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5 “Bad” Fruits You Actually Should Be Eating When You Have Metabolic Syndrome – EatingWell

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We’ve long been presented with a list of “good” and “bad” foods. “Good” foods get the green light, while “bad” should be avoided—and often come riddled with guilt. Unfortunately, this all-or-nothing way of approaching nutrition isn’t usually helpful in the long term. Besides, one food isn’t usually good or bad all of the time. 

Unfortunately, some foods that are actually full of nutrition—*cough, cough* fruit—may have gotten put on your list of “bad” foods. That’s thanks in part to some social media influencers who warn people that fruit is full of sugar. In reality, fruit is a nutrient-dense food group that most Americans could stand to eat more of. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 12% of U.S. adults meet the recommendations for fruit intake, which is 1.5 cups per day for women and 2 cups per day for men.

Fruit is full of nutrients like fiber, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals that can improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. Read on to learn how fruit can help with metabolic syndrome and a few “bad” fruits worth incorporating into your diet.

How Can Fruit Help Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions—high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high blood triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and a high waist circumference—that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other health issues. Having at least three of these may indicate you have metabolic syndrome.

The good news is that fruit contains key nutrients for preventing or managing metabolic syndrome. For one, it’s a major source of fiber in our diets. “Fiber is arguably the most important nutrient for boosting your metabolic health, but only 5% of the U.S. population is meeting their daily fiber needs,” says Kaytee Hadley, M.S., RDN, a functional medicine dietitian and founder of Holistic Health and Wellness.

The beautiful colors of fruit clue you into one of their big perks: They’re packed with antioxidants. “Fruit contains antioxidants like vitamins C and A and flavonoids, which are key nutrients for metabolic health. In fact, studies have shown that low levels of vitamin C may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome,” says Hadley. 

Plus, there are important minerals in fruit that can support cardiovascular health. “Fruit often contains nutrients like potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, which play a role in blood pressure regulation,” says Alyssa Pacheco, RD, owner of The PCOS Nutritionist. 

Excited about fruit yet? While fruit may be dubbed “nature’s candy,” it’s not actually candy. So it’s unfortunate that some of the sweetest-tasting fruits out there may have been wrongly called “bad.” Here are five that have been put on the don’t-eat list—but are actually really great for you, especially if you have metabolic syndrome.

1. Bananas

It’s no secret that bananas have gotten a bad rap in recent years because of their sugar content, but what people may not realize is that, like all fruits, bananas contain natural sugars—not added sugars. Therefore, our bodies treat them very differently from sugary soda. “If you’re not including bananas in your eating pattern, you are missing out on a variety of nutrients that can improve metabolic syndrome, like potassium, fiber, antioxidants and polyphenols,” says Meggie Connelly, M.S., RDN, owner of Be Balanced Nutrition Services. Bananas also provide resistant starch, a type of prebiotic fiber that aids in blood sugar control and gut health, which may help counter chronic inflammation in the body. Don’t forget that bananas are also budget-friendly and convenient, says Connelly.

2. Grapes

Just like bananas, grapes have often been banished to the “bad fruits” list because of their sugar content. “Grapes have more sugar and less fiber than other fruits, but they can still be a part of a healthy diet,” says Hadley.

In fact, a recent study found that consuming grapes and grape products is linked with better cholesterol and triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Furthermore, grapes were also linked to improved levels of insulin, the hormone responsible for moving sugar from your blood to your cells. These are all noteworthy changes since these are all risk factors for metabolic syndrome. 

If you already have high blood sugars, then you may want to pair grapes with a protein source to lessen blood sugar spikes. “Enjoy grapes with cheese or almonds as a snack or add them to a salad with Greek yogurt, celery, chicken and lemon juice to keep your blood sugar stable,” suggests Hadley.

3. Mangos

Another higher-sugar fruit is mangos (are you sensing a trend here, yet?), but they’re full of nutrition. “While [mangos] have more sugar than other fruits such as berries, they can still fit into a metabolically healthy diet and provide benefits in the form of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” says Hadley. A recent research review found that consuming mangos may help reduce blood glucose levels and improve “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Mangos also contain antioxidants, including flavonoids, xanthones and mangiferin, that can help reduce inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is linked with metabolic conditions like cardiovascular disease and dyslipidemia, so it’s important to consume these inflammation-fighting antioxidants regularly. 

“For the most benefits and to keep your blood sugar stable, be mindful of portion sizes and pair these fruits with a source of protein, such as Greek yogurt, and fat like nut butter or seeds,” says Hadley. We love this Mango Smoothie Bowl for breakfast or a snack. Top it with nuts and chia seeds for added protein.

4. Apples

Apples are a classic, versatile fruit that may help prevent metabolic syndrome—just make sure to eat the skin. It’s full of fiber and antioxidants like anthocyanidins and flavonols that can help mitigate risk factors for metabolic syndrome. In fact, research has found that apple peel supplements improve blood lipid levels, blood glucose levels and blood pressure regulation. Apple peels also pack a flavonoid called quercetin, which may help to lower insulin resistance, says Pacheco. And doing what you can to improve insulin resistance is an important part of managing metabolic syndrome. 

For inspiration, check out these 22 Apple Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes

5. Watermelon

Don’t overlook watermelon—one of the most refreshing summer fruits—when it comes to metabolic syndrome. As the name suggests, watermelon is mostly made of water. Besides being good for hydration, “watermelon is a great source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that may help lower inflammation,” says Pacheco. Each cup contains 13 milligrams of vitamin C, making it a good source of the vitamin. Given low vitamin C intake is linked with metabolic syndrome, watermelon can come in handy for upping your intake of this important nutrient. 

Furthermore, studies have found that watermelon intake may help reduce blood pressure, and there’s some evidence that it may also improve blood sugar regulation and blood lipid levels. Why? It’s packed with l-citrulline and l-arginine, two amino acids that play a role in nitric oxide production, which helps relax blood vessels. For some ideas to make with this mouthwatering fruit, check out these 19 Watermelon Recipes You’ll Want to Make All Summer.

The Bottom Line

There’s no need to fear fruit, especially since only 5% of Americans meet daily fiber intake recommendations. Even though fruit is a source of sugar, these are natural sugars that also provide some nutritional benefits, unlike added sugars. The antioxidants and fiber in all kinds of fruits are especially beneficial for preventing or managing metabolic syndrome. So have fun incorporating watermelon, mango, apples, bananas, grapes and more into your diet. Aim for a total of 1.5 to 2 cups of these and other fruits each day.

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