Is fruit the new sugar?

Is sugar in fruit used as a treat, reward, comfort or to check out?

Is fruit the new sugar?

I’ve been developing a new level of awareness around food and its effect during digestion.

Particularly that fruit – for me – is the new sugar. Meaning I’ve been using fruit as a way to give myself a treat, reward, comfort, or to check out.

And it’s the way I eat it too – gone in 60 seconds – punnets of blueberries downed like a child eats sweets! I had a stark reminder that this was just substitution for sucrose and glucose when I began to get a familiar shooting pain back in my eyes. That old internal alarm again, telling me most insistently to stop the abuse to the system.

After decades of eating foods generally classed as healthy, but eating them in a way and in quantities that were definitely not, my body started to shout back.

Many times. And many times I would ignore it. Eventually though, being a sleuth at heart, I began to notice the correlation between how and what I ate, and some increasingly unavoidable physical reactions.

I’d known about the gunk factor of wheat, the blood sugar spike, the mucus-bringing dairy. I’d lived it all. But it took me a good 15 years of resistance and denial before I gently stopped wanting to stoke my body with fuels that were so clearly debilitating for it. No major plan, diet or tensile-strength willpower, simply an unnoticed by-product of making more self-loving choices in my life, not in my food.

I haven’t touched wheat, dairy or sugar for many months now. I don’t miss it, crave it, buy it, covet it. In fact if ever there’s a tiny ‘Oh, go on’ from inside my head – which has happened fewer than a handful of times – I immediately get a feeling of revulsion, a kind of memory-jog sensation in my body of the pain I used to get from eating those foodstuffs. A veritable built-in deterrent system. And it seems to work every time.

Because about 30 minutes after consuming bread and cheese (my go-to numb-out food of yore), I would get pains in my finger joints, wrists and knees. If I ate a lot of sugar in one sitting – and I did – I’d get piercingly sharp pains in my eyes soon after. You’d think I’d take it on board? Finally and interestingly, yes – not because of the symptoms but because I chose differently, without even thinking about it.

The truth is, food life is not always ‘happy ever after’ in the gluten, dairy and sugar-free zone. It’s a constant research project between me and my body. A constant readjustment. Because my body is now ‘cleaner’, not having to deal with all that toxicity, there’s even more sensitivity I’m becoming aware of.

Look, I’m ‘Little Miss Health’ personified and no hypochondriac. This isn’t about me being weak, sickly or feeble as a starting point. I’m pretty robust.

But startlingly, when I eat fruit now, just normal portions, within 30 minutes I start to get drowsy. I know this because I have inadvertently been experimenting on my body.

I make a regular long distance drive at the same time of day and on the way back I always stop at the same place to get some petrol and healthy food to go. Normal portions. No ‘overdose’. I’ve taken to sitting in the car and eating there, to enjoy each morsel before setting off for the final hour home. But the last 7 times I’ve done this and set off again homeward, after around 30 minutes I’d have to stop because I’ve begun to fall asleep at the wheel.

That’s me being a danger on the roads to myself and others too – that’s massive. I had a feeling that this was caused by my body’s reaction to the fruit or more importantly the fructose, itself still sugar, just in a different, less intense form. So on four consecutive occasions since, I decided on a different menu – with no fruit or sugar in sight. And each time I sailed home, alert, vital and awake.

Whilst I’m sure this wouldn’t be classed as an empirical study in most quarters, it is more than enough evidence for me to know that fructose and I are no longer great bedfellows. I mean, how many more times do I need to trial it before I get the message? Do I actually need to crash before I stop eating something that clearly doesn’t support my wellbeing? It takes the notion of being responsible for our choices to a whole new level.

For sure, there are factors to consider here – the how much sleep I’d had the night before, the time I leave home in the morning, how taxing the journey is, the weather etc.

But come on! I can make all the excuses under the sun, but the fact is fruit makes me drowsy, no question.

The real message to me here is that there’s a deleterious effect on my body’s vitality and performance every time I eat fructose these days. Why would I then choose to eat something I know dulls me? I can deny it, resist it, rebel against it for sure. But the fact is, for me, there’s a responsible choice to be made.

To bring some science into all this, I subsequently had a medical check-up and tests, with fruit still featuring in my diet. My blood sugar levels were classed as entirely normal and no sign or risk of diabetes, confirmed also by an eye test some time before. Great, but even so, that clean bill doesn’t give me licence to rush home and make a fruit salad. My choice. My responsibility.

I choose to leave fruit out of what I am eating now simply because it doesn’t suit my body – regardless of all the healthy PR fruit has attained in our world. One man’s meat and all that. Definitely not mine.

Some find my dedication to working with my body in this way somewhat baffling, even extreme, but it always comes back to the same point – we are the only ones responsible for our body. Sure, we can temporarily outsource it to a doctor if something beyond our own control occurs and we do need specialist support or intervention.

But for the day to day running of our vehicle, we are the ones who decide what fuels it. And that choice is ours: a loving choice or a harming choice. Whether to gunk up the engine or to truly support the vehicle to give it a more efficient, smooth-running working life.

Our body communicates with us. If we choose to listen, we can make the adjustments that can truly enhance our wellbeing.

My body. My responsibility. My choice.

  • By Cathy Hackett

  • Photography: Rebecca UK, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.