Seriously, what’s the deal with fruit?
It’s gotta be healthy.
It’s natural, came out of the ground, off a vine, or fell out of a tree…
“Eating your fruits and veggies” is common guidance given by mothers, doctors, and governments agencies.
Doesn’t this have to be sound advice?
Well, fruit is also often loaded with sugar. And sugar is bad news bears.
So is fruit good for me? Bad for me? Somewhere in between? And is juice good? Because I like juice!
Welp, the answer is…it depends.
Today we’re going to dig into the question “is fruit healthy?” and give you the Nerd Fitness take. Plus, a video of a cat getting his head stuck in a box.
If you’re curious about where fruit and other foods such as potatoes fall on the healthy spectrum, you should check out the Nerd Fitness Diet guide and cheat sheet. It’s a level up system designed for you to adopt new healthy habits, that will stick, by slowly progressing you from a newbie to an expert.
You can check it out for free when you join the Rebellion!
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THE NERD FITNESS DIET: 10 Levels to Change Your Life
- Follow our 10-level nutrition system at your own pace
- What you need to know about weight loss and healthy eating
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Is Fruit Healthy?
We’re fans of “real food” around here at Nerd Fitness.
Don’t give me that look, you know what I mean: things that grew in the ground, on a tree, came out of the sea, ran on the land, or flew through the air. Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts are all great examples of REAL food.
So fruit would absolutely qualify, as they are naturally existing plant-based foods that are packed full of key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more.
However, to properly address the question “CAN I HAZ FRUIT?” we need to talk about sugar.
So let’s go over a quick rundown and then we’ll get to the answer.
Depending on the fruit, it contains a certain combination of each of the following types of sugar:
- Sucrose (a combination of Fructose and Glucose)
Why do we bring this up? Because of the evidence showing added sugars can cause metabolic disorders like diabetes. If you want a deep dive into the subject, you can click check out this article.
However, notice how I used the word “added.” The important point on fruit, is the sugar found within it is naturally occurring. Which changes things.
The sugar in fruit is accompanied by fiber, which helps our bodies slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. As opposed to a Twinkie, which is not very fibrous (i.e. no fiber).
So while many fruits do contain quite a bit of sugar, they’re also generally low in calories (we’ll touch on this shortly), and satiating because of all that fiber.
Plus, the sugar can actually be a good thing, providing a quick source of energy.
I eat fruit for a delicious and healthy snack (apples and almond butter for the win!), or to give me some energy before a workout.
Long story short: we like fruit, and think that it can be part of your healthy meals each day.
But there is a COUPLE of caveats…
Calories still matter and I’ve seen people eat too much fruit.
When somebody is transitioning from a very unhealthy diet full of lots of calories and sugar to a primarily protein and plant based diet, it’s very easy to go overboard when sugar is no longer a primary food group. And hey, we’d rather you eat lots of fruit than lots of candy and soda. No question about it.
But since our bodies can get addicted to sugar so easily, we want to be careful. Where does one look when they want sugar but can’t eat candy? Fruit! Lots of it. It can still hit that pleasure center in our brain that says, “YAY SUGAR.”
We have talked with quite a few members of the NF Rebellion who have been frustrated with their lack of weight loss, only to discover that they were eating 1,000 + calories each day of fruit!
As we point out in our article “Why Can’t I Lose Weight” – burning more calories than you consume each day is the most important part of weight loss (calculate your calorie requirements right here).
Unless your Donkey Kong, the health benefits of fruit isn’t an excuse to eat 30 bananas a day.
However, it should be noted that fruit is actually relatively filling, because of all the fiber. Plus, it’s still generally low in calories, especially compared to more processed food.
Let’s get you some wiseGEEK photos for comparison.
Here’s 200 calories of apples:
Here’s 200 calories of pasta.
However, for apples to be this filling, the fiber and water content needs to be intact. Which brings us to our next section.
What about Dried Fruit and fruit juice?
“Fruit is healthy. I like juice. Therefore fruit juice must be healthy!…right?”
Unfortunately, most fruit juice (apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice, grape juice, etc.) might as well be labeled “sugar water.” When the fruit is squeezed to make juice, you get all of the sugar from MANY fruits and none of the fiber. Suck!
Throw in some preservatives, extra sugar for flavor, and a few other ingredients and you have yourself a “healthy juice drink made with real fruit!”
Here is a typical amount of sugar for four popular fruit juices, all in the name of “healthy”! I’m sure they’re labeled as such too (and this is assuming you’re only drinking 12 oz):
- Orange juice – 21g of sugar
- Apple juice – 28g of sugar
- Cranberry juice – 37g of sugar
- Grape juice – 38g of sugar
For reference, a 12 oz can of Coke has 40g of sugar. So, if you’re trying to be healthy, fruit juice is a no-no. If you want to squeeze your own OJ occasionally, go for it…just keep it in moderation. Fruit squeezed without the fiber is just sugar water…
Next, avoid “real fruit smoothies” from places like Smoothie King. Those things can have 500+ calories and over 100 grams of sugar. That’s not healthy – it’s a few frozen berries and a boatload of sugar and juice.
Lastly, let’s talk about dried fruit.
“Take fruit, dry it. Boom dried fruit! What could possibly be unhealthy about that?”
The issue with dried fruit is that it’s quite easy to eat a crazy amount of it (as it’s dehydrated and takes up way less space in your belly than normal fruit), which can lead to overconsumption of sugar and calories quickly.
For example, a small quarter cup (aka a tiny handful) of raisins has 130 calories, and 30 grams of sugar.
So, although dried fruit contains the healthy vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit and is easy to throw in a bag when traveling, it’s calorically dense and very easy to scarf down by the handful (without putting much of a dent in your appetite). So, if you snack on them, be aware of your consumption!
- Avoid fruit juice unless you squeeze it yourself.
- Don’t even think about “real fruit smoothies” from the smoothie store.
- Consume dried fruit in limited quantities.
Just tell me what to do!!!
Like anything else, Nerd Fitness recommends fresh fruit in moderation.
You can have as much of that as you want.
Back to fruit! We recommend eating a healthy combination of vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. We think fruit should be a part of that equation too.
Although it’s nearly impossible to overeat celery, lettuce, broccoli, and asparagus…but it is possible to overeat fruit. So eat fruit! But eat it in moderation – it should not occupy the biggest portion of your plate at every meal (that should be veggies, even if you don’t like them).
Here’s the lowdown:
If you are healthy, happy, and feel confident in your skin, and you eat fruit….keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working! Victory!
If you are struggling to lose weight and fruit makes up a big part of your diet, consider scaling it back and eating more fat/protein/vegetables instead.
If your goal is weight loss: Eat dried fruit rarely, canned fruit even less often, and fruit juice less than that. Eat real fruit in moderation.
Be smart, enjoy your fruit, and stay mindful as you eat.
Let’s hear your fruit stories! Do you have a favorite fruit snack (Gushers don’t count), or is fruit something you’re now realizing you eat WAYY too much of?
PS: I included three cats in this article, and to my knowledge, cats don’t even eat fruit. That’s how we roll here at Nerd Fitness.
All photo sources are right here.