Are You Eating Too Much Fruit?!
Hello, Friend! Happy Tuesday!
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Well, are you?!
Great, you can stop reading now, problem solved.
But, is the problem solved? Is that answer good enough? Likely not, since I continue to hear from people that they’re “probably eating too much fruit,” or “I know I should cut back on how much fruit I’m having,” or how “Bananas have so many carbs.”
So, there’s a disconnect somewhere.
Let’s do some exploring….
First of all, a confession! I used to think I ate too much fruit, too! Or, at the very least, I thought I should moderate how much fruit I was having because of the carbs and sugar. So if you think/thought that too, take a breath, you’re not alone! But, let’s get to the facts and better understand so we can shift that thinking moving forward!
While it is true that fruits DO contain carbs and natural sugar, these are not the carbs and sugars that we need to be “worried” about; more on this below. The benefits of including fruits far outweigh these negatives.
Really, the only reason to avoid any fruits is if you’re allergic to them, or they don’t digest well for any reason. In that case, gravitate towards other fruits or veggies that DO sit well with you.
The reality is that most Americans do not get the recommended amount of fruits and veggies per day, which is 4-5 cups. In fact, only 1 in 10 DO get the recommended amount. This could be due to lack of access, which is a real problem. This could also be due to eating other, more palatable, calorically-dense, and nutrient-sparse foods instead.
I imagine for most of us, it’s the latter, and that our choices more likely impact the lack of fruits and veggie than the access. I get it, Pop Tarts and Doritos may very well taste better than “boring” fruits and veggies. (Great, now by pregnant self wants Doritos…) So, we may naturally gravitate towards those kinds of foods… but if that’s the case, then we can’t very well continue to rely on the argument that fruits contain too many calories...
I also admit that it DOES take work to include fruits and veggies. They go bad so you have to buy then regularly, or keep a stock of frozen ones available. But it’s worth it. To that point, let’s dig into some of the realities of fruit, and the benefits of including it.
Calories and Carbs
As already stated, yes, fruit has calories and carbs, but let’s do some math on that to understand the realities.
Remember, the daily recommendations of fruits AND veggies is about 5 cups. For the sake of these examples, we’re going to pretend you had all 5 as fruits.
Example 1: Let’s say you have:
1 cup of Blueberries
1 cup of Pineapple
1 cup of Mango
1 cup of Strawberries
Those 5 servings equates to: 352 calories, 91g carbs, and 15g fiber!
Think of how filling and satisfying those 5 cups of fruits would be in your day for “only” 352 calories! And, you’d be getting 15 of your 25 goal grams of fiber from them too!
And those 91 carbs?? That’s equivalent to the carbs in 60 Doritos chips, and I’ve definitely had that many in one sitting before ; )
Example 2: Let’s say you have some “lighter” fruits:
2 cups of Watermelon (debatably the biggest bang for your buck as far as fruits, calories, and “filling-ness” goes)
1 cup Raspberries
1 cup Grapes
1 cup Peach
That’s 338 calories, 84g carbs, and 14g fiber!
Example 3: Let’s say you have FIVE BANANAS! The most carb-y fruit of all!
That’s 525 calories, 135g carbs, and 15g fiber.
Within the perspective of the average 1700-2000+ calorie diet per day, this still isn’t even that much! You could easilyyyy go over 135g of carbs with a pasta dinner.
I’m not necessarily suggesting you have 5 bananas… that might mess with your GI system a bit! But, regardless of the exact fruit/veggie combos you enjoy, I hope sharing these examples to offer some perspective on the “impact” of fruit in the big picture of your food plan and in relation to other food choices.
Here, again, yes, fruits have sugars. But, they’re naturally occurring sugars, not added sugars! This is an important distinction. So much so that recently nutrition labels created a specific line for added sugars, which is great, in my opinion!
The recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to have no more than 10% of our overall daily calories come from added sugars, specifically, and to not count naturally occurring sugars in our totals.
Equally, the WHO also recommends not counting naturally occurring sugars like those in fruits and veggies towards our totals because, “There is no report pertaining to the adverse effects of consuming sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables and sugar is naturally present in milk.”
This, plus, we don’t need to pile on any other reasons to not eat fruits and veggies. Which brings me to my next benefit point:
Fiber and Gut Health
Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and similar foods contain fiber, which contributes to regularity, gut health, colon and digestive health, and keeps our gut bacteria healthy. I’ve written many an Instagram post (one example here) and blog post (an example here) about the benefits of fiber, how much we need, and how it benefits our gut—and overall!—health.
So as not to belabor the point, as just to remind you, fiber is beneficial because it helps keep us regular and also ensures that we are getting enough micronutrients and vitamins from fruits and vegetables. Additionally, fiber:
-helps us feel fuller longer
-can help lower our blood lipids and cholesterol
-lowers our risk of colon cancer
-keeps things moving through our GI tract
-boosts overall gut health
Ideally, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most women should aim for at least 25g Fiber per day, while most men should aim for 35g (depending on size!). So, if you included any of the servings of foods listed above, you’d be well on your way to your fiber goal for that day!
Decreased Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Risk, Lower Blood Pressure, Aid Digestion
These health factors are the really important ones.
“Fruit and vegetable intakes were associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality. These results support public health recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable intake for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality.” (PMID: 28338764)
This also travels over to impact risk of Diabetes and High Blood Pressure.
This other study also showed that “Providing young adults with high-quality fruits and veggies…resulted in improvements to their psychological well-being over a two week period. This is the first study to show that providing high-quality FV to young adults can result in short-term improvements in vitality, flourishing, and motivation.” This is more than the physical impacts, fruits and veggies even get to the emotional and philosophical well being of humans!
Help yourself feel better and live longer! Eat fruit!
Last point for today. Fruits can help promote steady energy. As stated, fruits contain carbs, which our bodies use to break down for energy. And, because fruits are whole real foods and contain fiber, they tend to break down slower than more highly processed foods. This slow break down leads to more sustained energy production and fullness over time! Yay for steady blood sugar and energy!
For this reason, fruits also make a great pre- or post- workout snack option!
Bottom line here is that it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that fruit intake is contributing to any adverse impacts of your food plan, or your physical goals or body composition. And, chances are if you work to include more fruits and veggies in your food plan, that some of those more calorically dense foods may decrease, and your body composition, weight, energy, sleep, stress, workouts, etc. may improve by default.
Eat the fruit!
As always, thank you for reading!