Before the Atkins diet and other low- or no-carbohydrate diets became overwhelmingly popular, many dieters ate as much fruit as they wanted. It is natural and healthy, after all. Today, the pendulum has swung the other way since low-carbohydrate diets often severely limit the amount of fruit a follower can consume. Many low-carb dieters shun fruit altogether, fearing it will derail their weight loss. While common sense says the best rate of consumption is somewhere in between, it isn’t so much the amount of fruit as it is the type of fruit that matters.
The Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index is a numerical list to illustrate how our bodies react to certain foods. It is an idea particularly relevant to diabetics since it is a measurement of blood sugar. Quite simply, the lower the Glycemic Index number (GI), the better the food is for dieting.
Foods with a high GI spike blood sugar levels which then crash later, leading to fatigue and hunger. Keeping the blood sugar at a more even keel can reduce hunger pains to make dieting easier.
Although there are more factors to what makes a food healthy than just this number, dieters should focus on the lower GI fruits.
Fruits with a lower natural sugar and have higher fiber content tend to be the best choices for dieters. That means eating an unpeeled apple (GI 38) is a better choice than applesauce. The fiber helps fill you up, and it just takes longer to eat, extending the enjoyment of the apple.
Most people consider grapefruit a diet food, and indeed it is (GI 25). Taking your time and enjoying a half with a cup of coffee can make for a very pleasant breakfast or snack.
Cherries are also low on the Index (GI 22), and strawberries are even right at the limit for many dieters, with a GI of 40. A mixed fruit salad of different varieties of apples, pitted cherries and a few strawberries is a nice treat.
Watermelon is sometimes on lists of good fruits for dieters and sometimes on lists of bad fruits. The reason is its high GI (72) but low calorie count. An entire cup has only about 40 calories. It’s mostly water and contains a lot of important nutrients. It seems that watermelon should be eaten in small doses.
Cantaloupe and pineapple each have a GI in the mid-60s, making them inappropriate for most dieters.
Dried fruits and fruit juices are concentrated forms, so they tend to have more sugar and a higher GI per serving than regular fresh fruit. With a bag of dried peaches, for example, we are less likely to each a single peach’s worth than if we have a fresh peach. Raisins near a GI 70, and a handful of dates has a whopping GI of 100.
Similarly, small servings of juice seem to be disproportionately high in sugar. A glass of grapefruit juice instead of eating half the fruit will nearly double the GI.
All or Nothing?
As usual, the answer to what fruit to eat lies in smart choices. Most adults should consume two servings daily, even on a low-carb diet. All dieters should typically opt for foods lower on the Glycemic Index, but variety is necessary to maintain any diet. Make choices based upon more than just the number of servings.
Laura Dolson. “GI Lists-Fruits.” Lowcarbdiets.about.com.