Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Fruits come under the protective food category because they contain many vitamins, minerals and useful phytochemicals including antioxidants. Practically every country in this planet has put fruits along with vegetables on top of their diet recommendations. In reality the habit of regular consumption of these foods is going down progressively, being replaced by processed foods manufactured by the industry loaded with excessive calories, fat and salt. Economically hard pressed population are forced to shun fruits because of their high cost in the market. In India, to day no fruit can be purchased at a price less than Rs 30 per kg, except may be Papaya. Even the so called poor man's fruit Banana commands more than Rs 25 per kg.

Given a choice, low income population will prefer to fill their stomach with bulk foods like coarse cereals available at lower prices in the range Rs 12 to 15 per kg in the open market while under the BPL population get fine cereals at heavily subsidized prices. Under these circumstances buying fruits regularly is not an option for them. Probably the "survival" philosophy is the corner stone of government policy, ignoring the "well being" factor totally. It is time that the government starts considering putting in place a "fair price" mechanism for fruits at least for the benefit of those unfortunate citizens who cannot afford open market produce. One possibility is to equip some of the ration shops selling grains to offer some fruits also at subsidized rates. Logistically it may pose some challenge which is not difficult to over come.

There is another unfortunate category of population who, by compulsion, are forced to avoid fruits because of their sugar content, considered harmful under diabetic conditions. Those affected by Type 2 diabetes are not as vulnerable to sugar as their counterparts under Type 1 diabetes and while the golden rule is to cut down on carbohydrate and sugar containing foods, there is no absolute bar on sugar consumption. As long as the glycated haemoglbin (HbA1c) values are controlled to be less than 7, food intake should not be an obsession. How ever in practice these victims of sugar "disease" are advised by physicians and also by common perception to avoid fruits totally denying them the goodness that is associated with many fruits.

How far such a step is scientifically justified? It is true that some of the fruits do contain sugars like glucose, fructose, sucrose and some minor ones at concentrations varying from 10% to 20% on an average and consuming a kilo gram of fruit at a time can elevate the blood sugar content to undesirable levels. Many physicians report high blood sugar levels in their patients during the mango season because of uncontrolled eating of this fruit which has a limited "window of season" of about 45 days and as mango is not a fruit amenable to long term storage, there is always a tendency to enjoy the delicious fruit as much as possible during its limited availability period. What about other fruits?

According to a recent study by a group of physicians in Mysore, consuming fruits such as orange, apple, banana, papaya, water melon, mango and pine apple at about 200 gm a day would have no impact on diabetic patients. The reason attributed to this finding is that these fruits have Glycaemic Index ( GI) values of less than 50, tolerated in people with Type 2 diabetes. Guava, Sapota and Jack fruit were found to have GI values between 63 and 78, indicating their sugars are absorbed faster and moderation is advisable in their consumption. There is some logic in the findings as sugars present in whole fruit are in the cells and depending on the masticating action in the mouth, release of sugar can be delayed significantly, reflecting on the GI value. Similarly the findings cannot be taken as absolutely realistic since the sugar content and the extent of its release depend very much on the maturity and ripeness of the fruit consumed. But the essence of the findings is that one need not be unduly obsessed with fruit sugars, even if affected by Type 2 diabetes.

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