Eat your fruit don’t drink it!

I came across this phrase recently while listening to an online training and it stuck with me. It actually makes sense to me but I wanted to dig a bit deeper. Why wouldn’t a smoothie be as good as the real thing? After all it’s got exactly the same stuff in it as if you are eating the actual fruit?

Fruit are important to our health. They are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Red fruit are high in anti-oxidants  and yellow, orange and red fruit are high in betacarotene. And of course they taste good!

Well firstly – fruit juice. Even freshly squeezed you might have heard that no matter how many glasses you are having, or how many pieces of fruit are used – it only counts as 1 of your 5 a day. (I’ll come back to the 5 a day in a bit). Why is that? Juicing fruit breaks down the cell walls making the natural sugar in the fruit more freely available, so your blood sugars spike when you drink it. To make one glass of juice you need two or more pieces of fruit. This means that a glass of OJ for example, has the same amount of sugar as a glass of soft drink or cordial. And there’s little, if any, fibre in the juice. Fibre not only keeps us fuller for longer, but it helps to slow down the absorption of the natural sugars into our bloodstream and keep our digestive systems working efficiently. Taking out the fibre is a real negative. Drinking juice won’t help to control your hunger pangs and is not nearly as satisfying as eating a piece of fruit. The pulp and skin of a fruit are also very important. They carry most of the goodness rather than just the juice itself. And in squeezed and strained juice these are lost. So all of the sugar and none of the fibre –  scientists hypothesize that this may be why juice increases the risk of diabetes, and why a high intake of fruit juice has been linked to childhood obesity.

So how about smoothies then? Well they are certainly better for you than fruit juice… but… yes there is definitely a but! Firstly always choose a homemade smoothie over a shop bought one. They can contain all sorts of flavour enhancers, sugars and sweeteners, and are often made from reconstituted fruit puree rather than fresh fruit. The main problem nutritionists are having with smoothies is that they are a calorie bomb being consumed too fast. A smoothie can easily pack 300 calories or more and you are slurping it down in 10min rather than sit and eat all of those ingredients which takes a lot longer. Furthermore by pulverizing fruit into a thick paste, you’re losing out on the insoluble fibre and its benefits. And as soon as fruit are processed (even in your blender at home) you start losing water soluble vitamins and minerals. So don’t store it, drink it straight away. There is some debate if a really natural smoothie can be counted as 2 of your 5 a day, but it certainly can’t make up for all of your 5 a day, even if you are using more than 5 portions in it.

If it’s the question of no breakfast or a smoothie for breakfast – go for the smoothie. But how about an apple instead? Just as portable!

So how about those 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Firstly see the “and veg” in that sentence? Something that seems to easily get lost. Veg is much better for you than fruit in many respects, so make sure you don’t just eat 5 apples a day. Secondly – that’s a minimum of 5 portions a day. It should really be more than that. There is conflicting information out there, but 5 to 10 seems to be the general consensus. Just to stress, that’s not 10 portions of fruit a day. That would be a lot of sugar consumed in a day. Most of that should be veg! Here are some tips on how you can increase your fruit and especially veg intake a day:

  • Start the day right. How about adding fruit to your breakfast, have a smoothie if you wouldn’t otherwise.
  • Look at a different way of cooking your vegetables, like roasting your cauliflower instead of boiling it – makes it much tastier.
  • Hide a handful of veg in your food – like tomatoe sauce, spag bol, shepherd’s pie.
  • Stir fry your veg – quick and easy to get a load of vegetables.
  • Use a spiraliser to make veg pasta
  • Mash them in with your potato (swede, parsnips, celeriac and cauliflower are great for that)
  • Have a tin of beans – yes don’t forget that pulses and lentils also count as a portion a day (doesn’t matter how much you have though. Still only 1 a day).
  • If you are a reluctant vegetable eater – how about some homemade salsa to go with those veg sticks to spice them up a bit?
  • Buy frozen veg to add to your meal if you are a reluctant veg peeler, and that way you know there is still some goodness left in it rather than them ending up limp in the back of the cupboard.
  • Make a meal plan. Work out what you are going to eat. Definitely helps to plan in those portions of fruit and veg!

So there you go. It’s definitely better to eat your fruit and veg than drink it. But don’t get me wrong. Smoothies are delicious and so is fruit juice. I’m not saying I don’t have them! They are definitely better than having a fizzy drink. But me smart and don’t overestimate the goodness of them.

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