Up until a few years ago it was generally accepted that fruits and vegetables and an important part of any healthy diet.
But recently fruits have been criticized quite a bit, mostly because of their high sugar content. So are fruits good or bad for you and can you eat too much fruit? Keep reading to learn more….
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The Traditional View: Fruits Are Healthy
“Base your diet around whole foods and a lot of fruits and vegetables.”
That used to be the world’s most common diet advice. Nowadays things have changed – at least when it comes to the fruit part.
The question of whether fruits are healthy is now being debated everywhere from talk shows to medical circles and recommendations range from “fruit is perfectly safe” to “just one piece of fruit a day” or anything in between.
Is The Concern About Fruits Justified?
The main problem most people have with fruits is their high sugar content. Sugar is often used as a scapegoat for all kinds of diseases most of which are usually taken out of context. If you follow my blog and youtube channel you know that sugar can be as harmless or as guilty as any other component of your diet.
Not just candy and soda but every type of carbohydrate you eat – from potatoes to rice to bread – contains sugar. What counts isn’t the sugar itself but how it’s packaged.
Potatoes aren’t healthier than candy because they have less sugar, but because they also contain more nutrients and fiber. Both promote health, increase satiety and slow down digestion. That way you are less likely to overeat or suffer from nutrient deficiencies.
Most people agree with this but some will say that fruits are a different story because of their fructose. That’s because glucose and fructose are metabolized differently by the body.
While every cell in the body can use glucose, the liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose in significant amounts. It usually converts fructose into glucose to make it available for other cells, but when you eat a diet that is high in calories and high in fructose, the liver can get overloaded and start turning the fructose into fat.
This fat will get stored around the organs and can potentially lead to heart disease.
At least that’s the theory. But what you have to keep in mind is that even though this metabolic pathway exists that doesn’t mean the body will necessarily take it and it also doesn’t mean that fruits will trigger it.
Because most studies that focus on the effects of fructose in the body don’t use fruits but pure concentrated fructose. Obviously, results from such studies have little real-world application.
Can You Eat Too Much Fruit?
So to figure out if fruits are good or bad and if you can eat too much, we should look at studies that evaluate high fruit consumption instead of high fructose consumption. Here the results are pretty straightforward.
If you focus on whole fruits, it is basically impossible to eat enough fructose to cause harm. That’s because of their high fiber and water content along with the chewing resistance.
Not only do they make fruit more filling, but the fructose will reach the liver later and be processed more slowly.
Depending on who you listen to, the daily upper safe limit of fructose for the average person is anywhere between 40 to 100 grams per day. For athletes or active people it’s even higher.
100 grams of fructose are around 25 bananas or 10 apples so you get why I said it’s basically impossible to reach this amount through fruits alone.
Take Home Points
The bottom line on fruits is that they still are healthy and even though fructose can theoretically hurt you it won’t even if you eat quite a bit of fruits. I don’t want to talk about added fructose in this post, because things would just get out of hand.
One last advice thing before I end. The fact that fruit isn’t harmful doesn’t mean you should always eat more fruit. If you are already overeating then adding more fruits to your diet will just increase your rate of fat gain and therefore your risk of disease.
Fruit should not be eaten in addition to junk food, but rather replace it. An apple more and a candy bar less. This will improve your diet and leave you less hungry.