We’ve all heard fruits have fantastic health benefits. So can we eat as much as we want? Actually, there’s a lot of controversy around this topic.
Low-carb, no-sugar diets have become popular in recent years, leading some people to give up fruit altogether. So, where does the truth lie in all of this?
Benefits of Fruit
Nutrition experts affirm that fruits are an essential part of a balanced diet. They’re low in sodium and fat and contain no cholesterol.
Most fruits are low in calories. They also provide critical vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.*
Vitamins and Minerals
Fruits contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals that are critical in keeping your body healthy. They include:
- Vitamin A – essential for healthy eyes and skin
- Potassium – plays a role in regulating blood pressure
- Vitamin C – supports tissue growth and repair, helps the body absorb iron
- Folate – contributes to strong red blood cells, protein metabolism, and prevention of heart disease and neural tube defects
- Vitamin K – supports blood clotting and vitamin D absorption*
Consuming fruits in a wide range of colors can help guarantee you get all these vitamins and minerals.
When we consume fruit, we provide the body with nutrients necessary for preventing or reducing health problems like:
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Certain cancers
Some people may find it nearly impossible to get enough of these vitamins and minerals without eating fruit.
Fiber and Water
Fruits are rich in both water and fiber. As a result, they contain fewer calories per serving than starchy or fatty foods.
Fiber and water also help you feel full longer, making it harder to overeat. In other words, eating more fruit could help you reduce your calorie intake and manage your weight.
Dietary fiber helps promote heart health and proper digestion. The body absorbs food more slowly, preventing sudden highs or lows in blood sugar.
Can Fruit Make Us Fat?
In the debate about fruit consumption, some argue its sweetness is a problem. Our bodies store excess sugar as fat, contributing to weight gain and other metabolic issues.
Do we need to worry about this with fruits? Can they make us gain weight?
Experts say the real problem is refined sugar, the kind added to desserts, sodas, and other processed foods. The fiber in fruit signals the body to process its natural sugars differently.
Studies show that most fruits help prevent obesity. That may be true because they:
- have fewer calories per serving than other foods
- contain water and fiber that help us feel full and want less food
- could improve digestive health, enabling us to use calories more efficiently
- contain essential vitamins and minerals
Should We Worry About Eating Too Much Fruit?
We’ve all heard that even if something’s good for you, consuming too much of it can be harmful. However, it’s unlikely that a person would eat too much fruit because its fiber and water make it very filling.
Most people limit themselves when eating whole fruit since they feel full before they eat excessive quantities. It’s more common to consume too little.
Studies in several developed countries show that very few adults eat the number servings of fruit that experts recommend. One study showed the percentage as low as 2-3%.
Thus, most of us need to consume more fruit. In general, we don’t need to be concerned about eating too much of it.
What About People with Diabetes?
Doctors typically ask people with diabetes to limit their intake of foods that increase blood sugar. However, fruit is usually permitted in moderation.
The healthy substances in fruit make it an essential part of a balanced diet for people with diabetes. It may help control blood sugar better than artificial sweeteners. However, it’s best to check with a doctor regarding the ideal amount to eat.
Can Fruit Have Negative Effects?
As mentioned earlier, fruit is rich in fiber and water, and contains some sugar in the form of fructose. As a result, it acts as a natural laxative for some people. It may cause diarrhea if consumed in excess.
Whole Fruit vs. Juice
While it may be difficult to eat too much fruit, the opposite is true of juice. Even if you choose 100% fruit juice, you may be consuming as much sugar as if you were drinking soda. What’s more, some juices contain added refined sugar and artificial additives.
Juice contains the same type of sugar as the whole fruit but has lower fiber content. Because of this, our bodies process the sugar quickly, which can result in blood sugar spikes.
It’s also easy to drink too much fruit juice because it doesn’t contain the fiber that helps you feel full. In this way, you end up consuming excessive amounts of sugar.
Recommended Daily Amounts
According to nutrition experts, approximately 25-30% of our daily intake should be fruit. This amounts to at least 1.5 cups per day for adults. The USDA has even more specific daily recommendations:
- Adult women – 1.5 to 2 cups
- Men under age 60 – 2 to 2.5 cups
- Men age 60 and up – 2 cups<
Individual needs for fresh fruit may also vary based on height, weight, physical activity, and medical conditions. A doctor or dietitian can help you evaluate what’s ideal for your body type and lifestyle.
Fruit is an essential part of a balanced diet, providing vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. Its low calorie density makes it ideal for people who want to lose or maintain their weight.
It’s unlikely that most people would eat too much whole fruit since it’s very filling. However, caution is necessary with juices, which contain little fiber.
Average adults need at least 1.5 cups of fruit daily for optimal health. You may need more or less depending on the size of your body, your activity level, and any health conditions. See a doctor or registered dietitian for help creating the ideal plan for you.