Should fruits & veggies get a divorce?

 

We always talk about them together, they sit together in the store, they are practically married, so what’s the big difference?

“Eat your fruits and vegetables” “Two cups a day of fruits and vegetables” “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables” Public health officials, doctors and dietitians all repeat the same message. Since fruits are sweet and don’t require preparation time most people respond enthusiastically to upping their fruit intake but conveniently forget about the veggies. Well that’s ok, it’s one or the other, right? Unfortunately that’s not the case and for the overweight the difference is especially significant, fruits and veggies have entirely distinct effects on weight.

How do you define the difference?

Nutritional definitions: 1) Vegetables are low in sugars and calories, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. 2) Fruits are high in simple carbohydrates (sugars) and contain moderate amounts of calories and fiber.

Fruits, Veggies and your Gut

Vegetables average four times the fiber per calorie as fruits. Whole grains, which are widely praised and advertised for their high fiber, average only 1/8 the fiber per calorie as vegetables. The high fiber of veggies combined with its complex carbohydrates give vegetables a unique role in digestion. Our small intestine needs time to breakdown the long chain carbohydrates and our large intestine works on the extensive fibers, as well as extracting the plentiful water out of the vegetables. When our intestines are busy, weight loss is easier because: 1) hard working intestines send signals to the brain saying we are full 2) the intestines are lined with muscles, which burn calories 3) the additional time it takes to digest veggies slows down the whole digestive process; our meals turn to energy slower and our blood sugars stabilize for longer which in turn delays and diminishes hunger. Meanwhile fruits, being mostly water, simple carbohydrates/sugars, and some fiber, digest rapidly.

Most importantly for weight loss, the divide in sugars and fiber impacts calories. Fruits average 60 calories per serving while vegetables average only 25 calories per serving. The following list shows calories content per 100 grams/3.5 ounces – equivalent to a small apple, 4-6 strawberries, an average sized carrot or a large bell pepper

Fruits Veggies
Watermelon 26 Mushroom 18
Orange 53 Bell Pepper 20
Apple 56 Lettuce 21
Plums 56 Broccoli 25
Cherries 70 Spinach 26
Mangoes 70 Cauliflower 30
Strawberries77 Cabbage 45
Banana 95 Carrot 48
Dates 281 Onion 50

In summary, vegetables are as close as there is to a magic pill for weight loss while fruits are fairly neutral. Raw fruits can be a useful player in a weight loss diet, particularly when used as a substitute for sweets. However fruit, when processed into juices, dried fruit, or in smoothies will contribute to weight gain, but that is topic for another blog.

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