in northern Victoria on the mighty Murray river. It was hot, dry, and fruit grew abundantly – as long as the trees were kept watered! Even in our own (large) backyard, we easily grew fruit and nut trees: mulberry, orange, lemon, apricot, almond, walnut and loquat; as well as a huge grapevine bursting with purple grapes that covered most of our verandah. In Summer we would regularly fill up our washing-basket with loads of ripe, delicious, home-grown fruit – and still have plenty left over for the birds!

Should You Limit Your Fruit Intake?

I was very lucky, growing up having access to so much fresh, cheap – mostly organic – fruit. So where does the notion come from that fruit is not so good for you, or contributes to obesity? I have heard the misconception amongst some people that you shouldn’t eat too much fruit. That the sugar in fruit increases your blood sugar, and too much will expand your waistline.

For example, on the popular ‘I Quit Sugar’ website, they claim to support consumption of fresh fruit – up to a point. They advise you to cut out all types of fruit for 4 weeks while on their 8-week program, and then have no more than 2-3 pieces of fruit per day.

According to the Australian government, most Aussies eat only about half the recommended quantity of fruit. The Australian Heart Foundation cites alarming figures showing that in 2011/12 only 5.5% of Australian adults had an adequate usual daily intake of fruit and vegetables.

A recent survey, the largest of its kind done in Australia, has shown that four out of five Australians are not getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet, with men faring worse than women.

The US CDC – Centre for Disease Control and Prevention – stated in a recent online publication that:

“during 2007–2010, half of the total U.S. population consumed [less than] 1 cup of fruit and [less than] 1.5 cups of vegetables daily; 76% did not meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87% did not meet vegetable intake recommendations.”

holding apple and pearThe paper went on to note that: “Substantial new efforts are needed to build consumer demand for fruits and vegetables through competitive pricing, placement, and promotion in child care, schools, grocery stores, communities, and worksites.”

To clarify, I’m not talking fruit juice, which is high in calories and has most of the fibre stripped out. I’m referring to fresh, whole fruit – the way nature intended.

As I will show with quotes and information from researchers and health experts, you should eat plenty of fresh fruit every day. And, far from being bad for you, eating fruit just might save your life! Here are 8 reasons why:

  1. Fruit Increases Your Life Span

As published online by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine “according to a… meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal…researchers analyzed 16 separate studies, including one with 833,234 participants, and found that each serving of fruit and vegetables decreased the risk of dying by 6 and 5 percent, respectively.”

Also from PCRM, “a review published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health….[found that] those who consumed seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day saw a 42 percent decreased risk of death due to any cause, compared with those who consumed the least amount. Fruit and vegetable consumption was specifically associated with a 25 percent and 31 percent decreased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, respectively.”

  1. Fruit Reduces Risk of Type-2 Diabetes

Some people think that the natural fructose, or sugar in fresh fruit is bad for you, and might contribute to type-2 diabetes. Dr Michael Greger, of Nutrition Facts, explains that it is only when sugar or fructose is added to foods that it becomes a problem, while fruit (with natural sugar) is “beneficial in almost any amount” (Harvard Health).

But, hang on, what does “almost any amount” actually mean?

When I was a fit young teenager, still playing (Aussie Rulesfootball in the country, I once ate about 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of bananas in one sitting – was that too much?! Well, no, according to Dr Greger. Dr Greger highlights a study where 17 people were scoffing around 20 servings of fruit each day, with a combined sugar intake equivalent to “8 cans of soda”. Despite the high fructose content of this diet, no adverse effects were reported. On the contrary, there were even possible benefits for body weight, blood pressure, insulin and lipid levels after 12-24 weeks.

Harvard Health School notes: “In a study of over 66,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, 85,104 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II, and 36,173 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who were free of major chronic diseases, findings suggested that greater consumption of whole fruits – especially blueberries, grapes, and apples – is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”

  1. Fruit Protects Against Heart Disease

According to the Harvard Health School, “The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Compared with those in the lowest category of fruit and vegetable intake (less than 1.5 servings a day), those who averaged 8 or more servings a day were 30 percent less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke.(1)”

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reports that “those who consumed seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day experienced less plaque accumulation and were 25 percent less likely to have heart disease, compared with those who consumed fewer servings of fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetable intake may lower plaque deposits by improving blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and increasing intake of antioxidants.

  1. Fruit Helps You Lose Weight

In 2015 PCRM reported on a review published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. The review showed that a diet rich in whole fruits helps people maintain a healthful weight.

“Researchers analyzed 17 studies looking at fruit intake and the effects on long-term weight gain in adults. Those who added whole or dried fruit to their diets had a reduced risk for long-term weight gain.

  1. Fruit Helps with Gastrointestinal Health

Havard Health School tells us that the fiber in fruit “absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system. This can calm symptoms of an irritable bowel and, by triggering regular bowel movements, can relieve or prevent constipation. (12) The bulking and softening action of insoluble fiber also decreases pressure inside the intestinal tract and may help prevent diverticulosis.”

  1. Fruit Protects You Against Cancer

According to best-selling author and nutrition expert Dr Joel Fuhrman “Fruit consumption has been shown to offer the strongest protection against certain cancers, especially oral, esophageal, lung, prostate and pancreatic cancer.”

  1. Fruit Helps You Age Slower

Dr Joel Fuhrman advises us in his book ‘Eat For Health‘ that researchers have “discovered substances in fruit that has unique effects on preventing aging and deterioration of the brain. Some fruits, particularly berries, are rich in phytochemicals that have anti-aging effects. Studies have shown that blueberries have protective effects for brain health in later life.”

  1. Fruit Helps You In The Bedroom

In January 2016 PCRM posted online a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which said that adding more fruit to your diet reduces your risk for erectile dysfunction.

“Researchers followed the diets of 25,096 men as part of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and monitored incidence for erectile dysfunction. Participants with the highest intakes of anthocyanins, flavones, and flavanones, phytonutrients found in fruit, lowered their risk for erectile dysfunction by 14 percent when compared to those who consumed the least.”

Why Fruit is So Healthy

assorted fruitFruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and improve endothelial function. Berries, for example, are packed with fibre and antioxidant phytochemicals, including flavonoids. High flavonoid intake is associated with a considerable reduction (up to 45%) in risk for coronary heart disease.

According to Dr. Fuhrman, researchers found that berries reduced oxidative stress, decreased oxidation of LDL cholesterol (which helps to prevent the production of atherosclerotic plaque), increased blood antioxidant capacity, and in some cases improved lipid levels, blood pressure or blood glucose.

As Dr Fuhrman puts it, “Fruit is an essential part of our diets. Eating fruit is vital to your health, well-being and long life.”

What are some of your favourite fruits, and how do you incorporate fresh fruit into your daily dietary regime?

Tom Perry