By Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RDN, LDN, CLC and Crystal Liebenberg BS
With summer just around the corner, imagine a beach day with some watermelon slices and ice-cold, fruit-infused water. The only problem is, you might be wondering how much fruit you are “allowed” each day and what is considered to be too much.
For multiple years there has been a myth that sugar found in fruit is considered bad for you, and that you should limit your fruit intake. Let us address this myth the best way possible, with evidence-based scientific information. The United States Department of Agriculture states that consuming fruit is not only harmless, but has multiple health benefits. Fruit contains natural (as opposed to processed or added) sugar in the form of fructose and glucose — which is different than added sugars as those are often processed and used to sweeten foods (e.g. pastries, candies, flavored beverages).
Fruit is packed with a combination of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. Sugar in fruit is slowly released into the bloodstream, different from the typical spike in blood sugars with added sugars. This moderated release helps to prevent spikes and drops that often cause undesirable symptoms. Fruit also contains phytochemicals, which are imperative for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions in the body.
The 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages consumption of nutrient-dense foods, which includes one to two cups per day of fruits, which most Americans fall short of. So, what does all of this mean for you? The last thing you should be worrying about is eating “too much” fruit. Rather, try to increase your whole fruit intake and focus on “eating the rainbow” to consume different colored fruits each containing unique phytochemicals and health benefits. Fruits may be fresh, frozen, canned, in a container or dried, and may be whole, cut-up or pureed.
Things to consider:
- What counts as a cup of fruit? In general, a small piece of fresh fruit (apple, plum, pear), one cup of whole or cut-up fruit (grapes, berries, melon) or one-half cup of dried fruit (raisins, prunes, apricots)
- What are some fruits I can choose from? Beyond your “typical” fruits, there are so many options. Try something new such as a honeydew, grapefruit, lychee, persimmon, mangosteen, tangerine, peach, papaya, pineapple, plum, kiwi, starfruit, dragon fruit, passionfruit, mango, cherimoya, plantain.
- Individuals with pre-diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus should talk to a Registered Dietitian about their specific carbohydrate needs, as fruit is considered a carbohydrate.
Kristen K. Hicks-Roof Ph.D., RDN, LDN is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida.