Why you should NOT fear fruit: Benefits, Types, and Uses
By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD
Fruit is often demonized by fad diets, and portrayed as being too high in sugar to fit into a balanced diet.
While fruit does contain natural sugars, it’s also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating whole fruit can keep you full and may help with weight loss. What’s more, fruit consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of certain diseases.
This post provides an overview of the benefits of fruit, what types are especially nutritious, and ways to fit fruit into your diet.
Fruit Nutrition 101
Each type of fruit has different nutrition, but all fruits have fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fruits are rich in energizing carbohydrates and contain beneficial plant compounds that can help fight disease.
For example, one medium banana contains 27 grams of carbohydrates, which includes 3 grams of fiber and 14 grams of sugar. The sugars in a banana are a combination of sucrose, glucose, and fructose (1, 2).
In recent years, there have been several claims that fructose consumption plays a large role in the development of obesity. However, most studies that support this claim have focused on excessive fructose intake from sugary sodas and other beverages (3, 4).
When fructose is consumed with the other sugars and fiber present in fruit, it is metabolized slowly and does not have the same impact as fructose from sweetened drinks and foods (3).
What’s more, eating whole fruit helps increase satiety and may lead to a lower overall calorie consumption, unlike consuming sugary beverages that are high in calories and lack fiber and other nutrients.
Several epidemiological studies have shown a link between fruit consumption and a decreased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, better digestive health, and long-term weight maintenance. This is likely due to the high amounts of fiber, plant compounds, and micronutrients found in fruit (5, 6, 7).
It’s important to note that these benefits are mostly associated with whole fruit, as opposed to fruit juice that does not contain fiber.
All Star Fruits
While all fruits provide benefits, some are especially nutritious and have been associated with certain health effects.
Here are some of the healthiest fruits:
Pomegranates: high in antioxidants and have been shown to inhibit cancer progression in test tube studies (10)
Watermelon: high in water and can help promote satiety; contains the compound lycopene that may help protect against heart disease and diabetes (11)
Apples: contain a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants that may help lower cholesterol and prevent disease (12)
Grapes: contain the compound resveratrol, which has anti-inflammatory effects and may promote heart and bone health (13)
Ways to Use Fruit
Fruit is incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes. The American Heart Association recommends four servings of fruit per day (one serving = one medium fruit or ½ cup of fresh or frozen fruit) (14).
Here are some ways to eat fruit:
Mixed into yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast
As a snack with nuts, nut butter, or a string cheese
Blended into a smoothie with almond milk, greens, and chia seeds
Added to stir fries, fish, or chicken dishes
As dessert with a dollop of yogurt and dark chocolate chips