It’s fruitless to go bananas!

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Dubai: Fruits are nature’s dessert. They are flowery and seedy plants that grow in abundance across the earth’s varying climates.

They are a valuable trading commodity, decorating supermarket stands and stalls in markets over the world all year round, proudly standing as a true emblem of globalisation.

In the UAE, a burst of zingy citrus fruit or crunchy watermelon can quench the parched with their instant freshness on a hot summer’s day. They are fragrant and beautiful and most importantly, highly nutritious with some doctors recommending a five portion daily intake.

However, it must be said that too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad.

As beautiful and healthy as they are, most fruits are rich in simple sugars such as glucose and fructose, of which, over-consumption can in fact do more harm than good.

High fructose levels in the bloodstream can cause the extra amounts to change into fat. This in turn affects triglyceride levels in the body. Triglyceride is a type of fat found in the blood that our bodies use for energy.

High fructose levels can also increase uric acid; a chemical created when the body breaks down substances called purines, found in certain foods, which are dissolved into the bloodstream, travelling to the kidneys, and then passed as urine. Too much or too little uric acid can cause illness.

Some people can even suffer from fructose malabsorption — a digestive disorder that causes the fructose bulk to stay in the intestine, causing bloating, diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting.

Dana Wehbe, a dietician at the Weight Care Clinic in Dubai Health Care City, recommends a normal daily serving of up to three portions of fruit. While Dr Jane Angelina Darakjian, a nutritionist at the Manchester Clinic, recommends up to five daily portions. However, both agree over-consumption, more than eight daily portions, can have some rather surprisingly adverse effects.

Berries: Berries such as blueberries contain tannins which act as an astringent — a chemical compound that tends to shrink or constrict body tissues — on the digestive system. Tannin is a natural compound found in some fruits and can sometimes affect the serotonin levels in the brain, causing migraines.

Serotonin is a hormone, which acts as a chemical messenger, transmitting nerve signals between nerve cells. Due to the astringency of tannins, the starches needed by the body to produce serotonin are easily bound, reducing the level of serotonin reaching the brain, which causes headaches.

However, berries are good source of potassium, fibre, vitamin C and E and phytochemicals — components of fruits that help prevent diseases.

Cranberries and blueberries have compounds that help prevent and treat painful bladder infections, while extracts from strawberries have proven to have anti-cancer properties.

Dark coloured berries such as blackcurrants contain powerful antioxidants, which help slow down the ageing process and increases protection against Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants are substances that destroy free radicals, harmful compounds in the body that damage DNA and even cause cell death. Free radicals are believed to contribute to ageing as well as the development of a number of health problems, including heart disease and cancer.

Watermelon: Apparent from its name, the watermelon has an approximate water content of 92 per cent and is a good source of vitamin A and C, fibre and potassium. It is rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which helps the inflammation in the body that contributes to conditions like asthma, diabetes and colon cancer.

High in potassium, they help control blood pressure and regulate the heart beat. Dietician Dana Wehbe encourages a moderate intake of watermelon during the UAE’s scorching summers due to its high water content, which can help prevent dehydration.

Apples: Apples contain phytonutrients — essential nutrients for human health — and therefore can help regulate blood sugar. However, the over-consumption of apples can cause gas and diarrhoea. However, they play a vital role in bone protection and help pregnant women deliver babies with less risk of developing asthma.

Mangoes: Mangoes help relieve acidity in the stomach as well as digestion problems. Due to their high vitamin E content, eating mangoes can regulate both male and female hormones.

Applying thin slices onto the face can also help combat acne as it cleanses the pores. However, mangoes are a heat generating fruit and over-consumption may result in sudden hot flashes in pregnant women.

Papaya: Papayas contain the digestive enzyme, papain, which is used like bromelain found in pineapples, for the successful digestion of proteins.

Papain is also used to treat indigestion hay fever, chronic diarrhoea, allergies and sports injuries. However, the over-consumption of papayas by pregnant women can cause sudden hot flashes as it is a heat generating fruit.

Grapes: Grapes are high in manganese and flavonoids which are compounds that protect against blood clots. The consumption of grapes increases the blood flow to the eyes and helps improve night vision.

Grape seed oil is used to repair damaged and stressed skin due to its regenerating properties. It is a popular remedy for stretch marks, however should be avoided by pregnant and lactating women. At a recommended dosage, grape seed extract supplements are considered safe for up to 12 weeks, but may interfere with other prescription and over-the-counter medicines. The antioxidants in grape seed extract could boost the active ingredients in prescription blood thinning medicine and slow down blood clotting. This could be harmful to haemophiliacs – people with a rare bleeding disorder that prevents the blood from clotting properly.

Pineapple: The pineapple is a tropical fruit which is not actually just one fruit but a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core.

Due to their high concentration of bromelain — a compound used in meat tenderizers for its protein digesting enzymes – pineapples help reduce swelling, improve digestion and help relieve acute sinusitis.

Banana: Bananas are rich in potassium and contain large quantities of other minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorous.

They are also rich in fibre making them a useful laxative and good for easing constipation.

They are also beneficial for weight loss as they are low in calories and filling.

The over-consumption of bananas may also cause headaches in some people as they increase the blood flow to the brain.

However, bananas are useful sleeping agents because they increase the release of melatonin to the brain.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain and helps regulate and maintain our “body clock,” which plays a critical role in our sleep patterns.

When it is dark, our bodies produce more melatonin; when it is light, the production of melatonin drops. Exposure to bright lights in the evening or too little light during the day can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin cycles.

Coconut: Coconuts have many health benefits and are used as the medicine of choice in some Asian and Pacific countries. They are used to treat various illnesses such as malnutrition, skin burns and infections, kidney stones, syphilis, fever and epilepsy by means of the fruits’ water, extract and oil.

However, the over-consumption of coconut oil can lead to the hardening of the arteries which could potentially be dangerous. The hardening of a persons arteries may eventually restrict the blood flow to certain parts of the body.

Dates: The high tannin compound content found in dates can cause migraines in certain individuals. They are also high in sugar (fructose and glucose) and consist of 70 per cent carbohydrates. However, they are a good source of quick energy and are believed to strengthen the heart. Yet, over-consumption can sometimes cause diarrhoea due to their laxative effect; but they are effective in helping to build muscle tissue and nerve cells.

Citrus: Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which is a primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body, essential for disarming harmful free radicals which damage cells inside and outside the body.

Due to their rich antioxidant content, citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and pomelo prevent the free radical damage that triggers the inflammation responsible for conditions such as asthma and arthritis.

However their high pH (acidity) levels can sometimes cause heartburn or acid reflux (a more chronic and severe form of heart burn) if over consumed.

Too much of certain citrus fruits such as oranges or grapefruits could cause carotenemia, a clinical condition of the yellow pigmentation of the skin associated with increased blood carotene levels.

Carotenemia is mostly associated with the over-consumption of carrots but can be caused by some citrus fruits due to their high beta carotene levels.

Beta carotene is a strongly coloured red-orange pigment found in a variety of plants and fruits and is responsible for the orange colouring of most plants and foliage.

Stone fruits: Stone fruits such as plums are high in vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system. They also help prevent eyesight deterioration and enhance the body’s immunity against cancer related diseases.

Although they help maintain a healthy digestive system, especially if eaten in their dried form as prunes; the over-consumption of some stone fruits such as cherries can have laxative side effects.

The over-consumption of other stone fruits such as peaches can cause carotenemia, a clinical condition of the yellow pigmentation of the skin associated with increased blood carotene levels.

Carotenemia is mostly associated with the over-consumption of carrots but can be caused by some stone fruits due to their high beta carotene levels.

Beta carotene is a strongly coloured red-orange pigment found in a variety of plants and fruits and is responsible for the orange colouring of most plants and foliage.

Pomegranate: Pomegranate is a rich source of essential vitamins and antioxidants, including tannins which could cause headaches in certain individuals if over consumed. Although they are high in sugar, pomegranates keep the skin and heart healthy, decreasing the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Studies have also found that pomegranates can also slow the growth of prostate tumours.


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