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10 Best and Worst Fruits for Weight Loss

In first world countries, it can sometimes seem like everyone is overweight. According to the American Heart Association, an astonishing 60-75% of the United States population is overweight or obese [23]!

People swing in and out of challenging diets, and gain and lose weight in cycles. The good news is that by using lifestyle and nutritional tactics that consistently help burn fat, you can make long-lasting healthy weight loss a reality.

The role of insulin/glucose metabolism in weight gain

Many people have chronically high blood sugar levels (high blood glucose). Elevated blood sugar levels also lead to elevated insulin levels. This chronic elevation of the insulin hormone causes cells to become less sensitive to its action of carrying glucose into cells to be used for fuel. This loss of sensitivity to insulin is called insulin resistance.

And insulin resistance often makes people fat.

Why? Because insulin is an anabolic, pro-growth, fat-storing hormone. The higher it is, the more fat you're storing. Insulin also reduces an enzyme called AMPK which is needed to burn fat.

That’s why you want your insulin and blood glucose to be lower and not higher!

The liver and weight loss

What many people may not know, is that the liver is intimately involved in weight loss.

Firstly, dysfunctional or diseased livers are associated with increased abdominal fat [24] [25]. A healthy liver is deeply involved in metabolizing fat and breaking down fat so that it can be used as energy [26]. So if your liver isn’t working properly, fat can actually accumulate not only in the liver (fatty liver disease), but in the rest of your body because it is not being broken down as easily.

This is why it is commonly thought that the increased abdominal fat and “beer belly” that middle-aged (and even younger people) develope is at least in part due to sluggish livers.

The importance of the liver for vibrant health

Your liver is critical for keeping your body in balance. One of its most important functions is cleansing. A healthy liver is supposed to cleanse toxicants (toxic substances in food, water and air) that you intake as well as toxins or unneeded substances that your own body creates. For instance, the liver flushes out excess hormones like estrogen and a vast array of unneeded metabolites produced by normal living.

Many medical textbooks put the liver’s known functions in the human body at around 500! Just a few examples of things that the liver does - stores important nutrients for months or years, manages blood sugar, synthesizes needed proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, is involved in immune function, and makes critical components of the blood.

Fruit and Weight Loss

Some people think that fruit adds to the obesity epidemic because of it’s simple sugar content. While simple sugar consumption is indeed linked to obesity, researchers acknowledge the paradox that “most types of fruit have anti-obesity effects” [6].

The truth is that fruit is much more than sucrose or fructose. These colorful, healthy foods deliver vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants along with sugars. Oftentimes, the antioxidants in fruits have anti-obesity effects and increase the antioxidant abilities of the body, including those of the liver.

1. Good: Blueberries

The phytochemical antioxidants in blueberries are super good for your health! All sorts of research has shown a broad spectrum of benefits and blueberries have even been shown to increase lifespan in multiple species of animals [1][2]. Blueberries, to name a few more broad benefits, can benefit cardiovascular health, brain health and fight many processes that lead to cancer.

In animal and human studies, blueberries are shown to increase insulin sensitivity (reducing insulin resistance) and improve the metabolism of glucose [3]. Blueberry extract is evidenced to decrease a variety of the physical markers of obesity and diabetes. For instance, it’s been shown to decrease fat tissue weight, reduce fasting glucose, normalize pancreatic cell function [4].

In rats, when high-fat diets were simply supplemented with blueberries, markers of obesity and diabetes were reduced such as blood triglycerides, fasting insulin, and abdominal fat [5]. Glucose metabolism was also improved and there was an increase in fat and glucose burning [5].

2. Bad: Too Much Kiwi

Researchers have identified a few fruits which have been evidenced to actually increase weight gain when too much is consumed. Kiwis are one of those fruits.

“High” kiwi consumption increased body weight compared to those who did not consume the fruit [6]. Still, just like all other fruits, there are benefits to Kiwi consumption. For instance, kiwis can lower blood triglycerides and also offers a host of cardioprotective benefits that improve heart health [7][8].

3. Good: Apples

In one study, consumption of apples was associated with significant weight loss [9]. It was also found that that blood glucose levels were reduced, lowering one cause of weight gain [9]. Consumption of apples caused more weight loss that consumption of oats [9]. Apples also can lower cholesterol levels [10].

In children, those who consumed apples were 30% less likely to be obese than those who did not [11]. Apple consumers also had lower body mass index measurements [11].

In regards to insulin and glucose metabolism, the consumption of apples along with pears was associated with an 18% decrease chance of developing type II diabetes [12].

Apples are good for your liver too and have liver-protective effects [13].

4. Good: Strawberries

Berries in general can work indirectly to promote weight loss. Interestingly, berry consumption can decrease calorie intake afterwards [14]. For instance, if people snack on berries in the afternoon, they were found to consume less food at dinner [14].

In animals that were triggered to have diabetes, amazingly, strawberry reduced a host of physical diabetic markers back to nearly normal [15]. Glucose, body weight, and insulin were all decreased to near normal after strawberry extracts [15]. If these biomarkers are reduced, weight loss will be easier. Strawberries can also inhibit carbohydrate-digesting enzymes, so they reduce sugar absorption [16].

Another in which strawberries might help weight loss is that antioxidants in strawberries lower post-meal insulin increases [17]. And strawberry powder lowers blood glucose in obese and lean mice [18].

Even the uncommon components of strawberries have been researched. Who would have thought that strawberry seed oil could benefit liver health? Well, in rats, it appears to improve numerous liver health markers [19].

5. Good: Pears

Pears have been studied in conjunction with apples several times and the two fruits have been shown to promote weight loss and improve glucose metabolism [9][12].

6. Sometimes Bad: Fruit Juices

If you are trying to lose weight, it’s best to stick the whole fruit and not drink juice that has the fiber processed out of it. The fiber content of whole fruit will aid in slower absorption of sugar which promotes better liver health, as well as glucose and insulin metabolism.

In children, consumption of 100% fruit juice (in which the beverage is pure juice) increased the chance of obesity [6]. In another study, on young children ages 1-4, fruit juice consumption was correlated with more body fat [6]. Also, in adolescent girls, fruit juice consumption was associated with higher body mass index [6]. Two other studies have found associations between fruit juice and fat [6].

Simple sugars like glucose and fructose in fruit can cause the liver to synthesize fat and increase bodily fat [6]. It may be that fruit juice sometimes contains too much sugar delivered in too short of a time with no fiber and the body produces fat from those sugars. And with no fiber, juice won’t trigger satiety or a feeling of being full like fibrous fruit does [6].

But not all fruit juice contributes to weight gain. Pomegranate juice is evidenced to reduce fat accumulation [6]. Mangosteen juice decreased body mass index and “fat mass” in middle aged people [6]. Grapefruit and apple juice have also been linked to weight loss [6].

7. Bad: Canned Fruit

Most of the time, canned fruit contains higher amounts of simple sugars than non-canned fruit [6]. Manufacturers sometimes add sugar to canned fruit to “enhance” the taste and to preserve the fruit more effectively [6]. That extra sugar could be converted to extra pounds.

It’s probably best to buy fruit that is not in cans because cans can contain pollutants that harm health. BPA, one pollutant sometimes in cans, can impair liver health by interrupting mitochondrial health and promoting oxidative stress [20]. BPA can interrupt the hormone signalling in your body and can even accumulate in your tissues over time, so it’s a good idea to avoid canned food if you can [21].

And even canned food that proclaims to be “BPA-Free” might not be safe. These non-BPA cans often contain other plasticizers like BPS, which has similar hormone disrupting effects to BPA [22].

8. Bad: Dried Fruit

Dried fruit has the water removed from it, resulting in greater concentration of energy or calories (6). Dried fruit’s role in weight gain is fairly simple: it’s way easier to scarf down a lot of dried fruit in a short amount of time because the pieces are smaller and more sugary that eating real fruit. You could easily swallow 10 prunes in a few minutes, whereas you are unlikely to eat that many hydrated plums in that short space of time.

9. Possibly Bad: Cranberries

How on Earth could cranberries promote weight gain? The reason is strange but it makes sense considering the role that insulin plays in promoting weight gain.

Cranberries appear to improve the functioning of pancreatic cells in rats [27]. This improvement in pancreatic cell function actually caused more insulin to be secreted and researchers found that rats who had cranberries added to their diet gained weight [27]!

So the cranberries improved the metabolism of glucose in a sense, but the cost of extra insulin in their bodies was that more fat was stored.

10. Good: Bananas

Research has shown that consumption of one banana a day can lower post-meal glucose levels [28]. And it was noted that daily consumption of a banana poses no risk at worsening the status of diabetes sufferers [28]. So moderate banana consumption appears to be good to go and should raise your glucose over a daily period.

In Losing Weight, Support Your Liver

Keeping your insulin and glucose lowered and eating fruit that helps you shed the pounds, is the first step in losing weight. Considering the liver’s role in weight loss, it is also important to support this organ as well.

Treating your body well and not over-drinking alcohol or overeating is a good first step to take. Many people, however, will benefit from supporting their liver in a more thorough way.

Our livers take a beating in life from all the toxic things they have to process on an hourly basis, so it is a good idea to use natural medicines to help this organ regain vitality and become the fat-burning machine it once was.

And a vital and vibrant liver helps you shed pounds like you’re a teenager again.

Footnotes:

  1. Wilson MA, Shukitt-Hale B, Kalt W, Ingram DK, Joseph JA, Wolkow CA. Blueberry polyphenols increase life span and thermotolerance in Caenorhabditis elegans. Aging Cell. 2006 Feb;5(1):59-68.
  2. Peng C, Zuo Y, Kwan KM, et al. Blueberry extract prolongs life span of Drosophila melanogaster. Exp Gerontol. 2012 Feb;47(2):170-8.
  3. Blueberries’ Impact on Insulin Resistance and Glucose Intolerance. April J. Stull. Antioxidants (Basel). 2016 Dec; 5(4): 44.
  4. Purified blueberry anthocyanins and blueberry juice alter development of obesity in mice fed an obesogenic high-fat diet. Prior RL, E Wilkes S, R Rogers T, Khanal RC, Wu X, Howard LR. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3970-3976.
  5. Seymour EM, Tanone, II, Urcuyo-Llanes DE, et al. Blueberry intake alters skeletal muscle and adipose tissue peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor activity and reduces insulin resistance in obese rats. J Med Food. 2011 Dec;14(12):1511-8.
  6. Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity. Satya P. Sharma, Hea J. Chung, Hyeon J. Kim, and Seong T. Hong. Nutrients. 2016 Oct; 8(10): 633.
  7. Effects of kiwi fruit consumption on platelet aggregation and plasma lipids in healthy human volunteers. Duttaroy AK, Jørgensen A. Platelets. 2004 Aug;15(5):287-292.
  8. Cardioprotective properties of kiwifruit. Duttaroy AK. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2013;68:273-82
  9. Weight loss associated with a daily intake of three apples or three pears among overweight women. Conceição de Oliveira M, Sichieri R, Sanchez Moura A.  Nutrition. 2003 Mar;19(3):253-256.
  10. A Comprehensive Review of Apples and Apple Components and Their Relationship to Human Health. Dianne A. Hyson. Adv Nutr. 2011 Sep; 2(5): 408–420.
  11. Consumption of apples is associated with a better diet quality and reduced risk of obesity in children: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2010. Carol E. O’Neil, Theresa A. Nicklas, and Victor L. Fulgoni, III. Nutr J. 2015; 14: 48.
  12. Apple and pear consumption and type 2 diabetes mellitus risk: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Guo XF, Yang B, Tang J, Jiang JJ, Li D. Food Funct. 2017 Mar 22;8(3):927-934.
  13. Plants Consumption and Liver Health. Yong-Song Guan, and Qing He. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 824185.
  14. An afternoon snack of berries reduces subsequent energy intake compared to an isoenergetic confectionary snack. James LJ, Funnell MP, Milner S. Appetite. 2015 Dec;95:132-137.
  15. Report: Antioxidant and hypoglycemic activity of strawberry fruit extracts against alloxan induced diabetes in rats. Abdulazeez SS, Ponnusamy P. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2016 Jan;29(1):255-260.
  16. Strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries in the metabolic syndrome: clinical perspectives. Basu A,  Lyons TJ. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Jun 13;60(23):5687-5692
  17. Strawberry anthocyanin and its association with postprandial inflammation and insulin. Edirisinghe I, Banaszewski K, Cappozzo J, Sandhya K, Ellis CL, Tadapaneni R, Kappagoda CT, Burton-Freeman BM. Br J Nutr. 2011 Sep;106(6):913-922.
  18. Dietary strawberry powder reduces blood glucose concentrations in obese and lean C57BL/6 mice, and selectively lowers plasma C-reactive protein in lean mice. Parelman MA, Storms DH, Kirschke CP, Huang L, Zunino SJ. Br J Nutr. 2012 Nov 28;108(10):1789-1799
  19. Dietary strawberry seed oil affects metabolite formation in the distal intestine and ameliorates lipid metabolism in rats fed an obesogenic diet. Adam Jurgoński, Bartosz Fotschki, and Jerzy Juśkiewicz. Food Nutr Res. 2015; 59: 10.3402/fnr.v59.26104.
  20. Bisphenol A Impairs Mitochondrial Function in the Liver at Doses below the No Observed Adverse Effect Level. Min Kyong Moon,Min Joo Kim, In Kyung Jung, Young Do Koo, Hwa Young Ann, Kwan Jae Lee, Soon Hee Kim,1 Yeo Cho Yoon, Bong-Jun Cho, Kyong Soo Park, Hak C. Jang, and Young Joo Park. J Korean Med Sci. 2012 Jun; 27(6): 644–652.
  21. Health risk of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). Konieczna A, Rutkowska A, Rachoń D. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2015.
  22. Bisphenol S and F: A Systematic Review and Comparison of the Hormonal Activity of Bisphenol A Substitutes. Johanna R. Rochester and Ashley L. Bolden. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Jul; 123(7): 643–650.
  23. Bisphenol S and F: A Systematic Review and Comparison of the Hormonal Activity of Bisphenol A Substitutes. Johanna R. Rochester and Ashley L. Bolden. Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Jul; 123(7): 643–650.
  24. American Heart Association. Statistical Fact Sheet 2012 update; Overweight and Obesity. Published online.
  25. Correlation of fatty liver and abdominal fat distribution using a simple fat computed tomography protocol. Seonah Jang, Chang Hee Lee, Kyung Mook Choi, Jongmee Lee, Jae Woong Choi, Kyeong Ah Kim, and Cheol Min Park. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jul 28; 17(28): 3335–3341.
  26. Correlation of abdominal fat accumulation and liver steatosis: importance of ultrasonographic and anthropometric measurements.Sabir N1, Sermez Y, Kazil S, Zencir M. Eur J Ultrasound. 2001 Dec;14(2-3):121-8.
  27. . How does the liver work? Menche N. (ed.) Biologie Anatomie Physiologie. Munich: Urban & Fischer/ Elsevier; 2012.
  28. Effects of Long-Term Cranberry Supplementation on Endocrine Pancreas in Aging Rats. Min Zhu, Jingping Hu, Evelyn Perez, Dawn Phillips, Wook Kim, Reza Ghaedian, Joshua K. Napora, and Sige Zou. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 Nov; 66A(11): 1139–1151.
  29. Daily consumption of banana marginally improves blood glucose and lipid profile in hypercholesterolemic subjects and increases serum adiponectin in type 2 diabetic patients. Cressey R, Kumsaiyai W, Mangklabruks A. Indian J Exp Biol. 2014 Dec;52(12):1173-81.