The above question is one that I have been asked more than any other recently. It appears there is a good deal of confusion surrounding fruit and whether it is a good food to consume.
As with any other question I get asked about nutrition, diet, exercise, IT DEPENDS. Below I want to break down my recommendations regarding to fruit as it pertains to different scenarios: -
SCENARIO 1: Overweight/Obese Following a Very Low Carb (VLC) Diet: This is perhaps the only scenario in which I would look to restrict fruit in someone's diet (note the word restrict here, NOT eliminate). My recommendation here would be to have 2-3 serves of fruit per week. The reason for this is purely because fruit is, for the most part, almost solely carbohydrate (and water & fibre). For example, 93% of the calories from a banana come from carbohydrates. So in a scenario where carbohydrates are severely limited, such as during a ketogenic or VLC diet period, it is best to focus on getting your carbohydrates largely from vegetables alone. Please note, the reason I would restrict fruit intake is not because it is "fattening" in any way, or is a food that is in any way harmful to fat loss.
SCENARIO 2: Overweight/Obese In a Calorie Restricted Diet: In this scenario I would look to eliminate any FRUIT JUICES or SMOOTHIES wherever possible and would focus solely on eating whole fruit (with skin wherever possible). My rationale here is drinking calories is certainly not a good idea during any kind of calorie restricted period (with the possible exception of protein shakes). This is because liquid lacks the satiety that whole foods have. Eating fruit will keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is absolutely critical when dieting on a calorie restriction. One serving of whole fruit per day would be my recommendation in this scenario. I would suggest rotating different fruits and choosing what is seasonal at that particular time.
Scenario 3: Someone Looking to Maintain Weight/Body Composition & Improve Overall Health and Well-Being: An absence of whole fruits and vegetables from peoples diets is something I am seeing regularly. For those of you looking to improve health markers and improve overall well-being, increasing your intake of plant foods would be a great start. Consuming 2 serves of fruit per day would be my recommendation here. See my list of the healthiest fruits to consume below.
Scenario 4: A Lean Individual Looking to Increase Lean Muscle Mass: For an individual looking to increase lean muscle mass, an energy surplus is usually required. Oftentimes this increase in calories will come mainly from carbohydrate sources. Therefore. in this scenario I wholeheartedly encourage increasing fruit intake. I would still recommend trying to get the majority of fruit from whole food sources, rather than juices or smoothies. However, blending fruit into post-workout shakes, for example, is a very easy way of consuming fruit and increasing the calorie (and carbohydrate) content of the shake. Dried fruit may also be beneficial for these individuals as dried fruit extremely nutrient and energy dense.
So Why Has Fruit Become the Source of Controversy?
The demonisation of sugar of late has lead people to come to the conclusion that fruit must also be bad, by virtue of the fact it contains sugar, largely in the form of fructose. However, the sugar in fruit is very different to the added sugar you get, say, in a can of coke. Here's why: -
Fruit contains a great deal of water & Fibre: This is a crucial point because the fibre and water content will drastically increase the time it takes to eat and digest a piece of whole fruit. The fibre and water also cause fruit to be extremely satiating, making great as a snack. A can of coke, however, will do very little in the way of curbing appetite.
You would need to eat A LOT of fruit to obtain unhealthy daily amounts of sugar
- Fruit contains vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants: Fruits tend to be especially high in Vitamin C, Potassium and Folate, all of which humans tend to be deficient in.
- Fruit has be shown to be healthy: Many observational studies have found that people who regularly eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of many diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and Type II Diabete
What are the best fruits to choose?
Whilst I encourage you to explore a variety of fruits, here are my top picks when it comes to fruit: -
In my opinion, getting a good variety of fruits and vegetables is important as they all contain different varying amounts of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.
The main take home message of this email is this: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES AVOID FRUIT BECAUSE YOU THINK IT WILL HINDER WEIGHT LOSS/FAT LOSS IN SOME WAY. Focus on eating whole fruit (avoid juices and smoothies wherever possible) and only limit your intake during periods where you are restricting carbohydrates and/or calories.