Fruit – always a healthy snack?

You know that you’re supposed to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day – and if you’re a Nutribox customer, or interested in health and nutrition, that’s probably part of your every day routine.  But did you know that how you eat your fruit, and what fruit you eat, could have different impacts on your health not all positive?  Fruit, like many other healthy snacks, has different health effects.

New research from the Harvard School of Public Health has examined data from three major diet and healthy studies over more than 20 years and come to some interesting conclusions about fruit consumption.  The researchers were looking particularly at type 2 diabetes risk.  Type 2 diabetes is a major public health concern because it is becoming so prolific – more than 2 million people in the UK suffer from diabetes and 85% of those have type 2.  Key risk factors for developing the disease are being overweight, inactive and eating a poor diet.  In 2011 the NHS spent more than £250m on anti-diabetic drugs.

Fruit is without doubt part of a healthy diet but how you eat your fruit is apparently important when looking at type 2 diabetes risk.  The researchers found that participants who had more than 2 servings of fruit juice per day increased their risk by as much as 21%.  They also found that participants who ate 2 servings of whole fruits – in particular blueberries, grapes and apples – reduced their risk by as much as 23%.

You might think that the risk is related to glycaemic index of different fruits but the research did not find that hypothesis held true.  The researchers propose instead that the increased risk may related to the fact fruit juice is absorbed more quickly across the intestinal barrier than whole fruit.  Whole fruit tends to be higher in dietary fibre and it is this property that makes all the difference.

The dietary fibre has a number of beneficial effects.  One is that because it slows the rate of stomach emptying the rate at which the sugars in the fruit are absorbed and transported to the liver is slower and steadier.  A second is that the dietary fibre in whole fruit essentially forms a barrier that again slows and modulates the rate of sugar absorption across the gut wall.  So while juicing can help preserve vitamin and mineral content of fruits and vegetables, it often removes the important insoluble dietary fibre.  Smoothies are not always better either, because the fruit is blended so aggressively the insoluble fibre is macerated and doesn’t have the same effect in your gut.

So what does all this mean for the fruit in your diet?  If you want to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes then this research suggests you eat whole fruit rather than looking to fruit juice for some of your 5 a day.  But like most things in diet and nutrition it’s all about making incremental change.  If juicing is the only way you get fruit in your diet now don’t give it up – the vitamin and mineral content will still be doing you good.  But maybe one or two days per week you substitute the juice for a piece of fruit (alongside a meal maybe, or with a source of protein like some raw nuts and seeds or a healthy snack delivered in a Nutribox).  Every week, make that substitution one more day and before you know it you’ll have switched from juice to fruit without even noticing.

We love including fruit in the selection of healthy snacks delivered in your Nutribox – either as fruit crisps, included in snack bars or even in raw chocolate treats.  But we make sure that we choose snacks that are packed with dietary fibre too.  To get your own Nutribox of healthy snacks delivered to your home or office door click here

  • Ann White
  • 10 Sep 2013

Stay in touch