Recently I’ve been asked by a number of people whether it’s okay to eat fruit. You know it’s relatively high in sugar; they’re worried about whether they should be eating a food that contains a lot of sugar. It’s fine. As long as the sugar is enclosed in a fiber matrix, and as long as you don’t already have a blood sugar problem (like uncontrolled diabetes), feel free to eat fruit. You can trust me when I say that apples and oranges are absolutely not what’s driving up our collective weight. The obesity epidemic is not being caused by fruit.
This week I’m going to tell you a story about me. This story dates back to 2002, which is when I first decided that the time had come to stop eating so many commercially produced baked goods, a category that includes most of the bread, crackers, bagels, muffins, waffles, pancakes, “breakfast” cereal, biscuits, cakes, cookies and so on in the American diet. Generally speaking, all of these are made from white flour, corn syrup, and sugar. Stripped carbs. Nutritionally bankrupt.
Like most folks, I ate gobs of the stuff. So when I stopped eating it, I was pretty hungry. That’s because, at first, I didn’t know what to eat instead. Nowadays I might eat apple slices with or without a spoonful of peanut butter, cucumber slices dipped in hummus, oatmeal with raisins, or a handful of nuts. But in those days I wasn’t sure what to choose if it wasn’t going to be those cheese crackers that always beckoned from the vending machine down the hall.
So I looked into my kitchen cabinets and found something that seemed like it might work: dried fruit. I brought it to work for a mid-afternoon snack. It was pretty good, and it did the trick. Satisfying, filling. True confessions: sometimes, usually because I had run out of dried fruit, I went to the local ice cream shop for a vanilla milk shake. That’s because I still really had no idea what to eat. But there’s a message here, and it’s this: Even though I markedly increased my intake of dried fruit, and even despite the occasional milk shake, the weight fell off me. Within a few weeks, my clothes fit a lot better. That weight never came back, and believe me — I never missed it.
This is precisely the personal experience that made me realize we have some fundamental misconceptions about obesity. Here I was eating dried fruit, which I’d been told to avoid, and the weight was falling off. So yes, you should feel free to eat fruit. Fresh, frozen, or dried. With no added sugar, of course.