Q: Can I really eat as much fresh fruit as I want and still eat clean?
A: Unfortunately, no. Fresh fruit is a healthy choice and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants; however fruit still contains calories and carbohydrates. One of the reasons that fruit is so controversial is because it can be a double-edged sword. While fruit is a very nutritious food that should be included in a balanced diet, there may come a time when you will need to reduce fruit from your diet due to its sugar content. Let’s take a closer look at both sides of this controversy.
Why You Should Keep Fruit in Your Diet
The carbohydrates in fruit do not have a huge impact on your blood sugar levels, as most fruits have a low glycemic load. Fruits can also supply a significant dose of fiber to your diet, which will slow digestion and make you feel fuller. For example, just one cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber.
Fruits like blueberries are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help lower your blood pressure, fight off oxidative stress, and may reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.
Fruit has multiple benefits that warrant it being a staple in your diet; but what about its supposed dark side?
Why Fruit Might Hinder Weight Loss
Fruit is high in the simple sugar fructose, which is the main reason why many people trying to lose weight or reduce their sugar intake remove it from their diet. Unlike glucose, the most common simple sugar that’s sent to your muscles, brain, and other organs for them to use as energy, fructose is only processed by your liver. Why is that bad? If your liver already has ample energy, there is a higher likelihood that your liver will repackage the excess fructose as fat, saving it for use at a later time. While this is a biochemical truth, its impact on your waistline is blown out of proportion, especially when you consider that fruit isn’t even one of the most common sources of fructose in the American diet.
More relevant reasons why fruit should not be given the ‘eat as much as you want’ label: When you’re trying to lose weight, calories and carbohydrates matter. One banana contains 100 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates. One apple can contain as much as 115 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates.
Limiting carbohydrate intake to 100 grams per day is a common target for people using a moderately carbohydrate-restricted approach to weight loss. If that is the case, eating two bananas and one apple will take up 84 percent of your carbohydrate intake for the entire day. Even if you are eating 1800 calories per day and 40 percent of those calories from carbohydrates, two bananas and one apple will take up 46 percent of your carbohydrates for that day. It’s easy to eat 100 grams worth of carbohydrates in one day from fruit alone, and if you’re treating them as if they have no caloric value, you will unknowingly be eating 400 extra calories per day.
Simple Tips to Enjoy Fruit and Still Maintain a Healthy Weight
1. Focus on berries, fibrous, and small fruits. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, clementines, plums, peaches, and small apples are the kinds of fruits you should reach for first.
2. Enjoy fruits in moderation but focus on eating more vegetables. Fruits are good, but vegetables, especially green leafy or fibrous vegetables, should be a focus on your plan.
3. If you need to cut carbs/calories from your diet, start with grains and starchy carbs and then move onto fruits. There comes a time in everyone’s diet when they need to eat less. Always remove the most carbohydrate-dense foods first (as they will be the most calorie-dense of your carbohydrates as well). You’ll find that as the carbohydrates and calories in your diet get lower, when you’re really starting to hone in on losing the stubborn fat, your fruit intake will be decreased as a function of how you have progressively removed foods from your diet.