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…which means Joe Caveman would have eaten them! But…it’s 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?” give you the Nerd Fitness take. Plus, a video of a cat getting his head stuck in a box. You’re welcome.
Is Fruit Healthy?
As you probably know already, we’re fans of the Paleo Diet around here at Nerd Fitness. In fact, our Nerd Fitness diet and leveling system in the NF Academy is built upon many of the same principles.
On the Paleo Diet, you’re told you can eat as much as you want of certain approved foods and don’t have to worry about calories or portion sizes (which is the reason we are fans of it: simple, no calorie counting, and it removes the “I’ll just eat one” temptation).
On top of that, fruits and vegetables certainly qualify as naturally existing plant-based foods that are packed full of key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more.
However, fruits are indeed composed of quite a bit of sugar, which we all know is worse than Darth Vader. Now, I could go into the science of sugar, sugar composition, and which percentages make up each fruit…but I’m sure you just want to know the answer to the question “CAN I HAZ FRUIT?”
So let me 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)
Although we don’t have a perfectly painted picture (RIP Bob), most agree that the combination of sugar within naturally growing fruit affects your body differently than say, high-fructose corn syrup or straight table sugar.
A big part of the reason why fruit sugar is less effective than unhealthy sugar is that it’s usually accompanied by fiber, which helps our bodies slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
So, although many fruits do contain quite a bit of sugar, they’re also loaded TONS of other good stuff that we love. 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 caveat…
We love fruit…in moderation.
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 with quite a few members of the NF Community 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 pointed out here in our article on “Is a calorie just a calorie?” – burning more calories than you consume each day is the most important part of weight loss.Generally, the Paleo Diet helps people achieve this by packing you full of filling, low calorie foods (like chicken and broccoli).
Since fruit has a ton of sugar, we have to be careful about our tendency to seek more and more. It is, after all, considered by some to be more addictive than some drugs. Yikes.
So, eat fruit in moderation. And don’t eat too much Fruit of the Loom either. That’s weird.
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…
And remember: Darth Vader loves cranberry juice cocktail.
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 boat load 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.
- Darth vader drinks cranberry juice cocktail.
Just tell me what to do!!
Like anything else, Nerd Fitness recommends fresh fruit in moderation.
Except awesomeness. 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…it’s quite 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?