We all grew up hearing that we need to eat our fruit and vegetables. We go to the fruit and vegetable shop or the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket. Fruit and veg are so often mentioned hand in hand you’d be forgiven for thinking they were one and the same but like salt and pepper they are very different. Lets have a look at their similarities and differences before diving into some practical recommendations
The similarities. Both vegetables and fruits are very nutrient dense. They provide a great deal by way of vitamins, minerals and anti oxidants and the more varied your intake (diferent coloured vegetables and fruits) the greater spread of these vitamins, minerals and anti oxidants. This is well established and is the basis for the recommendation to eat your fruit and veg.
The Differences: The biggest difference between fruit and vegetables is that fruit contains significantly higher levels of fructose or ‘fruit sugar’. Too much sugar can lead to fat gain by blocking the fat burning pathway (your body burns the dietary sugar and carbohydrate instead of stored body fat) contributing to making you a sugar burner instead of a fat burner. Also, fruit sugar must be converted to glucose in the liver instead of in the stomach like other sugars and carbohydrates which can be converted into glucose in the stomach. This is a slower process and is not ideal as the liver is the place where excess carbohydrate is converted into fat.
- If fat loss is your goal try to eat more vegetables and less fruit. You will still be getting the vitamins, minerals and anti oxidants but without the sugar. Aim to keep fruit to 0-2 pieces per day. Lunch and dinner are often the only meals where people eat vegetebles. Explore ways of incoproating vegetables into breakfast and snacks as well. For instance mushrooms and peppers in the omelette at breakfast and carrot or celerty sticks, diced cucumber or a mini salad for the carbohdrate component of snacks.
- Irrespective of your goals avoid fruit juices and smoothies. Even the fresh ones often contain the sugar of multiple pieces of fruit and are comparible to soft drink in terms of sugar content.
- For athletes looking to replenish depleted muscle glycogen stores after an intense anaerobic workout aim for starchy carbohydrate sources such as pumpkin, sweet potato or potato. The carbohydrates from these sources can be absorbed directly into the blood stream and then on to the muscles (yippee!) whereas fruit sugars need to go to the liver first for processing into glucose. (not as good).
The bottom line: Veges are excellent for you and should be a consistent staple of your diet. Fruit has hidden sugars that make it a moderation food particularly if you desire fat loss.