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6) Fruit: Are you missing it?

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Article Originally Submitted 2003

For most Low-carbers, the answer to the above question is “Oh golly gosh yes!” Me, I never was a “fruit fan”, so when I started LCing in 1999, it was one thing I never missed.

However, over 3 1/2 years on, and my taste buds have adapted to my lowered sweetness diet and I now enjoy, in moderation of course, many fruits that I thought were too bland, sour, or tart.

As a general rule, a fruit’s sugar content is governed by when the fruit is naturally produced by the plant. The amount of sun the plant gets controls the sugar content. (See Table 1)

Fruit Opening month of season Closing month of season Active Carb Counts per 100g
Rhubarb April September 2.3g
Tomatoes April October 3.7g
Cherries May June 14.8g
Melons May July 3.7g
Gooseberries June July 6.6g
Raspberry June September 5.2g
Strawberries June October 5.1g
Limes June August 7.4g
Apples August March 13.1g
Blackberries August October 8.1g
Pumpkins August March 7.0g
Lemons August February 6.0g
Grapes September October 18.1g
Pears September March 13.2g
Plums September October 12.4g
Oranges November February 17.0g
Grapefruits November June 3.9g

Table 1

However, we now get fruit all the time, regardless of seasonal patterns, as it is grown and shipped from all over the world. I would say, for the sake of taste, if nothing else, it is always better to try and be both “local” (i.e. the same country at least!) and seasonal with your fruit choices.

As an example, I now love Strawberries, whereas before LC, I used to think that they were far too tart and acidic! Shame really, when I was a child we used to go Strawberry picking as a family outing every June!

Strawberries smell and taste far better in June, when the supply in the shops is homegrown in Kent, and ripening naturally in the correct season. The imported Spanish and Moroccan ones we get in February which have been “forced” to ripen early are far too crunchy and have no real taste at all!

How can you judge what fruits are the best choice in a low-carb diet? As far as I am concerned, there are three selection criteria:

  1. Fructose content
  2. Antioxidant and Vitamin content and quality
  3. Fibre content.

As a side note, GI could be useful is your selection process however, GI and Fruit is very deceptive. Most fruits have quite a low GI. This is due to the fact that Fructose does not require insulin for processing, as it does not directly raise blood sugar. Fructose is immediately converted into triglycerides by the liver. Put simply, fruit (and honey) is designed to make you fat for the winter lean months. Although GI can be a handy indicator, I personally treat it with a pinch of salt when it comes to fruit!

As a rule fruits provide us with Vitamins A and C, Folate, Potassium and Magnesium in any sort of appreciable amounts. Fruit fibre is the only fibre that has a positive influence in the gut. They are gentle, do not scour the digestive tract and they do not prevent mineral absorption, unlike phylate containing Bran Fibre. (Which is the subject of another article altogether!)

I.E. going back to my Strawberries, they have to be at the very top of my list! Strawberries pack more Vitamin C than Oranges per oz (but then, so does Broccoli, so that cannot be difficult to achieve!), and have one of the lowest sugar content of all fruits. (1 cup of sliced strawberries (166g) contains 7.8g of Active Carbs (A.C.) (See Table 2)) They are high in Antioxidants (especially Ellegic acid, which is being studied intensively and appears to have very potent anti-cancer properties!), other fruit acids and Vitamin C (that cup has 94 mg!).
They also contain generous amounts of various other minerals and 4g of Fibre, so, if you are going to eat fruit, I believe that Strawberries are really the all round best option.

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries (166 grams)
(US Nutrition information)
Calories 50
Protein 1 gram
Carbohydrates 11.65 grams
Dietary Fiber 3.81 grams
Calcium 23.24 mg
Iron 0.63 mg
Magnesium 16.60 mg
Phosphorus 31.54 mg
Potassium 44.82 mg
Selenium 1.16 mg
Vitamin C 94.12 mg
Folate 29.38 mcg
Vitamin A 44..82 IU

Table 2

What happens if you don’t like strawberries? Well…

A general rule is to choose a “Summer” fruit, as the Autumn and Tropical/Citrus Fruits tend to have lots of Sugar, and are very light on vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in comparison!

To help you with your choice, here are some pointers. All of the Berries pack a nice antioxidant/sugar ratio, and are around the 6-8g A.C. per cup mark. Blueberries in particular have antioxidants that are very good for the retina, and general eye health. Peaches and Plums are also good choices, Peaches having around 8g A.C. per peach and 2g of fiber. However, Plums are around the 8.5g A.C. each but only have less than a gram of fiber. Apricots (4g A.C. each, with just under a gram of fiber) in particular are a really good source of Vitamin A. If you are going to eat Melon, choose a Cantaloupe. They have the biggest share of vitamins and minerals in all the melon family. Avoid highly glycemic Watermelon, which is mostly just fructose, fiber and water! Mind you, you do get the joys of spitting the pits if you eat watermelon…

You can also spit Bing cherry pits, but at 1g A.C (With practically no fibre inside!) per cherry, this is a really a luxury you will have to put off until maintenance!

Clearly, summer fruits can be a delicious and healthy addition to our low-carb diets. Nutritionally, they are far “better value” than the Autumn and Tropical Fruits, so, I urge you to enjoy them, in moderation of course, as long as they last!

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