Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Britain is eating more fruit than ever before - but is that a good thing?

It's official, we are all going bananas over fruit with more of us eating it now than ever before.

It’s not just the old favourites like apples and oranges that are on the up, we are filling our fruit bowls with all manner of exotic delicacies that 20 years were, well, just that, exotic delicacies.

I am not sure this is a good thing.

Research from Asda shows 76 per cent of Britons regularly stock up on at least five different types of fruit compared to just a quarter of us 15 years ago.

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That makes sense, in 1997 I can’t remember coming back from the supermarket laden down with the huge variety of fruit you can pick up in shops now.

I remember being able to get mangoes if you were particularly flush that week, but other than that most people made do with traditional varieties.

I also remember having to wait for the summer before buying peaches, strawberries, cherries and other seasonal fruit.

Now we can get every form of fruit virtually all year round, either from the grocery section or chopped up into bite sized chunks from the snack counter.

We are also easily seduced by the new range of “super-fruits” like blueberries and pomegranates which apparently hold the key to eternal youth and offer us protection from all sorts of horrible diseases.

I sniff another food-industry conspiracy here.

Nobody has stopped to ask whether it is actually good for us to be consuming all this super-sweet fruit all year round.

And unless you hadn’t noticed, the nation aint getting no slimmer.

Although the health benefits of fruit are well noted, it is also packed full of fructose – a form of sugar which goes straight to the liver to be converted to fat if it is not burned off through exercise.

When 15 years ago we might have had a granny smith every day, or a banana for breakfast, we are now seemingly cramming ourselves full of sugar-packed tropical varieties all year round.

It’s also no secret that over the years fruit has been bred to be bigger, tastier and sweeter - yes, that means more sugar.

I am a huge fruit fan, but i am also very aware it is not a "free food" if you want to stay in shape.

The revelation came one morning when I found myself chopping up bananas , strawberries, peaches and mangoes for a “healthy fruit salad breakfast. It struck me – I don’t think my body is going to appreciate this.

All these fruits from around the world, evolved to grow at different times of the year, all packed into one sickly sweet bowl headed for my waistline.

A bit of research showed I was not alone in this concern – many medics and nutritionists warn to watch out for the sugar in fruit, and only eat it in moderation.

If you think a mango can have around 200 calories, a banana 100, a handful of grapes 150, before you know it you have a bowl containing 500 calories, and you think it’s fine because “it’s just fruit”.

Virtually all of the calories in that bowl come from sugar – not such a sweet thought.

Asda stocks more than 165 types of fruit and veg in its stores “be it strawberries from Kent, apples from Somerset, mangoes from Brazil or even pineapples from Costa Rica”.

Hmmm – When in our hunter gatherer ancestry would have been able to stop off at all those destinations in time for breakfast?

The general feeling is that fruit is good for you in moderation, but it is far from the “free” ,”fill up on”, “eat as much as you like” as many claim.

As for me, an apple a day may well keep the doctor away, but that’s about it, I’ll reserve the rest for a special treat.

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