Any fitness expert will tell you, you can’t outrun a bad diet. No matter how hard you work at the gym, an unhealthy diet can halt your weight-loss or muscle-gain agenda. In today’s wellness landscape, there is no shortage of diets that offer too-good-to-be-true solutions, promising that you can eat whatever you want and still shed pounds. While some of these diets do offer short-term results, the fitness community has realized that diets—in the traditional sense—don’t work. When we start a new diet, we tend to view it as something with a beginning and an end, which means for a few weeks or months we take extreme measures and either lose steam, or else stop after we experience some change.
Now, dietitians and personal trainers agree that the key to staying well nourished is by making the necessary gradual adjustments to your eating habits. With the flexibility to still enjoy a variety of food, the likelihood of failing—and then giving up—drastically decreases. It also means you’re more likely to make eating healthy a life-long decision. Swapping out the sugary, salty snacks for something nutritious, like fruit, can greatly aid those who are trying to lose weight, keep energy up, or simply look their best. And so, many have fallen victim to the logic of, “If some fruit is good for me, then a lot of fruit must be great!”
As we transition into this new way of talking about nourishment in relation to fitness, many have found solace in fruit—nature’s candy. And for good reason! Fruits tend to contain an abundance of vitamins, as well as fiber and antioxidants, which are all necessary for a well-balanced diet. But is fruit the panacea we’ve been hoping for? Can you eat as much fruit as you want and still expect to lose weight? And if not, how much is too much, or not enough?
Put simply, fruit can be a double-edged sword. And while it does have a long list of benefits, it may not be the weight-loss cure-all we once thought. Fruit contains high amounts of fructose—a simple sugar which, unlike glucose that is broken down at various stages of digestion, can only be broken down by your liver. The reason this is bad is because when your liver has enough energy produced, the excess is turned into fat for storage. And if you’re eating large amounts of fruit, you’ll likely experience energy spikes and crashes, similar to what happens when you eat too much sugar.
It’s also important to keep in mind that with all the vitamins and nutrients, fruit is still a source of calories and carbohydrates, sometimes in surprisingly high levels. One banana, for example, typically contains 100 calories and 27 grams of carbs, and apples are usually around 110 calories and 30 grams of carbs. This isn’t to say that fruit should be cut out from your diet, but if you’re eating it as though it had no caloric value, you’ll quickly see your progress halted.
The key to reaping the many benefits of fruit is moderation and regulation. It is recommended that you focus on berries and other small, fibrous fruits, like kiwis, small apples, peaches, and plums. These tend to be lower in fructose and high in antioxidants, which can lower blood pressure, reverse oxidative stress, and reduce the risk of cancer and serious diseases.
Moderate fruit consumption is especially beneficial when combined with a good helping of vegetables. While veggies don’t quite satisfy the sweet tooth the way fruit does, it’s easy to combine the two in a salad or as sides to a meal. Focusing on green leafy vegetables should be part of your regular diet, as it contains many of the nutrients you might not be getting from fruit.
So, how much fruit should you be eating? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. You should take into consideration what your goals are—if you’re trying to cut sugar from your diet then you may need to take it easy, but if strength is what you’re after, the energy from fructose and vitamin B could serve you well. To give you some perspective, the USDA recommends that adults eat a minimum of two servings of fruit per day, and the American Heart Association recommends at least four servings. (One serving of fruit is approximately 1 cup.)