Monday 8 July 2024

The 10 best low-sugar fruits that protect against chronic disease

All fruits are good for you, there’s no disputing that, but some have a lower sugar content than others and can also pack a powerful nutritional punch.

Dr Sammie Gill, a registered dietitian, says: “Although fruit contains sugar it also comes with all the added benefits you don’t get from processed sugary foods. You get far more bang for your buck from a fruit snack as opposed to a processed sugary food such as a biscuit.

“These extra-value ingredients include antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged, plant chemicals called polyphenols, which have also been shown to be protective against chronic diseases, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Different fruits contain different types of fibre, some of which are cardio protective whilst others are good for your gut microbiome.” 

Understanding low-sugar fruit 

“Low-sugar fruits are a great way to get your sugar fix, without turning to unhealthy snacks, with the added benefit of other key nutrients that contribute to your overall dietary intake,” says Rob Hobson, a registered nutritionist and the author of Unprocess Your Life.

“Low-sugar fruits also have a lower glycaemic index score meaning they have less impact on blood sugar levels versus sweeter varieties of fruit, or other food high in sugar. They have a high water content and are a good source of fibre, a combination which is good for maintaining your weight. They may be particularly useful snacks for people following a low-carbohydrate diet.”

The 10 best low-sugar fruits© Provided by The Telegraph

“Avocados are a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats which help to reduce inflammation in the body and increase “good” HDL cholesterol,” says Hobson.

“The healthy fats in avocados help absorb nutrients from foods, such as vitamins A, D and E. Team with oily fish or serve in a salad with leaves to help absorb vitamin E.

“Avocados are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which have been linked to reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration in later life. They contain vitamin K which is important for bone health.”

Avocados can also act as a prebiotic, a type of fibre that acts as a food for the gut microbiome. One clinical study found a study group who ate avocados daily had greater gut microbe diversity than a control group who didn’t.

“Both are good sources of vitamin C which can help with absorption of iron from non-meat sources such as green vegetables and legumes. And they’re great to add as a marinade,” says Hobson. “Lemons also contain a soluble fibre called pectin which can help to reduce levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.”

Lemons and limes also contain calcium for strong bones and potassium to help control blood pressure,” says Dr Gill. “Citrus peel contains plant chemicals called polymethoxylated flavones (PMF), a type of plant chemical called flavonoids,which may be protective for brain health  and can be used as zesty seasoning in savoury dishes to add a tartness, or you can infuse water with it or add to sweet desserts.”

These tart red berries not only contain vitamin C – vital for a healthy immune system, wound healing, healthy skin and blood vessels – but also antioxidant compounds called quercetin, and a potent antioxidant, ellagic acid, which some studies suggest may prevent or slow down the progression of chronic diseases. 

Anthocyanins, a pigment found in red and purple fruit, have  “antidiabetic, anticancer, anti inflammatory, anti microbial and anti obesity effects, as well as prevention of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr Gill.  

“Some studies (in animals and the laboratory) have suggested they may be potentially useful for reducing the risk of metabolically based chronic disease, particularly cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.”

Raspberries also provide one of the highest amounts of dietary fibre per 100g in all edible plant foods.

Blackberries have been the subject of extensive research due to their high antioxidant content. They contain chemicals that can prevent the cell damage that can result in diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

“The dark purple colour of blackberries comes from anthocyanins, which have been linked to reducing the risk of chronic disease such as heart diseases and neurodegenerative diseases,” says Hobson. 

 Other health benefits reported for blackberries include reducing cholesterol, delaying the ageing process, relieving pain and strengthening blood circulation. 

Grapefruits are high in vitamin C, (half a medium grapefruit contains half a day’s recommended intake) needed for a healthy immune system, as well as high levels of vitamin A (beta carotene) important for eye health. “Red grapefruits are also rich in an antioxidant called lycopene which is good for men’s prostate health and has been linked to lower stroke risk,” says Hobson.

Although grapefruits are low in calories, they don’t have any magical weight loss properties, as popular myth would have it.

A downside of grapefruit is that it blocks an enzyme that can help your body break down certain medications for blood pressure, allergies and for lowering cholesterol, so always read the patient information leaflet to check for a warning about this.

Strawberries are not just for summer. Researchers found a 2.5 g serving a day of freeze-dried strawberries improved cardiometabolic health including insulin levels (and insulin resistance) and blood fats in overweight adults with high LDL cholesterol levels. “Strawberries may well be useful for people with Type 2 diabetes, but more research is needed,” says Dr Gill.

One study found anthocyanins in strawberries and other red/purple fruits may help reduce heart attack risk by lowering blood pressure.

“Their high vitamin C content also makes strawberries important for collagen production, the scaffolding structure in the skin, as well as healthy cartilage in the joints,” adds Hobson.

“Honeydew melon is 90 per cent water so good for hydration,” says Dr Gill. “The gut needs adequate fluids to function properly and maintain digestive processes. Maintaining hydration keeps things moving by facilitating the travel of food at the right consistency along the gut. It can also help to prevent constipation, and also with food breakdown so your gut can absorb nutrients.’’

Honeydew melon also contains potassium which is linked to maintaining a healthy blood pressure and contains vitamin K, folate and magnesium needed for bone health.

“The orange colour in peaches is due to a group of compounds called carotenoids which act as antioxidants in the body,” says Hobson. “Carotenoids such as beta carotene are converted to vitamin A in the body which plays a key role in the immune system. This includes maintaining the mucous membrane barriers on the eyes and and in the gut ,which help to trap bacteria and other pathogens.

“Emerging research in lab and animal studies show that peaches may also protect the skin and prevent UV damage,” says Dr Gill.

Oranges have exceptionally high vitamin C content, which increases protection against infections and has an antioxidant effect. You would have to eat 15 apples to get the same amount of vitamin C found in one orange.

“Some research has suggested oranges may also have anti-inflammatory properties which may be beneficial in chronic diseases,” says Dr Gill.

“Drinking orange juice with a meal can also boost absorption of iron from meat and plant sources.”

“Kiwis are rich in vitamin C and a dietary source of melatonin, the sleep hormone that helps regulate circadian (body clock) rhythms, so may help improve sleep,” says Hobson. “One study (in elite athletes) found that eating two kiwis two hours before bed had a positive effect on sleep.”

Kiwi fruits are also well known as an effective treatment for constipation, which affects 10 to 15 per cent of people globally. “It’s thought that they help gut motility by increasing water retention in the small intestine, and decreasing transit time, which can improve stool consistency and frequency, as well as other gut symptoms such as pain and discomfort,” says Dr Gill.

No comments:

Post a Comment