Question of the Week: Fruit and Sweeteners

by Gena on May 5, 2009

I’m always impressed by the confluence of reader questions. Last week, reader Ally wrote in with the following:

Hi Gena! I’m curious about two things and I would be really grateful if you’d answer them for me!

1) Do you personally limit your intake of sweeteners such as agave and dates? and if so, why?

2) Why don’t you eat much fruit?

And just a few nights ago, reader Sharon wrote me asking,

Just wondering, it doesn’t look like you eat a lot of fruit. Is it intentional? Or do you get that in your juice in the morning?

Great question ladies. The answers are connected, but I’ll address the two questions  independently:

1) Sweeteners

Yes, Ally, I do limit my intake of sweeteners such as agave and dates. This is for several reasons. The first is that I (like many women) have a history with candida (you can read more about this in my low sugar dessert post), and since I’ve overcome it, I’ve found that I feel much better if I stay away from too many sweets.

Have I cut sweets from my diet entirely? No! Hell no. As you’ll have seen on my quitiversary post, I’m perfectly happy to indulge in a dessert (or three!) when I feel like it, or to have some pitted medjool dates or dark chocolate when I need to. Life is sweet, and it’s important to enjoy sweet foods when one is so compelled.

At the same time, I believe that it’s best for everyone—but especially women, who are prone to candida—to avoid excess sugar. We tend to forget that just because certain sources of sugar are healthier than others (agave, raw honey, and dates), that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily healthy in excess—or that they won’t contribute to candida if you eat them too frequently.

The bottom line? Of course we should eat sweets when we really feel a need. And when we do, we should gravitate towards healthy sweeteners. But there’s absolutely no reason to use sweeteners unless one needs to. That’s akin to buying something just because it’s on sale!

Be discerning about when real sugar is necessary. I’ll use dates in a fantastic raw dessert, but I don’t need agave to sweeten salad dressings, smoothies, soups, or even guacamole when I know that stevia is just as tasty—and sugar-free!

2) Fruit

Another good question. You’re right to notice that, unlike many raw foodists, I’m not so much of a fruit person. This is partially personal taste: I’ve never relished fruits as much as some people do. To be honest, I vastly prefer my morning green juice (which is vegetable based, never fruit based) to the green smoothies that so many raw foodists out there adore. This is totally subjective. If you’re into smoothies, then please, go crazy!

Of course, fruit is also a source of sugar, and for the same reasons I watch my sweeteners, I also try not to overdo it. Most women, even those with candida, can eat low-sugar fruits like green apples, berries, and citrus without any trouble. I find that I’m fine with apples on a regular basis, and that I can enjoy all other fruit on occasion (my favorites are mangoes and bananas!). But when I eat fruit every day or many times a week, it tends to make me feel bloated and to mess with my energy levels (I’m not the only one: see Heather’s post on how fruit gives her similar bloating).

At the end of the day, all bodies are different. Some women do beautifully with high amounts of fruit (some women are fruitarians, after all). Others, like me, do better with fruit in moderation. Fruit is an ideal food in many ways, so enjoy it as you like. But be smart: if fruit tends to make you feel bloated or gassy, scale your consumption back.

And this goes for any food that tends to upset your stomach: don’t be afraid to limit consumption and see how well you fare! Listen to your body: its reactions will give you a sense of what foods work best for you.

Thanks, Ally and Sharon, for asking!

So I know you were all very excited for my photos from Quintessence last night. Sadly, I have none. Quintessence was a bit too subdued for Emma’s and my mood, so we decided to head over to the slightly louder and more lively Caravan of Dreams, where I’ve eaten once before on the blog. It didn’t disappoint: it was reasonably priced and we both loved our meals.

I started with the avocado and coconut soup, which was just that: avocados and young coconut meat, blended to a very thick and creamy perfection. I loved it and will recreate it at home!

soup

After that I had the same salad that I enjoyed so much last week: the Thai Avocado Salad (I know, I know. You’re probably getting sick of avocados. And salads. Too bad, though: they’re not going anywhere!). I got a photo this time.

dinner

It was a great meal, all in all.

Hope you’re all having a good day. I’ll be back tomorrow with a re-cap of a special event tonight!

In the meantime, get excited for the start of the Raw Wednesday Challenge tomorrow! Are you all planning some fun meals? I hope so!

xo

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica May 5, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I’m so excited about the challenge! I’m making Ani’s raw “spaghetti” that was featured in Food & Wine (I think) recently. She had a few recipes in there and I’m hoping to try them all!

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Courtney (The Hungry Yogini) May 5, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Thanks for this post about sugar! I actually just wrote about it today! Most of what I eat comes from natural sources (dates, agave, fruit) but I eat so much of it that it isn’t good! Fruit is the killer for me. I LOVE it and can’t get enough which can become a problem! I’m working on scaling back. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.

And I’m super excited for the challenge tomorrow! I just picked up a raw “cook” book and some other raw foodie items. Can’t wait to see how it goes!

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Courtney,

I loved your sugar post! Very, very timely! And I’m sorry about fruit. I admit, I don’t love it enough to lust after it, but I totally understand how it could be a major bummer.

Have fun tomorrow! So happy you’re reading and joining!! I love the Pure cookbook. It’s a great resource. One word of warning: keep it simple! The book definitely can get complex, so don’t be afraid to cut corners.

Gena

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Shelby May 5, 2009 at 2:06 pm

That soup is just stunning! It’s so creamy and rich looking…mmm.

I’m not much of a fruit person either. It makes me so puffy and bloated, I’ll stick with my veggies =)

Tomorrow is my first day of raw eating (a meal and snack). Hopefull I can go shopping before that to get some fresh produce =)

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Yay! So glad you’re joining in, Shelby!

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lauren May 5, 2009 at 2:10 pm

I am so jealous!! Caravan is soooo good!! The salads they have are amazing! :)
I am going to Candle 79 2 weeks in a row coming up, they have a few raw options..and some amazing salads as well. Do you ever eat there? (BTW it’s my FAVORITE restaurant ever!)
Great post. As always.

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Hey girl!

I do love Candle, though for the price, I tend to prefer Pure! But both are great.

So glad you’re a fellow Caravan fan :)

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Emily. May 5, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Oh my, that soup looks Heavenly – the ultimate comfort food! I think I’ll need to invest in a super-douper blender when we get home again, as our immersion blender is not up to making coconut meat smooth. We just eat our soups a little lumpy right now :) The avocado in your salad looks pretty perfect too… Yum.
Have a great day!
~ Emily.

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Amy May 5, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I am so grateful that fruit agrees with my body. I absolutely love all kinds of fruit!

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Heather May 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Fantastic post! I think I need to do some research on candida since I get such a weird stomachache when I consume sugar – ranging from an overdose of fruit or even agave in my tea. I’ve read about it from one of my favorite blogs (http://dietdessertndogs.com) but never thought *I* could suffer from that.

I’ve got my full day of food all lined up for tomorrow. I am so excited!

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm

So happy you’re joining, Heather!

Candida is shockingly common. I’d say over half my female clients have it. So definitely look into it if you suspect you might suffer from it!

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Sharon May 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Thanks again for answering my question, Gena! I just wanted to tell you again — I love your blog!

I’m thinking of making a zucchini, cucumber, tomato salad with lemon, olive oil and mint for my Wednesday challenge. I haven’t figured out a snack yet though.

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Love that you love it, Sharon! That sounds totally delicious.

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KTBuns May 5, 2009 at 4:34 pm

You are, as always, an endlessly renewable resource when it comes to raw knowledge! I enjoy your posts so much. :)

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Thank you SO much. I’m loving your blog too.

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Briana in Tucson May 5, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Wow! I think that your version of the avocado-Thai salald was even prettier than Caravan’s!

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Cecilia May 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Hi Gena, your blog is becoming a TOP FAVOURITE of mine :D I LOVE your articles, food philosophy … EVERYTHING, I feel like I learn something new everyday!! Thank you for pointing out all the yummy raw, low sugar treats – I’m soo making them!!

Also, can I ask you something about food sensitivity?? How do you know what food you’re allergic too? Do you reccomend food elimination/getting it checked out by a health practitioner?

Also, I’m currently trying to incoporate more raw food into my diet (all thanks to you of course!), and I’ve notice that a lot of raw food recipes are high in (good) fat, hence high in calorie – it that because it helps you reach your ‘daily calorie quota’ quicker than say if eat only veges/fruits?

Sorry about all the questions! I still have a ton of questions in my mind – but these questions will do for today :D

THANKS AGAIN GENA!!

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Hi Cecilia!

Thank you so much! That makes my day.

To respond:

1) I definitely recommend being tested for allergies or sensitivities by a responsible GI or by a naturopath. If you’d rather do it yourself, try an elimination diet. The most common offenders — and a good place to start — are wheat, corn, gluten, and especially soy. If your symptoms decrease off the food and come back when you reintroduce it into your diet at least two weeks later, you’re probably sensitive.

2) I definitely do not have a daily quota. As I’ve said before and will say again, I do not count calories, think about calories, or care about calories. I don’t think they’re a meaningful way of discussing nutrition or the body’s needs. I’m sure my caloric intake varies from day to day between high and low, and I don’t keep track.

I do get lots of healthy fat, but I have no problem digesting or assimilating them. Raw fats are easy to digest and should not cause weight gain unless eaten really excessively. But of course, everyone’s body is different: some raw foodists eat more high sugar and lower fat than I do.

Hope this helps!

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rhodeygirl May 5, 2009 at 6:55 pm

great post!

I need to be reminded that even though natural sugars are better they are STILL sugar. thanks for the reminder!!!!

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Gena May 5, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Thanks, Rhodeygirl! I’m a huge fan of your blog :)

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melissa May 5, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I love your consistency! It’s nice that we lucky nycers have a second raw option right around the corner. thanks for the challenge reminder, i can’t wait!

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CoconutGal May 5, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Awesome! This totally answers my question, thanks Gena.
I have candida and an unhealthy obsession with fruit (especially dates and bananas) and am really struggling to eat less of it. Part of my reason for such a high intake of fruit is because my food choices are very limited due to my autoimmune illness. So I use fruit as a “filler.” I wish I could get enough calories from big salads but it just isn’t enough for me. I was a raw foodist for about 6 months but lost way too much weight and it made my digestion worse. I think my body wasn’t strong enough to digest all the fiber.
You’ve mentioned you had some tummy troubles, were these allergies or IBS symptoms? If you don’t want to go into it here, totally understandable, this stuff is very much my thing because I am so into researching ways to feel better.
Again thanks for the great tips/opinion on the sugar debate!! :-)

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Gena May 6, 2009 at 8:52 am

Hey lady!

I love your blog so much. So happy you’ve been reading.

I had severe IBS. I think it’s important for you to do what works: don’t go high/all raw if you can’t eat enough to sustain yourself. But I will also say that adding more raw veggies over time will help your body adjust to the fiber — and then you can decrease the fruit.

G.

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Metta May 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I thought I was the only one who couldn’t do green smoothies. I feel bloated and heavy after. I also don’t eat very much fruit, not b/c of candida but b/c I just don’t gravitate to it (although I do love dates). I love my green juice in the morning, and sometimes the only fruit I have in a week is the 1 apple and lemon I drink in my juice.

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Briana in Tucson May 8, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Finally! Someone I can relate to!

It seems like so many raw recipes I read are super heavy on the dates, agave, fruit, and all manner of sweet raw treats. The fruits always left me bloated, and agave and dates messed with my blood sugar and left me craving more sweets. I know I’m being hard on myself but I always felt like some kind of raw failure because I couldn’t stomach all of these things I thought I SHOULD be able to eat.

But by just doing lots of raw greens, veg, and raw nuts, I feel so much better.

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Brooke May 29, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Did you lose weight when you began the Raw Diet? How did it change you physically or did it not?

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