January 21

Fruits: Understanding and Interpreting the Negative PR


by Julie Baker

It is common knowledge that fruit is a staple of any healthy diet, but there are many people that worry about or second guess eating fruit because of pesticides, high sugar content, and calories. While there is a lot of kerfuffle around eating fruits, or produce for that matter, is there any weight to the arguments against eating specific fruits?

Unfortunately, with the advent of the digital age came the perpetuation of misinformation. While you can't argue that produces use pesticides or that fruit can contain high levels of sugar and calories, you can and should argue about what any of it means. In most instances, you will realize that the hype around avoiding specific fruits is oversold and, in some cases, consumer scare tactics.

The Dirty Dozen

If you are aware of the Environmental Working Group, you are likely aware of the group's annual "Dirty Dozen" list. The list is a compilation of the 12 produce selections claimed to have the most pesticide residue.

Most consumers can understand why such a list is disturbing and can influence purchasing decisions at grocery stores and fruit and vegetable markets across the nation. However, a closer inspection of the source and the implications of pesticide residue might change some minds.

While the EWG claims to be an impartial advocate for consumer health and the environment, it is funded by producers of organic foods. How can an organization that claims to be non-partisan have direct ties to producers that stand to gain from its findings?

Even the terminology is suspicious. By labeling food as dirty, the group makes associations to phrases like unclean, spoiled, unethical, etc. In essence, the EWG stays one step away from calling the produce dangerous while implying it is somehow unhealthy.

Truly non-biased sources — toxicologists, the USDA, Scientists, and other nutritional and medical professionals — advise consumers take the EWG's reports with a grain of salt. While evidence supports the EWG's claims of the existence of residue on specific products, the residue is not dangerous when following a healthy diet. The foods on the current "Dirty Dozen" list pose a negligible risk to consumers. The methodology used in ranking the produce on the EWG's list lacks scientific credibility and holds no authority over dietary suggestions.

The Sugar and Calorie Conundrum

People also avoid specific fruits because of the apparent high sugar levels or calorie content. However, again, consumers are misinformed. The sugar in fruits is not the same as table sugar or sucrose. Fructose is the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, and it is not dangerous unless consumed in large amounts. No fruit contains enough fructose to be concerning.

In terms of calories, some fruits have an alarming number; for example, there are 322 calories per whole avocado and 429 calories per cup of raisins. Despite the calorie surplus in some fruits, most have an abundance of nutrients with relatively low-calorie counts. Still, if you count calories, you should include the calories from fruit in your count. However, in general, fruit is a better way to spend a calorie surplus.

The primary takeaway is to review the facts before making dietary decisions. While some precautions regarding the consumption of fruit are accurate, like calorie counts, others are overblown and come from less than credible sources.

Is there a specific organization or institution you trust regarding dietary decisions? Comment below.


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  1. how to avoid pestisides from fruits like strawberries and blue berries etc… shpold we soak them overnight and drain the water and wash again before eating. will that help?

  2. Everything in diet is risks vs benefits. Berries are lower in sugar and benefits well researched. There are even studies on benefits eg higher sugar fruit like mango showing benefits.

    Avocado though a fruit is high fat (healthy fat) and doesn’t belong in same discussion with raisins which are way high sugar.

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