Fruit: Friend of Foe?

Fruit: Friend of Foe?

Just because Adam and Eve had a negative experience with fruit, doesn’t mean you need to fear it as well! Unfortunately, however, it appears that there is a very real fear of eating fruit these days. There are countless misconceptions about fruit mostly promulgated by high-fat and high-protein diets, but also by misinformed doctors and nutritionsits alike.  But why is fruit – unarguably known by scientists to prolong life, reduce inflammation and protect against cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and various other diseases – vilified?

Fruit Myths

Fruit will make you fat. This is just silly. You make yourself fat by your food choices and quantity eaten, but food in and of itself does not make you fat. There are thousands of individuals that literally live off of fruit – fruitarians – and I have yet to see one of them obese. The vast majority of people know pretty well what they need to do to lose weight but don’t want to make the necessary changes. So what do they do? They look for something to blame. And the group carbohydrates, of which fruit belongs, seems to be a popular scapegoat in our modern day. Now I will admit that there are a handful of people out there, lost in the sea of misinformation, who are trying there best to lose weight with little success. Please contact us.  Now weight gain is heavily influenced by consuming more calories than your body needs, eating a lot of foods that are toxic to the body (meat, dairy, processed foods, oils, sweeteners) or can be due to hormonal imbalances. Right now you are saying, “See! I knew it wasn’t my fault. Hormonal imbalance for sure is to blame in my case.” You may be right. But what causes hormonal imbalances? Mostly a poor diet (think lots of animal products, especially dairy products), stress (which you are largely responsible for) and some times certain medications (which 80% of the time would not be needed if following a healthy, plant-based diet). Fruit does not make you fat. Please don’t fall into the modern trap that eating slabs of butter, a cheese and meat omelette or a triple bacon cheese burger without the bun is “healthier” than a couple of pieces of fresh fruit.  Save yourself the time and effort from blaming fruit and instead use that time and effort to go grocery shopping and pick you up some delicious fruit!

Fruit is high in sugar (carbohydrates) so its bad. Nowadays I feel like many treat carbohydrates like “he who must not be named”, daring not to even say the evil word, let alone eat them! First off, you need to understand that your body and especially your brain is designed to run off of sugar! Everything you eat, be it simple sugars, complex carbohydrates, fat and even protein in some cases gets turned into a form of sugar called glucose to fuel your body. We absolutely need glucose to live a healthy life. But what about ketone bodies? Yes, our body can run off of ketone bodies but this is a safety mechanism meant for times of famine or fasting. There is no evidence that living off of ketones indefinitely is healthy in the long run. But we also need a lot more than just glucose to be healthy and thus you need to understand that there is a HUGE difference between eating a raw piece of fruit and a packet of skittles. Some carbohydrates in fruit are fiber, which is indigestible by the body and therefor has absolutely no effect on blood sugar levels (but has a lovely effect on bowel movements!). Also, one of the main sugars in fruit is fructose that is almost entirely metabolized in the liver and the rate at which it is converted to glucose is actually rather slow, much slower than other carbohydrates. Thus fructose’s impact on blood sugar levels is moderate, unless you are consuming high-fructose corn syrup which not only spikes blood sugar levels but also leads to other negative health consequences. So yeah, I guess a lot of fruit at one time (like 20 bananas) can spike blood sugar levels and lead to fat production and fat storage, not to mention be very taxing on the liver. This is one of the reasons why I am not on board with the fruitarians. But who of you eats that much fruit? I must admit that I have on occasion because dang the fruit is good down here in Costa Rica. Shame on me. Fruit also hosts various vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which are necessary for proper functioning of all major organs, metabolism, good health and prevention of all major diseases that plague us today. The broad potential health benefits of eating fruit far outweigh a couple of very minor potential disadvantages. Do yourself a favor and taste the rainbow of natural, whole, raw fruit, and not just their simulated flavors in that packet of skittles.

If you have diabetes you should stay away from fruit. As I mentioned above, fruit contains fructose which is converted to glucose rather slowly. And understanding that about half of the natural sugars in fruit is typically fructose, there only remains the other half able to raise blood sugar levels significantly. But then we also need to add to the blood-sugar equation that fruit contains the carbohydrate fiber that actually doesn’t contribute at all to increases in blood sugar levels. Fruit is also mostly water, therefor a serving of fruit and a serving of cake will have dramatic differences in impact on blood sugar levels. This concept is accounted for with the glycemic load (GL), rather than the glycemic index (GI). Glycemic load is pretty much the saturation of carbohydrates in a food and any number below 10 for glycemic load is considered low with regard to impact on blood sugar levels, 10-20 considered moderate, and above 30 considered high.  Let’s look at watermelon, for example, that has a GI of 72 (high), but only a GL of 7.2 (low) and skittles with a GI of 70 (high) and a GL of 31 (high). You would need to eat 4-5 servings of fruit to equal a serving of skittles.

You also need to remember that most diabetics have type 2 diabetes (95%) and that carbohydrates, regardless of their glycemic index, are not really the problem when it comes to this form of diabetes. The real problem is fat. A diet high in fat, especially animal fats and processed oils, leads to high levels of fat in blood which then can cause accumulations of fatty deposits inside the cell called intramyocellular lipids. These fatty deposits inside the cell are responsible for blocking insulin from allowing glucose to enter the cell, called insulin resistance. You can read more about type 2 diabetes in my blog post: Diabetes Mellitus – You Are Not a Victim of your Genes. Thousands of people who suffered with type 2 diabetes have actually been cured with a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. There are various medical doctors leading the way with the idea of treating diabetes (and almost every other chronic disease) with a low-fat, high-carb, vegan diet, such as doctors John Mcdougal, Joel Furhman, Neal Barnard and Caldwell Esselstyn. Once you remove the animal fat and processed fat from the diet, the fatty deposits inside the cells are burned up and eliminated allowing insulin to do its job properly.

So when all is said and done, fruit’s impact on blood sugar levels really is minimal and you should not be afraid to eat it or other healthy carbohydrates (unless you continue eating a lot of fat), even if you are diabetic!

Fruit should be avoided if you have Candida overgrowth. 

Why would we deprive ourselves of one of nature’s greatest healing foods when the body is at a time when healing is most needed? Fear of “sugar” once again. While it is true that the candida bacteria feed on sugar, so what? Your own cells function and thrive on sugar too, not to mention all of the beneficial bacteria needed to keep candida in check! The idea of “starving” candida out of the body by severely limiting carbohydrate intake can also be problematic as this is a known trigger that causes the normal candida to convert to its pathogenic fungal form (1). And again, I need to make myself clear that not all sugar is the same. A package of skittles and a bag of grapes will be digested very differently and have different effects in the body. Similar to diabetes, sugar is not the real problem here, especially not fruit. In fact, most carbohydrate/sugar consumed is absorbed by cellular activity before it can even be considered as food for candida.  If carbohydrates (sugar, fruit) were to blame for candidiasis, why are there so many people that have healed themselves by going on a high fruit low fat diet? Heck, there are even some people who have adopted a diet entirely of fruit – that is a lot of sugar – and have healed themselves of candidiasis (2, 3, 4).  The real problem is the imbalance in gut flora, allowing the Candida to over populate and eventually convert to a problematic fungi. Imbalances in gut flora can be influenced by an acidic diet (think the standard American diet full of animal and processed foods and devoid of fresh vegetables and fruit), use of antibiotics, poor immune system, diabetes, stress and intestinal diseases such as IBS, Chrohn’s, leaky gut and colitis. Concentrating on helping repopulate the good bacteria and healing the gut is what is needed, and fruit helps significantly in this effort!

*A great presentation given by a doctor on Candidiasis can be viewed here.

Benefits of Fresh Fruits

Easily digested.

No need to cook.

Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and various other micronutrietns and phytonutrients which are crucial for overall health, wellness and a strong immune system.

Loaded with fiber (soluble).

Low on the glycemic load.

Very little packaging.

No labels, so naturally nothing has been added or removed.

No toxic byproducts are produced through digestion, only byproduct is water.

Helps prevent and manage various diseases like diabetes, heart disease, colitis, hypertension and the list goes on and on.

Keeps your body hydrated.

Helps satisfy your “sweet tooth” cravings in a healthy way!

Remember, fruit is your friend, not your foe!

Diabetes Mellitus – You Are Not a Victim of your Genes

Diabetes Mellitus – You Are Not a Victim of your Genes

First off, I think we need to talk a little about genetics and maybe more importantly, epigenetics. You were born with a specific genetic code that does not change. Your genome is fixed. However, epigenetics (meaning above genetics) involves how much or whether or not your specific genetic code is expressed. Epigenetics is heavily influenced by environmental factors. We can see living examples of this with many sets of identical twins. Fifty years down the road, despite their genomes continuing to be exactly the same and containing genetic code let’s say linked to heart disease or diabetes or cancer, often times only one of the twins will develop the disease while the other remains disease free. Two sets of exactly the same genes with different outcomes. The take away is to understand that just because you were born with certain genes that are linked to various diseases does not mean that you will necessarily develop those diseases. Now in rare cases there are diseases that are inevitable due to genetic mutations, like Haemophilia and Huntington’s disease. However, with regards to most common illnesses like heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes, even more important than genetics is your cells environment. Diet, lifestyle, gender, age, geographic location, climate, air quality, water quality and so forth all can potentially affect the expression of certain genes.

The same can be said with diabetes mellitus and its two different forms, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. While yes, there are various genetic variations that are linked to the development of either type of diabetes, these variations in a person’s genetic code do not determine absolutely the development of the disease.

TYPE 1 DIABETES

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease increasing world wide, and like many other autoimmune diseases, what triggers its development is largely unknown. Type 1 diabetes is the result of the inability of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin is quite literally the key to unlock the door of the cell to glucose (the fuel that your body’s cells run on) and thus without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells. Those unfortunate people who develop type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections the remainder of their lives (unless a miracle happens, which some people have reported, but I wouldn’t bet on it). Many falsely believe that type 1 diabetes is entirely genetic or inherited, this is not the case. Less than 10% of people with the genetic markers linked to type 1 diabetes actually develop type 1 diabetes. On top of the genetic tendency to develop type 1 diabetes, various environmental factors also exist that implicate the disease including viral infections, consumption of milk proteins early in childhood, pollutants, variations in gut flora and vitamin D exposure (1). Since type 1 diabetes only accounts for 4-5% of diabetic cases (approximately 1.25 million Americans) and not much can be done to treat the disease other than insulin injections, the focus of this post will be majorly on type 2 diabetes (2). That being said, many people have reported that improvements in their diet (switching to a whole foods diet and eliminating processed foods, be it vegan or paleo or whatever you want to call yourself) have reduced the amount of insulin needed to manage the disease.

TYPE 2 DIABETES

While type 1 diabetes is a result of the lack of insulin, type 2 diabetes is the result of increasing insulin resistance and develops over an extended period of time. What is insulin resistance? Let’s go back to the analogy of insulin acting as the key to open the door to the cell and allow glucose in. In the case of type 2 diabetes something is jamming the key hole, rendering insulin unable to open the door. That something is actually fatty deposits inside the cells (intramyocellular lipids) that act as insulin blockers, increasing the body’s resistance to insulin. What causes these fatty deposits in your cells? Lot’s of fat in the blood stream due to a high-fat and high-carbohydrate diet (what most Americans, Canadians, European’s and other developed nations eat). Returning to your glucose starving cells, they ask the pancreas what the deal is and why it hasn’t sent insulin to help bring in all the glucose floating around in the blood. Your pancreas, probably somewhat confused because it knows it is sending sufficient insulin to handle the blood sugar levels, produces more insulin to fulfill the request. If this issue continues, your cells continue to go hungry and your pancreas gets overworked, which may eventually lead to insufficient insulin production. The goal then of type 2 diabetes treatment is to increase your cell’s sensitivity to insulin. Metformin is the most common drug prescribed for this purpose. Some type 2 diabetes patients pancreas has taken too much of a beating and will also need to take insulin injections to help cover the shortages. I have good news though folks, type 2 diabetes is almost entirely preventable and sometimes even reversible!

I’m not going to state that type 2 diabetes is 100% preventable, because I don’t believe that has been proven. That being said, I would say that close to 99% of the time it is. Just think about this for a minute. Approximately 10 percent of Americans (roughly the entire population of Canada) who suffer from type 2 diabetes essentially are suffering from a disease that could have been avoided. China also displays a similar statistic with approximately 10% (just over the entire population of the western United States) of its residents suffering from the disease. Just 40 years ago only 1% of Chinese had diabetes – that’s a 1000% increase (3)!  How is that possible in such a short time? Rapid Westernization.  I repeat, type 2 diabetes is almost entirely preventable and need not even exist. I don’t care if everyone in your family including your dog and cat have type 2 diabetes, that does not mean you too will inevitably develop the disease. It’s quite possible that you can break the chain!

The single most important thing that influences the development of type 2 diabetes is diet.  More specifically, a diet high in fat. The Chinese make a great example. Once they started adopting the western diet high in fat with lots of meat, dairy, oils, and processed foods, diabetes rates, using the words of the World Health Organization, “exploded”. Over 90% of those suffering from type 2 diabetes all over the world are overweight or obese (again, not a surprise as it is the accumulation of fat in the cells that lead to insulin resistance).  And diet more than exercising helps maintain a healthy body weight. Shawn Talbott, PhD holder and nutritional biochemist stated that weight loss is typically 75% diet and 25% exercise (4). Simply put, you can not outrun a bad diet. But I hope you don’t get caught up in just reducing calories. I’ll admit that reducing calories heavily influences weight loss, but doesn’t necessarily lead to health. Extremely low calorie diets run the risk of nutritional deficiencies. And maybe just as important as how much you eat is what you eat. Your diet should be full of healthy, whole, life-giving food. 1000 calories from white bread are very different than 1000 calories from raw fruit, veggies and sprouted beans and seeds. You are probably thinking, “Here we go again. Mitch, will probably state that a vegan diet is the most adequate at preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.” You called it my friend. A study posted on the website of the American Diabetes Association (ADA -not to be confused with the American Dental Association, the American Dairy Association, the American Disability Act, the American Dietetic Association and a host of other possible definitions) found that a low-fat vegan diet when compared to the recommended ADA diet was 2x as effective at reducing the need for medication, 3x more effective at lowering blood sugar levels and 2x more effective at losing weight (5). Those results are great, but I think even better results could have been obtained. The low-fat vegan diet followed in the study did not eliminate processed food nor was it based on raw, living fruits and vegetables. I believe this is key to attaining optimal health. The diet I recommend to help manage diabetes and potentially reverse type 2 diabetes is a whole food, low protein, fruit-and-veggie-based vegan diet, void of all animal products and any processed garbage called food. Just recently two of my clients suffering from insulin resistance and using the drug Metformin no longer have any need for the medication and their blood sugar levels that once were in the 300-450 range without the drug are now consistently at normal levels around 100. One client had been taking Metformin for several years! This has all been achieved in under a month. I can’t promise you these results, but I have seen similar results over and over again with a whole food, fruit-and-veggie based vegan diet. If you have doubts, I suggest you give the diet a try for a month and see how you feel.

The second most important thing is lifestyle. The human body needs to MOVE. You don’t have to get a gym membership or spend thousands of dollars on a fancy road bike (although those sexy tights are very attractive) or start training for a marathon to reap the benefits of bodily movement. If you want to engage in more intensive forms of exercise like the ones mentioned, all the power to you. But moving doesn’t have to be complicated, leave you sore or require lots of time.  It can be as simple as going for a walk in the morning, practicing yoga, gardening, hiking in nature, taking the stairs instead of the elevator (unless you work or live on the 47th floor or something ridiculous like that), walk or ride your bike to work if possible, jumping on a trampoline and so forth. The benefits of exercise for diabetics are three fold: 1. helps lower blood glucose levels as muscles during exercise can utilize glucose without the need for insulin; 2. increases the effectiveness of insulin, thus lowering a person’s insulin resistance and 3. influences weight loss which in turn will help lower insulin resistance.  Instead of Nike’s slogan of just do it, your new slogan is just move.

Also an important aspect of lifestyle, one that greatly influences your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or helps manage it is STRESS. It is absolutely frightening the level of stress most people live under in our modern age. The majority of my health clients report stress levels of 10/10 and very rarely does anyone report lower than 8. Your brain consumes a lot of glucose, in fact, your brain accounts for approximately 20% of total calories burned in a day. Thus, mental stress can actually raise blood glucose levels which is exactly what diabetics are trying to control. Also, the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol typically released in response to stress directly affect blood glucose levels. Submitting the body to stress on occasion is not much of a threat to health, but chronic stress can severely wear you down, influencing the development of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, weight gain and a host of other ailments. If you are constantly under stress, do yourself a favor and seek out ways to reduce it. Some effective forms of stress reduction are deep breathing exercises, yoga, exercise, reading, being in nature, going for a walk, gardening, meditation and engaging in a favorite hobby. If you think you don’t have time for any of these stress management activities, your wrong. Make time now when you have the choice, because sooner or later, the negative effects of chronic stress will make you slow down, if not stop you completely.

Herbal Support and Supplements. There are some wonderful herbs that God has given us that may help you in the management of diabetes. If you are on current diabetic medication, you may want to consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement as it could have negative drug interactions.

– Bitter melon (momordica charantia) appears to have insulin-like properties and is popular in Asian and Indian cooking.

– Cinnamon (cinnamomum aromaticum) appears to increase insulin receptor sensitivity. Cinnamon also helps tone and balance the pancreas which can also aid in diabetes management. And since cinnamon is down right delicious  – I’m thinking of banana cinnamon nice-cream right now – why not try making an effort to get more of it in your current diet?

– Fenugreek seeds have also displayed glucose-lowering effects and insulin stimulating effects (6)(7).

– Goldenseal and licorice, especially in combination help regulate the pancreas and the production of insulin.

– Chromium deficiencies are linked to glucose tolerance, hyperglycemia, glycosuria (a fancy word given to a decrease in insulin receptors) and lowered insulin binding (8). Chromium is essential in carbohydrate metabolism. Before you start taking large amounts of a chromium supplement however, if possible, I would first get your chromium levels tested to make sure you even have a deficiency.

And that’s it folks. I know this post is super long, and if you are still reading you’ve just won a golden ticket and you are on your way to Willy Wonka’s! But honestly, I think we covered some really important stuff here and I hope it was worth your time.

Happy Health!