If you are reading this article, you probably love fruits. For me, fruits are the perfect breakfast, the perfect snack, the perfect dessert and also the perfect thirst quenchers. You hear doctors and nutritionists advocate the benefits of adding more fruits to your diet and you think to yourself, “That’s great because I anyways love fruit so much!” But could your overindulgence in fruit become a problem?
Can too much fruit be bad for you?
There is a thing called as ‘Too much of something good’. And the same rule applies for fruit as well. While the health benefits of eating more fruit cannot be negated, eating too many portions of fruit everyday is not as healthy as you might like to believe. There’s no denying fruit’s health benefits – it’s packed with vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, which protect against disease. However, you cannot forget that fruits are packed with a sugar called fructose.
When you eat sugar, your body releases the hormone Insulin. On eating enough, this hormone tells your body that you are full because high insulin levels dampen the appetite. But the bad news is that fructose doesn’t trigger this insulin response, so the brain doesn’t get the message that you are full on fruit. The result – while many people gain weight because they are eating too much sugar in the form of fruit, the other worrisome side effect is tooth decay. As you chew heartily on a piece of fruit, sugar is released in the mouth, where it can attack the teeth and cause cavities. The acids in most citrus fruits are especially bad for the enamel, if you don’t rinse your mouth well after indulging in them. And no, fruit juice and smoothies are not the solution because the juicing/blending will break down the fruit further and release more sugar.
Additionally, it can also increase levels of triglycerides, which is a type of blood fat known to be linked to heart disease. This is why patients with high cholesterol and diabetes need to be especially careful with fruit, because eating in excess will drive up triglyceride levels as well as blood glucose levels.
How much fruit is too much?
Doctors and nutritionists recommend that you need 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. The secret is to get your five a day with a mix of fruit and vegetables.
If you love fruits, ensure that you add 3 servings of fruit to your diet, while the other 2 servings are of vegetables. If you have diabetes, heart problems or are obese, stick to only 1 serving of fruit and 4 servings of vegetable. Eating 5 servings of fruit a day would be termed as ‘too much fruit’.
However, another matter to keep in mind is your choice in fruits. Not all fruits are created equal. Some are higher in calories, while others are lower. It is important to eat all kinds of fruits; different fruits have different nutritional benefits to offer. But knowing which ones are higher in sugar and calories can definitely help you decide on the portion size you want to consume of that particular fruit.
Low calories fruits:
High calorie fruits:
What’s the best way to eat fruit?
If you are a fruit-aholic like me, it’s important to learn the right way to eat fruit. Here are some tips that you need to keep in mind:
1. The best time to eat fruits is mid-morning and mid-evening. This is the time your body’s need for glucose and energy is higher. Eat it as it is, as a snack.
2. It’s best to eat fruits alone. While it is very common for people to eat fruit for dessert, it is best to eat your fruit before a meal, instead of after a meal. This is because fruit can digest quite fast. When it is trapped behind a big meal, lying in the stomach where it comes in contact with many acids, it can ferment. That is why, most people who eat fruits post their lunch or dinner often complain of acidity. For best results, eat your fruits either a couple of hours before your meal, or couple of hours after.
3. Avoid eating fruits at bedtime, especially those that are high in sugar. It is best to eat your daily quota of fruits by 7pm. If you must nibble on a piece of fruit before bed, then choose something low sugar like an apple, as opposed to fruits like grapes.
4. Eating fresh fruit is not the same as drinking a glass of juice. Juice lacks fiber, which is present in a whole fruit, and is important for a healthy digestive system. Fruit bars are worse; they have a lot of added sugar and preservatives and can never compare to the real fruit when it comes to the health benefits.
5. Eat seasonal fruit, so that you can buy fresh. Anything fresh is always healthier than something that comes in a tin box, as it will most likely contain preservatives, along with high sodium and sugar content, and also adds to your weight and water retention issues.
6. While all fruits offer fiber and energy, each fruit has its unique nutritional profile. Red, yellow and orange fruits are rich in antioxidants. Fruits like apples and chikoo which can be eaten with their skin are rich in fiber. While bananas and mango that are high in calories can give instant energy, kiwis and grapes increase your fluids. Therefore, do not omit any fruit from your die; just understand how to balance portion sizes.
So there you have it! If you love fruits, there is no reason to not indulge in them as long as you understand that the key to good health is to achieve a balance with your food choices.