UNPEELING the Truth: Exploring the Facts and FALLACIES of Fruit and Fiber

Published on: 05/19/2023
Citrus fruit on a marble counter
Who knew there would be so much friction over fruit?! It really is the bullied portion of the balanced plate😣! I went into details on why this should not be the case with fruit about two years ago. Time for a revisit with summer approaching☀️, the ongoing questions, misinformation and confusion out there, and the seasonal fruit in full bloom.Let’s start with the most popular fact about fruit – YES, it has sugar. It always has and always will contain sugar, but it is the natural sugar known as fructose. You cannot compare the sugar in fruits to the sugar in Twizzlers® (and no offense to Twizzlers®, one of my favorite treats💕). It is NOT equal. Let me clear up the disparities, backed by scientific evidence.

So let’s break down those natural sugar numbers. According to the American Diabetes Association, one serving of fruit is 15 grams of carbohydrates. Most fruits provide about 15 grams of carbohydrates per 1/2 cup serving, or about the size of a tennis ball. If you are following a low-carb diet, you do not need to limit fruit completely. Actually having fruit throughout the day is beneficial due to its fiber content, as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For example, if you are following a low-carb meal plan and your goal is 30-45 grams of carbs in a meal, one serving of grain (1/3 cup of brown rice) plus a fruit serving would equal 30 grams of carbs. If you consumed 2/3 cup of brown rice, you would be at 30 grams of carbs as well, or 45 grams if you added a fruit serving. If you think counting the carbs in fruit makes it not worth eating, keep in mind that eating fruits (and vegetables) can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and diabetes. Enjoy fruit, just be sure to count the carbs closely if following a low-carb meal plan! 

How can I enjoy fruit and assume it is not skyrocketing my blood sugar with or without prediabetes or diabetes? The fiber content in fruits helps to decrease the impact of the sugar content in fruits, or how quickly the natural sugar in fruit will raise your blood sugar level. Most fruits have a low glycemic index (GI) because of their fructose and fiber content. Adding a protein source (e.g. cottage cheese) or healthy fat source (e.g. almond butter) when consuming fruit will also help to further decrease the glycemic index, or how quickly the fruit will raise your blood sugar level. The addition of protein and healthy fat, as with fiber, will slow down that rise in your blood sugar, helping to keep it more stable. Incorporating fruit into your daily meal plan is key for optimal health, as the fiber helps to keep us full, keep the bowels regular, and help manage cholesterol levels.
I hear you, but what are the lower-carb fruits? So glad you asked!🙂Here are some of the lower-carb fruits in order of least to most, but still considered low.
🍅Tomatoes = (1 whole, medium) 3.6g of total carbs; 1.1g of fiber

  • Tomatoes are naturally low in carbs, provide vitamin C and potassium, and though a lower source of fiber, are an excellent source of antioxidants, especially lycopene, linked to reducing the risk of heart disease. This botanical fruit, as tomatoes contain seeds and grow from the flower of the tomato plant, also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect your eyes from the blue light we experience daily from our digital devices.

🥑Avocados = (about 1/2 of an average size) 6g of total carbs; 5g of fiber

  • Their healthy fat content is also a bonus for heart health. A satisfying addition to add to your smoothie, salad, or sandwich.

🥥Coconut = (1/2 cup, shredded) 6.1g of total carbs; 3.6g of fiber 

  • An excellent source of fiber. With its high-fat content (about 17 grams per half cup) and high-calorie content (177 calories per half cup), be sure to monitor your portion size. Sprinkling on top of your smoothie or acai bowl is perfect!

🍓Strawberries = (1 cup, halved) 11.1g of total carbs; 3g of fiber

  • These tasty beauties naturally deliver vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Recent studies on strawberries suggest they may be associated with slowing down the aging of the brain, cardiovascular system, and gut microbiome.

🍉Watermelons = (1 cup, diced) 11.5g of total carbs; 6g of fiber

  • Watermelon has an undeserved reputation for being high in sugar. It is not high in sugar, but it is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients, and electrolytes, including vitamin C, lycopene, choline, potassium, magnesium, fiber, iron, and even some calcium. These large fruits are quite nutrient-dense, along with their hydrating capacity.

🍈Cantaloupe = (1 cup, cubed) 13.7g total carbs; 1.4g of fiber

  • Cantaloupe is lower in fiber but also low in carbs, and high in vitamins A and C, along with other various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Similar to watermelon, cantaloupe is 90% water so also with helps hydration needs.

*Blackberries = (1 cup) 13.8g of total carbs; 7.6g of fiber

  • An awesome source of fiber, low in calories (62 calories per cup). They are also an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants, so a winning ingredient for your yogurt parfait, salads (see recipe below!), or snack time

*Raspberries = (1 cup) 14.7g of total carbs; 8g of fiber

  • At 64 calories per cup, another excellent source of fiber. Raspberries are high in Vitamin C, Potassium, and Folate, and they have no fat, cholesterol, or sodium.

🍎Apples = (1 cup, quartered or chopped) 17.3g of total carbs; 3g of fiber

  • Rich in fiber and antioxidants, linking them to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Apples may also promote weight loss and improve gut and brain health. Pairs well with peanut butter for a satisfying, delicious snack, with a flair of caramel apple sensation!

*Blueberries = (1 cup) 21.4g of carbs; 3.6g of fiber

  • Rich in nutrients, flavor, and versatility. Fresh blueberries can make a satisfying snack, a breakfast topping, and certainly a tasty cocktail🍸. Frozen blueberries are an awesome addition to any smoothie. Low in calories, yet high in fiber, packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, vitamin C, and vitamin K, they should be a part of your daily summer menu. Why so blue? Those powerful antioxidants that may protect against cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline, also give blueberries their color.

🍍Pineapples = (1 cup cubed) 21.6g of total carbs; 2.3g of fiber

  • One cup has more than 88% of your daily value of cell-protecting, collagen-making vitamin C plus more than half of the manganese you need every day. Manganese plays an essential role in the way your body metabolizes food, clots blood, and keeps your bones healthy. Having surgery? Be sure to include pineapple in your post-surgery recovery! Pineapple contains bromelain, the digestive enzyme in pineapple, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Pineapple + cottage cheese = a delicious produce + protein snack.

🥝Kiwi = (1 cup, sliced) 26.4g of total carbs;  5.4g of fiber

  • Kiwis are high in vitamin C and dietary fiber, as well as a rich source of other vitamins and antioxidants, that support heart health, digestive health, and immunity. Their vitamin C content is 3 times the amount found in an orange!

🍐Pears = (1 medium) 27.5g of total carbs; 5.5 g of fiber

  • Pears are a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. They pair well with almond butter or peanut butter for a healthy protein + produce snack. They are linked to decreasing your risk of diabetes, along with improving gut health and constipation.

🍌🍌🍌But what about bananas?! Go green! 
~Less ripe bananas, greener versus yellow in color, contain a high amount of resistant starch and pectin, which have been linked to several health benefits…As bananas ripen, there is a breakdown of starch, including some types of resistant starch. This increases the total amount of natural sugar in a banana. Food composition databases report average nutrient concentrations in foods and do not include variables such as the ripeness or maturity of fruits. When it comes to bananas, this can make a difference of 22% less fiber = 15.6 grams to 3.4 grams (slightly ripe) and 122% less 15.6 grams to 1.9 (ripe). WOW!
~When baking, which I do a lot over here, you still need to use overripe bananas for the best results! You are using natural sugar versus processed sugar. 
~For example, here is a blog I had written for Diets in Review quite a little while ago, Why is Everyone So Terrified to Eat Bananas? A Dietitian Peels Back the Truth, but it still holds true today!
🍇And I know you have questions about grapes😊: 1 cup red/green =  27.3g total carbs, 1.4g fiber
So what is their issue? They are higher in natural sugar which is unfortunately not balanced out with a higher fiber content. This does not make them evil, quite the opposite! But I know they can be addicting, especially if you are sitting with a serving bowl size of them on the couch 🤔…The best way to include these vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and hydrating little powerhouses is to put one serving (15-17 grapes) in a small bowl for yourself, and slowly consume and enjoy. Freezing them first works well to even further slow down your eating pace with grapes. 

Eating more plants🌱is truly a thing that will hopefully never phase out of the popular chat. Fruit is considered a plant. A natural product that grows from the ground. So let’s get cooking with some tasty fruit! 🍓🍎🍍

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BLACKBERRY AND FETA SALAD
This salad brings true joy from its simplicity, beauty, and combination of sweet, tart, and salty. You could add grilled chicken or shrimp for a balanced main meal, or serve as is for your side dish. 

INGREDIENTS
4 cups arugula
1 cup + ¼ cup fresh blackberries, rinsed well, divided
¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon crumbled feta cheese, low fat, divided
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional toppings: lemon zest, balsamic glaze, pistachios, or favorite nuts

PREPARATION
In a large salad bowl, toss arugula, blackberries, and ¼ cup of feta cheese.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt, and freshly ground pepper. 

Toss the salad bowl ingredients with half of the dressing. Taste and add more dressing if needed. Top with ¼ cup of blackberries and a tablespoon of feta cheese. Suggest further topping it off with lemon zest balsamic vinegar, and desired nuts. Makes 4 side dish servings, or two servings with a protein (ie. grilled chicken, tofu) for a complete meal.


PicturePhoto Credit: The Decorated Cookie

APPLE, KALE, AND SAUSAGE STEW 
Even with the warmer weather, the slow cooker can be a great way to not turn your oven on and produce that extra heat. It keeps things simple for a busy day or night when you want a light bite, without the stress of complicated cooking. You can spice things up as much as desired, or keep it cool. Chicken, veggie, or vegan sausage works well here.INGREDIENTS
1 medium apple (Braeburn or Honeycrisp), peeled, cored, chopped 
14 ounces vegetable broth, low sodium
2 pounds kale, washed, stems removed and chopped or torn into bite-size pieces
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes, low-sodium 
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (yes, the smoked makes a difference here)
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
1 package sausage (pre-cooked chicken, veggie, or vegan), chopped into bite-size pieces

PREPARATION
Place apple through smoked paprika in a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 3-4 hours, stirring every 30-45 minutes. Add pre-cooked sausage for the last 30 minutes to heat up. Makes 2-3 dinner servings.


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BLUEBERRY AND RASPBERRY CRUMBLE
This seasonal and sweet crowd-pleasing dessert makes a well-balanced breakfast too! Just add a generous dollop of yogurt on top for your protein. Perhaps a lovely Memorial Day treat, with leftovers for breakfast😊. 

INGREDIENTS
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup plus 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 cups oats
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Nonstick cooking spray 
Toppings per serving: For dessert: 2 Tablespoons low-fat frozen yogurt; For breakfast: ½-1  cup nonfat Greek yogurt plus a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup

PREPARATION
Spray the bottom of a 1-quart casserole dish or 9” square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and the 3 tablespoons of flour.
Add the blueberries and raspberries to the bowl and gently toss to coat.
Transfer the coated berries to the prepared baking dish.

In another bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, and the remaining 1/3 cup of flour.

Add the cut butter pieces (using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers-best method!), until the crumble mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle over the berries. Lightly spray top with oil spray. 

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Switch to high broil for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Watch carefully to make sure it does not burn! Cut into 8 squares and add toppings per serving. Makes 8 servings.


You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.

~Will Rogers, an American vaudeville performer, actor, and humorous social commentator

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With a longstanding dedication to healthy cooking and eating, I promote nutrition with a rebellious twist: the belief that perfection is not required for success on your wellness journey. 

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