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Why Do We Avoid Eating Real Fruit? Top Reasons Revealed

Médecine douce… by alpha du centaure, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  alpha du centaure 

Getting the recommended daily servings of fruit has real advantages. It can reduce disease, control weight, and provide health benefits as we age. Buying and eating real fruit can also support communities and growers and make a positive contribution to a national health crisis.

Reports from the CDC concerning how many Americans get the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables consistently reveal that most of us fall short. Yet, most Americans say they like fruit, and research providing evidence of the importance of real food nutrition is at an all time high. Are we avoiding eating fruit servings? Or do we have good intentions, but for one reason or another we don’t achieve our goals?

The answer is likely a little of both. We’ve uncovered four reasons behind our inability to get enough good, real fruit into our diet, and some real ways to avoid these traps in our own diets.

1. Deceptive Fruit Snacks

One of the biggest reasons we are missing our servings of real fruit is that we are eating foods that promise fruit servings instead. As a result, we feel like we are getting the benefit of them. The primary reason for this dietary misstep? The sheer proliferation of fruit snacks. There are hundreds of fruit snacks that look healthy and are marketed as providing fruit servings, but in fact, the first ingredient is often sugar, not fruit.

There is a growing market for packaged fruit –  it is a burgeoning sector that is taking advantage of our desire to eat nutritiously. What’s more, the pitch is working. Kids love fruit snacks, because they have billions of dollars in marketing telling them so, and snacks are ingeniously designed to wake up our taste buds and addict our brains. Moms like them too, because they appear to be guaranteeing a nutritious snack, and they assuage any guilt we may have about poor nutrition. It’s true that kids need to up their fruit intake, and fruit snacks are filling that need. But more often than not, all these foods are doing are blurring the line between fruit and candy in a way that renders it undetectable.

Packaged fruit snacks get a free pass, and they deter our ability to get real servings in the process. For example, if a snack has at least 2% in the U.S. or Canada, it can be legitimately labeled as being made with real fruit. Fruit snacks labeled as all-natural can include sky-high amounts of sugar, and none of the beneficial fiber that real fruits provide, which helps us feel full and satisfied. The more fruit snacks we include in our diet, the less room we have for real fruit, and less incentive to get them, because we think we already have. But real fruit provides benefits that fruit snacks, no matter how good their claims are, do not. Fruit has synergistic nutrients that work in conjunction with one another, and work in conjunction with other foods in a way that is advantageous to health and disease prevention. And this is something that has thus far eluded manufacturers of foods and supplements in their effort to replicate it.

2. Fake Fruit

One reason we aren’t eating our servings of fruit is that we are actually getting burned by fake fruit. Over the last year or so, much has been made about the existence of fake fruit, including, notably, fake blueberries, and the offending brands have been called out for using these fruit-like impostors.

Fake fruit can look like fruit and be marketed as such, but those blue globs can actually be cubes of partially hydrogenated oil and dextrose, not blueberries. It’s cheaper for companies to use trans fats as fruit, and it works, because we think we’re augmenting a less-than-healthy food with a spark of healthy fruit.

Fake-fruit foods can be pancake mixes, muffins, cereal, and granola bars, for starters. While front-of-label packaging on these foods may tout fruit, reading the label will reveal “made with imitation blueberries”. Avoid this fake fruit trap by throwing in a handful of frozen blueberries yourself if you are making pancakes, rather than relying on fat globs to provide the color. Do the same for cereal and muffins, or take the time to make your own healthy granola bars with real ingredients. Try these Blueberry and Maple Granola Bars from the Daily Green or our own Wild Blueberry Bars. Also, when you do buy packaged products, buy those that are reliable in their use of real ingredients, like these popular no-faux foods from Stonewall Kitchen, for example.

3. Convenience & Price 

Often, we give up a fruit serving because it’s easier to throw packaged food in our bag. A Pop-Tart®  or a Go-GURT®  won’t spoil, and you can carry it anywhere. It’s easier to pop a fruit snack into our lunch bag than to slice an apple and wrap it up. And, we tend to balk at the prices of fresh fruit on display at the grocery store. Its expense, not to mention the risk of it spoiling and the cost of that waste, doesn’t seem worth it.

But real health comes from real food, not from boxes. By limiting processed foods, it leaves more room for real. First, taking the extra time to buy and prepare fruits to have as snacks and to accompany meals is an essential habit to hone. Medicinenet.com suggests making fresh fruit bowl part of your décor, and making a point to dress up every plate with a fruit or veggie. But the best advice to combat inconvenience, especially when price is an issue, is to opt for frozen. Frozen is as nutritious as fresh and available year-round. It provides attractive price points, especially purchased in large amounts, and it doesn’t spoil, eliminating costly waste.

You can also learn how to stretch your fruit and veggie budget by downloading 30 ways in 30 days to Stretch Your Fruit & Vegetable Budget at Fruits and Veggies More Matters.

Got a convenient way to get your fruit servings? Tell us.

4. Our Brain  

Sometimes it’s the inscrutable grey matter in our skulls that’s the culprit when it comes to eschewing fruit servings. The desire for food that satisfies cravings goes way beyond just having a sweet tooth. That’s because the addictive quality of foods – especially foods that combine sugar, salt, and fat in optimum proportion – create pathways in our brains that simulate addiction and make us go back for more. It’s why we can eat an apple or a bowl or blueberries and feel satisfied, but comparable calories consumed from a snack cake only makes us want more.

This chemical reaction is no match for self-discipline. In fact, Dr. Oz considers sugar as addictive as drugs. Studies in rats show that stopping this food from entering the body can actually result in symptoms of withdrawal. Is there a solution to the strong pull of sugary foods that are edging out the fruits in our diets? There is.

– First, detox. Dr. Oz says a 28-day sugar rehab (right in your own home) will reset your body’s craving for foods and start you on a path to enjoying and being satisfied by real food again.

– Second, get healthy. Getting enough sleep, eating nutritious, protein-rich foods, and keeping your blood sugar stable by eating regularly (not starving or skipping) will improve your chance of succumbing to cravings.

– Then, choose. Don’t let Big Food dictate your behavior. It can be easier said than done, but understanding the hold food chemistry has on us is the first step to freeing ourselves from its grip.

– Finally, change: your kitchen, your shopping cart, and your kids’ lunch. After that, move into changing your kids’ lunch room, joining community efforts to support policy about food labeling and food growers, and taking a stand against the billions of dollars brilliantly spent on junk food marketing, especially to kids.

Get Your Real Fruit Servings 

Find out how many servings you need at Fruits and Veggies More Matters.

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