ou’ve been told since you were a kid how important it is to eat fruit. But is there such thing as too much?
Loading your diet with fruit seems like a no-brainer, right? Your body gets a boost from nutritious superstars like fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, plus juicy berries might even satisfy your sweet tooth. But that doesn’t mean maintaining a 24/7 fruit free-for-all is good for your health. Fruit is high in a sugar known as fructose. Even though the sugar is coming from this healthy source, you still have to use moderation.
If you’re panicking because you’ve been devouring fruit salad to your heart’s content, don’t worry. Here’s what you need to know about how much fruit you should really be eating every day.
Why Eating Too Much Fruit Might Impact Your Health
Sugar comes in a few different forms: Glucose, fructose and sucrose. Glucose helps keep all your systems chugging along smoothly. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, your body’s main source of fuel. Then you have fructose, the only type of sugar found in fruits. It’s metabolized in the liver, as opposed to in the blood stream. Sucrose, more commonly known as table sugar, is simply a combination of both glucose and fructose.
High blood sugar, which is caused by too much glucose in your blood, can lead to diabetes. Refined carbohydrates, like white rice or white-flour baked goods, are common culprits leading to high blood sugar. In addition to their sugar content, they lack the fiber that prevents glucose spikes, wreaking havoc on your blood sugar levels. Too much sugar in the blood stream at once leads to fat storage and insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
The lesser-known fact is that fructose, or fruit sugars, can also play a role in the disease. Your liver turns any excess sugar intake into triglycerides that get stored in fat cells throughout the body. The more sugar you eat, the more fat you store. Specifically, too much sugar, even from the fructose found in fruits, can lead to a buildup of that visceral belly fat that has been linked to type 2 diabetes.
How Much Fruit Should You Eat?
As a general rule, you probably need somewhere between two to four servings of fruit a day. What’s a proper serving? Either one cup, or a piece of fruit about the size of a baseball. But if your activity level varies from day to day, your fruit needs might change as well. For active men, teens, and tall, younger women with active jobs, four servings a day tends to be about right.
You should give up fruit juice. The reasoning lies in the fact that without the skin of the fruit, your body misses out on the fiber that’s so essential to keeping you full longer and regulating your sugar levels. The healthiest way to incorporate fruit into your diet is to eat fruit that you are eating the skin of, such as apples or berries, because the majority of fiber in fruit is found in the skin.
Since the carbs in fruit fuel the activity of your cells, when you eat berries, apples, and the like makes a big difference. Downing a huge fruit plate late at night while you’re watching TV or surfing the web (i.e., when your fuel demand is low) may be healthier than eating cookies or candy. But if you don’t burn off all those carbs, then—yep you guessed it—surplus city! So try to eat fruit before you’re going to be more active, so you’ll use the carbs for fuel. If you really enjoy eating fruit in the evening, at least try to limit your portion to, say, one cup of grapes (as opposed to three big handfuls).
The Best Fruit for You
Some fruits might give you more of a sugar rush than others. Check out this list of high and low-sugar fruits, courtesy of the USDA National Nutrient Database. Keep in mind that dried fruit usually packs more of a sugary, calorie-dense punch, so stick with fresh options when you can.
And keep in mind, vegetables are far more nutrient-dense than fruits when it comes to vitamins and minerals. And the classic nutrients that people use to defend high consumption of fruit are readily available in low-carbohydrate vegetables.
Potassium is easily found in avocados, chard, mushrooms and kale, vitamin C in raw broccoli, bell peppers and tomatoes, and antioxidants are abundant in all vegetables, but especially the green and leafy variety.