Often considered to be healthy, have you ever stopped to ask yourself – are fruits good or bad for your health?
Ever since we were young, we’ve been told that we should eat fruits because they’re good for us.
In this article we take a look at the good and the bad sides of fruits and what it means for you.
Fruits are Rich in Vitamins, Minerals & Antioxidants
Like vegetables, fruits contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other polyphenols. Though vegetables often contain higher levels of these compounds, the cooking process destroys many antioxidants as well as nutrients like vitamin C.
As people tend to cook vegetables and eat fruits raw, fresh fruit might be the best source of these compounds for some individuals. To obtain a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it’s important to eat a spectrum of fruits as different fruits contain different micronutrients.
Fruits should also not be eaten in place of vegetables, but rather as a supplement.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends between 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit each day depending on your age and level of physical activity. This is in addition to the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.
Unfortunately, a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that only 13% of Americans consumed the recommended daily amount of fruit and even less, 9% ate enough vegetables.
They are Good Sources of Dietary Fiber
In addition to polyphenols, fruits also contain fiber in both its soluble and insoluble forms, which increases digestion time, and slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
- Insoluble fiber adds bulk to food, increasing their mass and providing a feeling of fullness that can help an individual to eat less while still satiating hunger. Insoluble fiber also helps to move food along the digestive tract.
Fruits that contain high amounts of insoluble fiber include:
- Soluble fiber, which is found in high levels in fruits, not only aids in adding bulk to food, but also binds to excess cholesterol, helping the body flush it out. Soluble fiber also acts as a prebiotic, feeding the micro-biome and helping to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Fruits with high amounts of soluble fiber include:
• Passion fruit (purple)
Fruit is a great source of fiber and packing an apple or a peach as a snack can be an easy way to add fiber to one’s diet.
Fruit’s Sugar Content
The downside to fruit lies in its sugar content. The scientific and health communities agree that overconsumption of sugar is detrimental to health and can exacerbate many conditions.
However, because of its high vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content, fruit is a great option for individuals looking to replace sugary processed snacks with something more nutrient dense.
Fruit can also provide a healthier sweet option for those looking to cut down on sugar, as the water content and fiber in fruits can help individuals to feel fuller than a processed sugary snack.
The sugar in fruit can actually be incredibly helpful to endurance athletes. Fruit provides a much healthier alternative to quick sugar than the gels or sports drinks that athletes rely on for an energy boost.
Because of the fiber, the sugar in a piece of fruit will absorb over a period of time, providing a boost immediately after consumption, and also sustained energy for the duration of the workout.
Individuals with blood sugar regulation issues, autoimmune conditions, or metabolic syndromes may want to avoid fruits that are higher in sugar like apples and bananas, and instead opt for the lower sugar options like berries.
Berries are higher in antioxidants and fiber and lower in sugar than most fruits, making them a healthier choice when sugar is a concern. Additionally, the antioxidants in berries can help to reduce the inflammation associated with many conditions. Berries should still be consumed in moderation by individuals with these health concerns, but they certainly provide many health benefits.
A Word About Sugars in Fruit
While the sugar content in many fruits makes it something that isn’t suitable for people who are at risk of high blood sugar or diabetes, it isn’t as bad as table sugar or what’s put into sodas and juice drinks.
The sugar in fruit is fructose, whereas the lump or spoon of sugar you use for coffee is sucrose and that in packaged foods is high fructose corn syrup.
Fructose only becomes harmful to our health when consumed in large amounts, and you won’t be able to achieve that from eating fruit.
That said however, it can still add up. For this reason, if you’re looking to reduce sugar intake or have a family history of diabetes, staying away from fruits that have high sugar content is a good option.
Dried Fruits: Not a Health Food
Dried fruit is an exception to the “healthy snack” rule.
While dried fruits are often considered to be healthy, many commercially produced dried fruits contain preservatives as well as added sugar, and sometimes even added artificial coloring or flavors.
Additionally, removing the water content from the fruit makes it much easier to overindulge without even realizing, as the cues from your stomach indicating fullness will not be triggered as soon as with fresh fruit. Dried fruits are best consumed as an occasional treat instead of a health food.
Fruit Juices Aren’t As Healthy as You Think
Fruit juices are another ‘healthy’ alternative to eating fruits. While the concept of extracting the juice from fruits is good, today’s commercially packaged fruit juices aren’t as much fruit as you’d think.
Many of these juices are made from mixes, though some still come from fresh fruits. More importantly, fruit juices contain high amounts of sugar.
The sugar does make them taste delicious, but comes at a health cost. Plus, the great taste makes you consume more in the process, which compounds matters.
For example, 1 cup of store bought orange juice contains about 21 grams of sugar. The same amount of apple juice meanwhile has 24 grams of sugar.
This comes out to around the same amount of sugar for an 8 oz. glass of soft drink.
While you do get some of the vitamins and minerals in them, it’s also worth noting that fruit juices lose a lot of their nutrition in during processing.
A better alternative would be to make your own fruit juices at home. Though give the option between juicing and blending, we prefer using the blender. This allows you to get the benefits of the fruit and not just the juice, so you get more nutrition out of each fruit.
In conclusion, fruits are healthy for majority of us. They contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are beneficial to overall health. Depending on the kind of fruit you pick, you’ll get more or less of certain nutrients.
Fruits also contain fiber, which helps slow digestion and keep us full longer. This makes them a good choice when you’re trying to lose weight.
The only drawback to fruit is their sugar content, which can be an issue for those who are prone blood sugar issues or have diabetes. In these cases, you may opt to skip fruits entirely or choose those that contain low amounts of sugar.