Fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet. Here’s why, plus learn what a registered dietitian thinks.
Reviewed by Dietitian Lisa Valente, M.S., RD
Sugar can often feel like a bad ex-boyfriend we can’t seem to stay away from no matter how hard we try. We know we need to eat less of it-maybe we even go on a sugar cleanse or detox in an attempt to stop the craving-but even just a small indulgence can quickly send us back into a full-on sugar obsession. However, one kind of sugar that doesn’t deserve to get kicked to the curb: fruit!
Pictured recipe: Purple Fruit Salad
Fruit often gets a bad rap for its sugar content, but we are begging you to please stop comparing donuts and bananas! The sugar naturally found in fruit is so much different than the dozens of various sweeteners on grocery store shelves. Naturally-occuring sugars are also found in dairy and vegetables.
Consuming fruit is associated with dozens of health benefits-improved heart health, protection from chronic diseases and a healthy weight, to name a few-and pretty much all respected health organizations encourage us to eat fruit every day as part of a healthy diet! We definitely can’t say the same for donuts-or any other products with added sugars for that matter.
Plus, fruit is so much more than just nature’s candy. Most fruits are typically a good source of fiber-an essential nutrient 95 percent of us don’t get enough of. Not only is fiber great for our digestive and gut health, but it also helps slow our body’s roll when breaking down fruit sugar, so we don’t experience the same sugar high we would if we had eaten candy or cookies instead. Most products with added sugars don’t contain fiber, which allows for insulin spikes and leaves you hungry again an hour later.
Fruit is also a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants that ward of inflammation and chronic diseases. The antioxidant power of apples, for example, fights off several types of cancer-maybe an apple a day really keeps the doctor away after all. And those bananas people compare to donuts are good sources of potassium, B vitamins, and Vitamin C.
What a nutritionist says:
We talked to EatingWell’s nutrition editor Lisa Valente to get her thoughts on eating fruit:
“It’s one of my biggest dietitian pet peeves that people think fruit is unhealthy because it has sugar. I hear it all the time about bananas especially, but everything from blueberries to oranges have gotten a bad reputation,” she says.
What about for someone who is watching their carb intake?
“If you need to watch your sugar or carb intake, you may want to be more careful about portioning out your fruit but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it. Try pairing fruit with a healthy fat or protein, like apple and almond butter, banana and peanut butter or pear and cheese,” adds Valente.
“Eating fruit hasn’t been linked with higher blood sugar, even for people with diabetes (learn more about fruit and diabetes here).”
Is fresh fruit the best option?
“Dried fruit, canned fruit and frozen fruit might have added sugar, so check the labels. If you buy plain versions with just fruit as an ingredient it can be a really affordable way to add more fruit to your diet. I especially like frozen fruit for smoothies and dried fruit for snacking,” she notes.
“The benefits to eating fruit definitely outweigh any downsides. Fruit has so many great nutritional qualities and it just happens to taste good. That’s a win-win in my book.”