As a kid, whenever I had a cold, I would run miles away from guavas, a fruit I particularly liked, because I feared that eating them would worsen my problem. I would also be adamant about not having bananas or guavas, fearing it would worsen my already unbearable condition with runny nose and cough. I continued believing this for quite some years. It was only when I studied nutrition that I realised how baseless my fears were.
Now, when my clients express such ‘beliefs’ about fruits, I understand where they are coming from. Fruits are such a wonderful natural resource—they give us nutrition, energy and fibre. Not eating fruits due to myths associated with them keeps us from the nutritional goodness that they offer.
Let us debunk some common fruit myths and find the truth behind them.
14 Common Fruit Myths
Fruit Myth #1: An apple a day keeps the doctor away
It’s not just the apple, all fruits have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and energy and, when consumed daily, can keep the doctor away. The key is not apple but ‘a fruit every day’.
Fruit Myth #2: Eating guava during cough and cold worsens it
This is nne of the more popular fruit myths. Guava is rich in vitamin C and other minerals. It also has other nutrients, which build immunity and therefore help us fight against cough and cold, not cause it.
Fruit Myth #3: Over-ripe fruits are harmful
As long as the fruit retains its colour, shape and texture, there is no cause for worry. Of course, if the fruit is bruised or has become smelly/rotten, you should discard it. Otherwise, consumption of over-ripe fruits doesn’t harm you in any way.
Fruit Myth #4: Bigger and brighter the fruit, the healthier it is
The brighter and bigger the fruit, the chances of it being artificially ripened are higher. For instance, grapes are sometimes treated with sulphur dioxide to delay spoilage and keep them looking fresh for long [sulphite can trigger an allergy in some people].
It is best to eat only fruits that are fresh, seasonal and grown locally.
Fruit Myth #5: Diabetics shouldn’t eat fruits
This is yet another of those fruit myths that keep people from the goodness of fruits. If you have diabetes, you can still eat up to two fruits a day, keeping in mind the glycaemic index [GI] of those fruits. You need to avoid fruits that are high in natural sugars. For instance, watermelon has a GI higher than even mangoes and so is best avoided by diabetics. But there is no need for you to deprive yourself of fruits completely.
Fruit Myth #6: Consuming fruits leads to dental caries/decay
If you don’t care for your teeth or maintain good oral hygiene, any food will cause tooth decay. In fact, fruits like apples, pears and oranges [most citrus fruits] help in cleaning your teeth and are therefore considered good for oral health.
Fruit Myth #7: Because fruits are low on calories you can have as many as you like
Fruits contain simple sugars and also their fair share of calories. Some fruits are low in calories but still need to be consumed in moderation. Excessive sugar means excessive calories and thus weight gain.
Fruit Myth #8: Eating citrus fruits helps clear wrinkles as they are rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that has collagen-like properties, which leads to glowing and healthy skin. However, the development of wrinkles varies from one individual to another. Along with food, it’s your body’s capacity to digest the vitamin C, which aids in healthier skin. Therefore it’s not citrus fruits but your body that determines the arrival of wrinkles depending on how it absorbs vitamin C.
Fruit Myth #9: Eating too many fruits can cause diabetes
Diabetes is not just determined by what you eat but by the ability of your pancreas to produce insulin. If your body is unable to produce sufficient insulin, you are likely to have high sugars irrespective of the number of fruits you eat. But if you are already a diabetic, you need to watch your consumption of sugary fruits.
Fruit Myth #10: Eating too many bananas can lead to a potassium overdose
Nutrients introduced in the body as injections/tablets/syrups are absorbed much better than from a natural food source. Therefore, even if you eat 10 bananas a day, it won’t shoot up your potassium load as your body won’t be able to absorb all that potassium. All that could happen due to eating too many bananas is an upset tummy (and increased sugars if you’re a diabetic).
Fruit Myth #11: Fruits are best eaten at bedtime
The best time to consume fruits is mid-morning and mid-evening on a light stomach because your body’s need for glucose and energy is higher at this time. Eating fruits at bedtime post dinner only loads more calories into your system, leading to weight gain. Besides, it’s not advisable to eat much after 7pm because our metabolism slows down as the day progresses and is the slowest by bedtime.
Fruit Myth #12: Drinking fruit juice or eating a fruit bar is as good as eating a whole fruit
This is perhaps the most misleading of all fruit myths. A lot of people hate eating fruits—they find it immensely boring. But they don’t mind drinking juice or eating a fruit bar. But it is better to eat a fresh fruit as juice lacks fibre, which is present in a whole fruit. Fibre aids in digestion and juices do not have the same effect. Besides, fruit bars and canned juiced are processed, often with added sugar, and have far more calories, compared to fresh fruits.
Having said that, drinking fresh juice is much better than not consuming fruits at all. But don’t drink it thinking it will provide you with the benefits of a whole fruit; be aware that you’re missing out on certain nutrients like vitamins and minerals as well as fibre.
Fruit Myth #13: Figs are good for health and hence should be eaten in plenty during the season
Figs are nutrient-heavy and not easily digested by the body even though they are rich in fibre. Excessive consumption of figs may lead to diarrhoea. One shouldn’t eat more than two figs a day.
Fruit Myth #14: Fortified fruits are healthier than fresh ones
Most fortified fruits come in cans. Fresh fruits are healthier than fortified ones as they contain preservatives, have high sodium and sugar content, and add to your weight and water retention issues.
3 fruit truths
These beliefs about fruits are facts…
Truth #1: Eating too much mango leads to excessive heat in the body
Eating too much mango upsets the tummy or leads to skin eruptions because it is high in sugar. It’s the same with other sugar-heavy fruits as well. Therefore remember, moderation is key.
Truth #2: Apple is good for bad tummy
Apples are good for constipation when eaten in a stewed form. So, if you have an upset tummy, eat it as a whole fruit or juice and to cure constipation, eat it stewed.
Truth #3: Different fruits have different things to offer
While all fruits offer fibre and energy, each fruit has its unique nutritional profile. Red, yellow and orange fruits are rich in antioxidants; whereas fruits which can be eaten with skin are rich in fibre. While bananas and chickoo give instant energy, kiwis and grapes increase your fluids. Therefore, do not omit any fruit from your diet.
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