Is Eating Fruit Every Day Really Healthy?
When considering a healthy breakfast, do you pile your plate high with fruits? And when looking around the kitchen for a healthy afternoon snack, do you find yourself often reaching for a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl?
You aren’t alone if you load up your daily diet with fruit, thinking that you are making a healthy choice and doing your body a favor. But while fruit does have some health benefits, it’s not a good idea to eat too much of it on a regular basis.
Let’s take a look at why fruit isn’t as healthy as you might think it is, and how to make more mindful choices when it comes to including fruit in your diet.
The downside of fruit
Now it makes sense if you think of fruit as healthy. It’s true that fruit has some health benefits, and there’s a lot of research that suggests eating fruit can be good for you when included as part of a well-rounded diet.
And clearly, eating fruit is nowhere near as bad as eating refined sugar, processed foods, and junk foods; fruit is certainly a healthier alternative to choose from when you might have otherwise reached for chips, cookies, candy, or dessert.
But that doesn’t mean we should eat as much fruit as we want without limits. Why is that?
It turns out that along with the health benefits of fruit, there is also some evidence that fruit can have potential harmful effects on your health as well. The major problem with fruit is its high sugar content. Fruits are high in a type of simple sugar called fructose, which is associated with various health problems.
When we eat fruit, it can lead to big spikes in blood sugar which can have harmful effects in the body. Eating too much sugar (even from fruit) and eating it regularly on a daily basis can put you at risk for things like weight gain, kidney issues, diabetes, or tooth decay for example.[1,3] Even though the sugar from fruit is from a natural source, it still acts like sugar in the body and can cause harm.
So, while fruit can play a role in a healthy diet, it shouldn’t play a starring role. With the exception of certain fruits (like all types of berries), fruits should be something we add in here and there but don’t rely on heavily as part of our daily eating patterns.
Veggies: the healthier option
Instead of packing our diets with fruit, it is much healthier to turn to vegetables instead.
Vegetables are packed with fiber, potassium, and many other important nutrients that support the body. And at the same time, they are low in sugar and tend to be low in carbs, too.
So when you eat veggies, you get all the benefits of powerful plant-based nutrition without the drawback of the high sugar content that you get when you eat fruit.
Cruciferous veggies, in particular, are extremely nutritious and have amazing health benefits. This family of vegetables includes green leafy plants like kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage. People who eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables tend to have lower risks for chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease and even different types of cancer.
The more vegetables you can add to your diet, and the greater the variety, the better. In fact, eating a lot of different veggies can help to decrease your risk of health problems like coronary heart disease.
How to include fruit in your diet – the healthy way
As we’ve learned, fruit in excess isn’t as healthy as you might have thought.
But that doesn’t mean you have to cut it out completely. Instead, fruit should be consumed in an intentional, mindful way.
Here are some guidelines on the healthy way to add fruit to your diet:
- Consume in moderation. Some fruit here and there is just fine. But fruit all day every day? Not so much. It’s okay to have fruit in your diet, just be sure it isn’t playing too big of a role and is more of a treat rather than a staple.
- Choose berries first and foremost. For daily intake, berries should be your best friend. Berries are highly nutritious and are lower in sugar compared to other fruits, making them a good go-to fruit option for day-to-day consumption. Plus, they make for a tasty and exciting dessert in place of unhealthy choices like baked goods, candies, and other treats.
- Go for high-fiber, low-sugar fruits when you can. Low-glycemic fruits that are higher in fiber and lower in sugar are the best choices if you are going to eat a piece of fruit. That’s because they will be digested more slowly (due to the fiber), and lead to a more controlled blood sugar response. Melons, pineapple, mango, and grapes tend to be higher on the glycemic index, while apples, pears, citrus fruits, and berries tend to be lower.
- The more colorful, the better. Fruits with deep coloring (like berries), are generally the highest in natural plant-based nutrients. Bright red, deep purple, vibrant green, or sunny orange and yellow fruits all contain different phytonutrients that can have powerful health benefits.
- Always choose whole fruits rather than dried fruits or fruit juice. Whole fruit is always best, as it contains all the nutrients you want along with all the fiber that helps to offset blood sugar spikes. Fruit juice and dried fruits can be particularly problematic, as they sound like healthy options but are actually just concentrated sources of sugar. Plus, they often contain added sugars and additives like food dyes to make them more appealing.[7,8]
- Swap out your daily fruit habits for veggie alternatives. If you tend to rely heavily on fruits for daily snacking or at mealtimes, try to think of ways to make healthy swaps. It’s best if you can find ways to add in more veggies and decrease excess fruit. Try celery with nut butter instead of an apple at lunchtime, avocado on the side at breakfast instead of sliced fruit, or cut up carrots and celery for an afternoon snack instead of a banana.
Key takeaways: less fruit on a daily basis, plenty of berries, and a lot more veggies!
So, is fruit every day really healthy? Unless it’s berries, my answer is no!
I do believe that fruit has its place in a healthy diet, but unfortunately, I think a lot of people make the mistake of eating too much fruit in their daily lives.
Here are the main points that I want you to remember:
- While fruit may sound healthy, it’s not as great for you as you might think. As another source of sugar in the diet, it can be problematic. Fruit all day every day is not a good idea.
- When you do choose to eat fruit, I recommend sticking to berries first and foremost. Research suggests that berries, along with citrus fruits, are some of the healthiest fruits out there – and the ones with the most powerful health benefits. For daily consumption, berries are a great choice. Save other more sugary fruits like melons or tropical fruits for the occasional treat.
- And finally, don’t forget about veggies. You want to be eating a lot of veggies on a regular basis. But for many people veggies are hard to get enough of. Unfortunately, only 9% of Americans eat the recommended amount of vegetables. So get creative and figure out how to include more and more veggies into your meals and snacks.
It all comes down to this: eat fruit in moderation, make berries your go-to fruit choice, and pack your diet with as many vegetables as you can.