Have you had your five servings of fruits and vegetables for the day? If the number five seems intriguing you are far away from being anywhere near to health and nutrition as health experts’ first recommendation would be to include five servings of rainbow-colored produce in your daily diet. Those of you whose answer is yes can simply congratulate yourself but just wait before you gloat on your efforts as I have another question which might sound silly but is rather necessary to affirm health. Did you consume five different whole fruits and vegetables or did you try to be over smart, add all the five fruits in a blender and drink it up as a fruit juice or smoothie? If your answer is yes to the juice/smoothie part please revisit your daily routine as this juice doesn’t fulfill fruit consumption requirements and is still considered as consuming only 1 portion for the day! Fruits are full of vitamins and nutrients; they are a boon to all of us fulfilling out sweet tooth and taste buds unlike vegetables that are rather bland and tasteless but does their health benefits depend on how they are consumed?
Apples, bananas and oranges are common fruits that hold a place in most of our kitchens while berries, peaches, pears and kiwis belong to the exotic category that cannot be afforded by all. It is always recommended to eat seasonal fruits as they are fresh, enriched with nutrients and affordable too. Marketing gimmicks and business strategies have suppressed the goodness of our regular fruits such as apples, pomegranates and grape while promoting and favoring fruits such as berries, kiwis and cherries. A fruit is a fruit and each of it is uniquely nutritious. While mangoes, jackfruits and bananas are touted to be full of calories and enemies to diabetic patients it is important to realize that these fruits are neither foes of diabetes nor are other fruits their friends. Even the goodness of fruits depends on how they are consumed-as a whole fruit, fruit juice, smoothie or jams. While we know that jams are not healthy despite containing fruits, we treat fruit juices and smoothies to be extremely healthy versions of the produce. But how good are they really in providing the desired health benefits?
Our Ancestral Roots Go Back to Fruits
While we do have studies showing that our ancestral diet was dominated by fruits based on the evolution of human jaws and teeth we don’t have much supporting data to strongly support or condemn the consumption of a fruit-dominated diet. Like vegetarians and vegans there are a sect of people who are fruitarians but adhering to only a fruitarian diet puts one at utmost risk for nutritional deficiencies and creates problems in people with diabetes, certain medical conditions and in small children too. The reason why fruits have always seen ups and downs with diabetes patients is due to the presence of natural sugars in them. No rule says that fruits should be avoided by diabetes patients or sapodilla is bad for their health. All that we need to ensure is that the portion sizes are controlled and they fall well within their daily intake calorie limits proposed. Again, these people are advised to take it in the form of whole fruit rather than fruit juice as whole fruit has a whole bunch of advantages that mitigates sugar-driven health risks (https://time.com/5301984/can-you-eat-too-much-fruit/). That’s because, whole fruits are rich in fiber (Soluble and insoluble) and sugar absorption is not profuse as in the case of juices. Whereas, intake of fruit juice has been linked with an increased risk of diabetes.
Whole fruits are healthy but excess consumption can lead to problems such as diarrhea. Our people are fixed on the notion that anything that contains fruits is healthy irrespective of the other ingredients present. Fruit juices contain fruits, sugar and cream (sometimes) mixed in a blender and served. Children often prefer juices over whole fruits as they are spared of the need to bite, chew and eat the fruit. Secondly, the excess sugar present makes the juice yummier and tastier but the sugars are also directly absorbed by the body increase blood glucose levels. A survey regarding fruits juices brought in shocking results as almost 75% of the survey participants believed that fruit juices and smoothies were healthy and only a quarter of the total participants were concerned about the presence of sugar in these drinks.
Smoothies are creamier and richer sometimes based on the ingredients used for preparation. A smoothie basically contains pureed raw fruits, vegetables and dairy products such as yogurt, ice cream and cheese along with other ingredients such as water, nuts, seeds, sweeteners and nutritional supplements. Mankind loves innovations and new things and smoothies are the latest in trend. There are hundred different varieties of smoothies some of them are proclaimed to be breakfast replacements and others are consumed before/after workouts as a source of energy replenishments. They are similar to milkshakes with the primary difference being that milkshakes contain more ice creams/yogurt and less fruits. Drinking a smoothie might seem the right thing to do but the ones offered at cafes and juice shops are loaded with calories and the portion sizes too are enormous! Its better to split your smoothie with your besties rather than drinking up all the calories.
It is also essential to know that smoothies can be good when they contain the right mix of ingredients in the right proportion. Get your fruits, veggies, fat and protein portions right and you indeed have a healthy snack in hand. Include fruits, veggies such as kale or spinach for fiber and vitamins, proteins in the form of chia, unsweetened nut butter, hemp and chia, and fats such as sugar-free nut butter, flax oil or unsweetened yogurt. You can even throw in spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, herbs such as cilantro or even some spirulina to make it packed with nutritive value. This makes a smoothie healthier (antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits) than a fruit juice but sugar levels are bound to rise immediately as in a fruit drink. Proclaiming smoothies to be the magic drink for weight loss is all humbug. Nothing can beat the benefits of exercising regularly and eating a nutritious diet.
Though we do have various options to consume fruits eating them raw is in the best interest of our health as we are equipping our body with nutrients. Occasionally enjoying a fruit juice or a smoothie is not going to cause any harm. Do enjoy the drink during a party or while hanging out. But take care not to overstep your total calories too.
Are Smoothies Healthy? https://time.com/5447846/are-smoothies-healthy/
How Fruit Juice Went From Health Food to Junk Food: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/17/how-fruit-juice-health-food-junk-food
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.