Fruit: Nature's Candy
Fruit has been described as "nature's candy," because it is so high in sugar. So should it be a part of the diet for those with diabetes as is generally recommended by the USDA? Although many kinds of fruit contain vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidant agents, it is entirely possible to get these same micronutrients by eating low-glycemic vegetables. And although eating fruit occasionally even for diabetics or those on low-carb diets is certainly a dietary option, moderation is recommended.
Except for wild berries and other "wild" varieties of certain fruits, modern fruits are nothing at all like their ancient cousins. Most people would not recognize, much less eat, the wild fruits that are the ancestors of today's crop.
Take the modern apple, for example. The large, meaty Red Delicious or Golden Delicious apples are sweet and flavorful. Compare that to their less-than-tasty ancestors, the crabapple. The Crab-tree or Wild Apple (Pyrus malus), is native to Britain and is the wild ancestor of all the cultivated varieties of apple trees. The fruit is small, sour, and full of small seeds.
Bananas also do not much resemble the ancient seeded variety from which they are derived. It is thought that the banana originated in Asia or India. It didn't come to America until about 1880.
Wild bananas have fairly dry fruits with large seeds and no pulp. In Southeast Asia, the primitive seeded bananas are termed tae manu, meaning animal feces, implying that they are only eaten during times of famine.
Another example of fruits that do not resemble their ancestors are citrus fruits. Today, oranges are large and sweet, and the "navel" variety contains no seeds. Juice from the Valencia orange and other varieties is very sweet, containing as much sugar as a typical can of soda pop.
But oranges were not always this sweet and juicy. An early bitter type of citrus fruit is believed to have originated from Southeast Asia and India. From the Sunkist® Web site comes this description of early citrus fruits: "Originally, citrus was used for embalming, aphrodisiacs, cleansing agents and beauty treatments. Before the fruits were used for food, they were valued as ornamental trees prized for their fragrant blossoms and were used as a seasoning ingredient."
Selective breeding techniques and improvements in modern agricultural technology, have turned many of the original varieties of wild fruit into "nature's candy."
Hundreds of years ago, fruit was a part of the diets of many cultures. But it was not the same fruit nor was it available all year. Just as grains eaten in earlier times were always whole and largely unprocessed, fruits in those days contained much less sugar and much more fiber than the modern fruits that have been derived from selective breeding.
Sources: Sunkist® , botanical.com, UCLA
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