When a person wants to increase their nutrient intake and eat more healthfully overall, one of the first steps to take is to start adding more fruits and vegetables into their diet! The problem is that many people are confused about just how much fruit to have, and if the sugar in fruit is something they should be concerned about.
Knowing that fruit has a lot of sugar in it, people are hesitant to start eating a high quantity of it, because they hear the word “sugar” and automatically think “fat” or “unhealthy”.
So here’s the scoop on why the naturally occurring sugar in fruit is actually beneficial and just how much you should aim to have every day.....
The sugar in fruit is sugar different than the sugar in processed food because it is a part of a whole, complete, natural food. Assuming you eat the entire piece of fruit and don’t just drink the juice and then throw away the pulp, fruit will provide you with fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and a high level of water in it too. Aside from this, fruits are generally low calorie foods that help you feel full (thanks to their fiber and water) without adding too many calories to your diet.
All fruit has "natural" sugar in it called fructose, but depending on which kind you choose, the amount of fructose can really vary; for example, tropical fruits (bananas, pineapple, mangoes etc.) have a higher amount of sugar in them and so do melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew). Stone fruits (plums, peaches, nectarines) generally have less, as do tree fruits (apples, pears), citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grape fruit) and berries. The different types also have a range of vitamins and antioxidants in them, for example organs are known to have very high Vitamin C levels.
It’s a good idea to eat a range of different fruits, this way you are getting an array of different nutrients and antioxidants offered in the different kinds, plus you are avoiding over-doing it on some of the more sweet fruits (like pineapple for example).
So, how much fruit is best for you?
Each person is different in terms of how they react to sugar and how much exactly is the right amount for them. Therefore experiment a little with yourself to see how much makes you satisfied, while also not having any unwanted effects, like changes in your energy levels, headaches, cravings, or stomach aches. Most people do well with 2-4 pieces/servings of whole fruit per day. A serving is usually about 1 cup.
For people with known illnesses or conditions that affect their blood sugar levels, like diabetes for example, they will want to pay more close attention to how much fruit they eat and how their bodies react to it. Likely they will need to eat small amounts of fruit at one time in order to only consume a low, appropriate amount of sugar. These people will probably do best having 2 pieces of fruit per day, but not more. They can also try pairing fruit (or any sugary food for that matter) with other foods that have some protein, fiber, and fat in them to keep blood sugar levels more steady.
Eating enough fruit is one important way to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and antioxidants you need. If you are just starting to improve your eating habits, or know that you are deficient in certain vitamins, you can also benefit yourself by taking a good quality multivitamin like the ones found here. This way you are eating in a way to support your body but also making sure to cover your daily vitamin/mineral needs.