Our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed plenty of wild fruits and vegetables as part of their daily intake. Food researchers and health care professionals have always encouraged consumption of plenty of fiber rich fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables provide a rich array of nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, soluble fiber, vitamins, antioxidant and minerals that provide astounding health benefits. It is also important to note that fruits are good sources of carbohydrates, our body’s major fuel source.
The amount and type of carbohydrate (sugar) in a fruit influences the sweetness of the fruits and its ability to alter the blood sugar levels. This is also influenced by amount of fiber, water content of the fruit. This explains, why dried fruits are more sweeter and have a higher blood sugar raising capacity than the original fruit.
Type of carbohydrates in fruits
In general carbohydrates are classified as simple and complex, based on the sugar molecules in their structure. Carbohydrates that are made of one or two sugar molecules are called simple carbohydrates, and those with long chains of simple sugars in their structure are called complex carbohydrates.
Simple sugars are made of sucrose and fructose molecules. It possess the ability to shoot the blood glucose levels high immediately after consumption, while complex carbohydrates raise the blood glucose levels at a slower and steady rate.
Hence it is recommended that we consume more of complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and healthy sugar levels. This property by which, the digested food influences the blood sugar level is referred to as glycemic index.
Glycemic index and Glycemic load index
The measure of how quickly the food is digested and raises the blood glucose level is called as the glycemic index. The glycemic index load is an accurate measure of the typical serving of food (amount of food) that causes a raise in blood glucose levels. In glycemic load the quantity and quality of carbohydrate is taken into account to arrive at the value for the food.
Fruits that have a glycemic index load of less than 10 are low in sugar and are healthy, while fruits in the glycemic load range of 11 to 19 are moderate in sugar and has to be consumed less. Fruits that indicate a glycemic index of more than 20 should be avoided because of the high sugar content.
Consuming fruits and vegetables are no doubt a healthy choice, but paleolithic diet advices to stay away from simple carbohydrates such as sugars, fruit juices etc owing to the fact that they elevate the blood sugar level at a faster rate. The general rule is to avoid foods with high glycemic index load. Based on this it becomes imperative to evaluate the glycemic load index of some fruits that are often consumed.
Good fruits for Paleo
Consuming a wide variety of fruits provide most vitamins, minerals and they maintain the alkaline-base balance in the body besides providing good nutrition.
However individuals that are obese or overweight and those with type 2 diabetes need to carefully choose their fruits and limit fruits with high sugar content and glycemic load index.
Fruits such as avocados, limes, grape fruit, lemons, cherries, watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, guava, honeydew melons, apples, black currants, avocados,cranberries, tomatoes, figs etc have low glycemic load index and raise the blood glucose levels at a lower rate and hence can be consumed liberally.
Fruits with high sugar content
Fruits with high glycemic load index are bananas, grapes, pineapples, papaya, oranges, cantaloupes, dates, raisins, dried apricots, dried mangoes, dried prunes, dried peaches, and all dried berries. They shoot the blood glucose levels when consumed and hence has to be limited on a paleo diet. Patients with diabetes should avoid these fruits.
It should be kept in mind that the fruits that were available during the paleolithic era and thousands of years ago were different from their present day cousins. Archeological findings suggest that wild fruits that were consumed by our ancestors had more fiber and smaller in size indicating low sugar from these fruits.
Present day fruits are domesticated, larger in size, more sweeter and contain less fiber when compared to the fruits that grew thousands of years ago. Knowledge about the glycemic index and glycemic load index will enable us to make better choices of fruits for consumption. It is also important to choose to consume a wide variety of fruits for maximum health benefits.