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Annette on the Pros and Cons of a Fruit Only Breakfast

Nutritionally speaking, what do you think of when you think of fruit? I think it's fair to say there was a time when I thought of it as little more than a sweet and fluidy offering of vitamin C and maybe some potassium from bananas.

Yesterday I had a fruit only breakfast (pictured here), as opposed to fruit plus oats which is a more typical breakfast for us. I put everything through a nutrient analysis which is frankly a reductionist approach to fruit in particular as there's no measure of the antioxidants and other phytonutrients that make these foods such a wonderful gift of nature, and you can never measure the combined effect of this symphony of treasures. Humans' ability to measure is useful but so often it falls short, and measuring natural food definitely fails to convey the full story. But I digress.

The results were interesting: not only was the vitamin C content excellent, the also-excellent potassium came from more than just the banana. It surprises me now that I didn't use to associate fruit generally with potassium, quite probably because I didn't really know anything about this mineral, after all it's never had the spotlight in the way that calcium and iron do. But there are other minerals, and we need them!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that this combination of fruit gave me around a third of most of my B vitamins, B6 being especially good. And I got around 20g of fibre from this fruity breakfast, the daily requirement being 30g which apparently most people on a standard western diet don't even come close to, and it does matter! It's worth noting that early humans were thought to have consumed much more than twice our daily requirement. We're only just starting to really understand dietary fibre and all the reasons that make it essential.

Just as I was once ignorant about any minerals that weren't calcium or iron, I used to have no idea that plants, fruits even! contain fat. Of course, the fat they do contain is modest but it's mostly unsaturated fats including some Omega 3 and 6. This breakfast had an overall offering of 2.4g of fat. Protein is similar, ie fruits do contain protein, but it's a modest amount.

So on balance, is this a decent breakfast? It really depends what the rest of the day holds. Fruit alone is typically short on protein, fat and some minerals ...the zinc and calcium from this breakfast didn't give me a third of my daily requirement. The inclusion of oats helps with zinc and ensuring there are plenty of leafy green vegetables later in the day will be helpful with calcium, and both of these mineral levels can also be raised by eating beans, wholegrains, seeds and nuts.

But a fruit breakfast has advantages that may get overlooked; eating plenty of it really does supply energy to get the day going. After that break from food overnight, a busy brain (don't imagine your brain stops performing its tasks, not to mention all that lively dreaming!) is almost certainly crying out for its favourite fuel - carbohydrates, whole food carbohydrates and it's hard to improve on fruit. Fruit gets there quickly because it's about the most easily digested type of food that exists. It's also of interest, to me at least, that in times of illness, fruits (plus maybe some lightweight green vegetables) put so little strain on the body in terms of digestive energy, that energy can be devoted to enabling the body to do what it's actually really good at given the chance: recovery. A few days of only these foods can be just what's needed, however it's not a good long-term strategy; there's too much missing and eventually there will be deficiencies, but would I start the day like this again? Absolutely! It gets me off to a great start and I can attend to the missing nutrients at lunch and dinner time.

Enjoy fruit. Humans have been eating it since the start of our existence, let's not shun it now.

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