Ice cream, donuts, deep-fried anything… there are some foods that are just undeniably bad for you, but we indulge in them every now and again anyway because they’re delicious. Then, you have those grey area foods that can be considered superfoods or diet saboteurs depending on who you ask — like coconut oil and nut butter. Fitting firmly into this category is fruit.
While most of us have grown up believing that fruit is on par with vegetables (after all, it did share the same level on the food pyramid!) it no longer has the same health halo it once did. This is due to the fact that fruit is packed with sugar, and some people argue that your body responds to sugar in the same way (by spiking your blood pressure), whether it’s a candy bar or banana. Now, the latest allegation levelled against nature’s candy is that eating it can mess with your hormones.
Can eating fruit mess with your hormones?
Dr. Amy Shah, a functional medicine doctor and trained Ayurvedic practitioner, told Mind Body Green that eating fruit prevents many of her clients from finding ‘natural hormonal balance.’ Here, she explains what goes on within the body when you eat a piece of fruit.
“Our bodies respond to fruit quickly—especially when it’s a form of a juice for example. First, it raises your blood sugar, which then, in turn, raises insulin. When insulin spikes, the body starts to rapidly absorb the sugars and store them for later. But with a lot of spikes and doing this chronically, it leads to insulin resistance and increases cortisol and estrogen levels.”
Dr. Shah points out that cortisol secretion is thought to be the link between fructose (fruit sugar) and diseases like hypertension, obesity, coronary heart disease, hyperlipidemia, and type 2 diabetes. She also explains that the insulin resistance caused by the cortisol release reduces the sex hormone binding protein and increases estrogen in the body. High amounts of estrogen in the body has been linked to mood swings, acne and difficulty losing fat and gaining muscle.
Lastly. Dr. Shah explains that digestive tract doesn’t seem to absorb fructose as well as other sugars. This can not only result in digestive discomfort, but can also mean too much fructose ends up in the liver. “Too much fructose in the liver creates a series of events that can lead to hormonal imbalance, fatty liver disease, systemic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and obesity,” she says.
The good news is, you don’t have to completely give up fruit to balance your hormones (thank God, because eating mangos and grapes in summer is life!) However, if you have already identified that you have a hormonal imbalance, Dr. Shah recommends limiting your fruit intake to 1-2 serves, ideally sticking to berries as they are low in sugar.
She also recommends making fruit an accompaniment (not the main event) when it comes to smoothies. “Go heavy on the greens and add a little fruit just to cut the taste,” she says. “Keep the ratio simple. Toss in about 2 to 3 cups of greens (kale, spinach), 2 cups of liquid (almond milk, water, or coconut water), and 1 to 2 cups of berries.” You can also add some cinnamon, which is thought to help blunt the blood sugar spike from fruit.