On a daily basis I am discussing weight loss strategies with women of all sizes. I am always surprised by the quantity of patients who have eliminated or strictly limit fruit intake because they believe fruit is causing weight gain or limiting weight loss. I understand the concern many people face regarding weight as the worldwide obesity rate has doubled since 1980. But is fruit causing the problem?
I have questioned many patients about why they consider fruit an unhealthy food. Most patients have unrealistic and false notions of “sugar” found in fruit. Many assume that because fruit does contain large amounts of simple sugars including glucose, fructose and sucrose, that consuming fruits would negatively impact weight. Not only is the chemical makeup of fruit misunderstood, but many highly publicized diets like ketogenic, high protein, and low glycemic/carbohydrate are often recommended and implemented incorrectly which often leave a body metabolically worse, than before the diet began.
Because of the popularity of the topic, I have decided to research the question “does fruit make us fat?” As a Registered Dietitian, it is my responsibility to present the facts using science-based research, not trendy theories or ideas.
A research article titled Paradoxical Effects of Fruit on Obesity reviewed and collaborated many years of research and shared statistics regarding fruit intake and obesity. The points below share what I believe to be the most significant statements made in the article.
Low fruit consumption is the fourth leading contributor to the global disease burden. Eliminating fruit from your diet may be increasing your risk of disease. Fruit contains many phytonutrients, which are proven to fight disease. Research has proven these nutrients cannot be replicated with the same ability to reduce disease in supplement/vitamin/medication form. Phytonutrients must be consumed through colorful fruits and vegetables. I truly believe that most individuals who are overweight are under nourished.
Increasing daily consumption of fruit inversely correlates to weight gain. Because fruit is low in calories, it is considered a very low energy-dense food. Most foods having gone through processing have more calories per serving than fruit. Fruit contains an abundance of water, which contains no calories. It takes much more fruit than an individual would ever eat in a day to have the same energy content as the processed food consumed in the same day. Most people who eat a regular allowance of fresh fruit lose weight.
Fruit reduces calorie consumption. By replacing processed foods with increased amounts of fruit, less calories are consumed because the unhealthy fat, additives and refined carbohydrates found in most processed foods are being replaced with considerable amounts of dietary fiber, nutrients and water.
Fruit contains anti-obesity effects. Vitamin, mineral and micronutrient deficiencies have been proven to have correlations with obesity. Fruit has shown to contain large amounts of these essential ingredients. Deficiencies can be resolved through natural or formulated resources, however, fruit provides the perfect ingredient list as provided by mother nature and is considerably less expensive than purchasing a supplement.
Fruit contains prolonged satiety. Satiety is the physiological process that tells us we are full. Fruit contains large quantities of dietary fiber that digests slowly by delaying gastric emptying, often allowing the body to feel full for a longer period of time.
Fruit positively affects gut microbial ecology. As stated by Hippocrates, “All disease begins in the gut.” The microbiome is a complex topic that is still evolving through research; however, we know that the gut contains many different strains of bacteria. Some strains drive gut ecology toward an anti-obese environment and some strains drive gut ecology toward an obese environment. It has been proven that diet is the main external source that can change the gut’s environment. Some research has shown that increasing fruit in children’s meals have increased the bacteria (Bacteriodetes) related to lean bodies. Another study showed the bacteria (Bacteriodetes) was found to be abundant in a research group who increased their fruit intake and lost weight.
How can you improve you or your families’ fruit intake?
- Always choose fresh or frozen fruit.
- Eat the fruit in its natural state. Do not always rely on “blending” fruit into smoothies. When this is done, the body eliminates its natural mastication process.
- Do not focus on eating only a small selection of fruits. Bananas and pineapple do not independently cause obesity. Blueberries are not going to single-handedly turn you into a supermodel. Each fruit contains its own blueprint of vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, fiber and phytonutrients. By eliminating fruits, you are eliminating resources that may be reducing your risk of obesity and disease.
- Eliminate or reduce the amount of processed fruits you consume. Think canned fruit, fruit cups, juice and dried fruit.
- Do not focus on what time you eat fruit or what you should eat fruit with. FRUIT IS NOT THE PROBLEM.
Obesity and all diseases are multifaceted issues. No one whole, straight-from-the-garden food group causes obesity or diabetes. If you have concerns regarding how altering the food you eat can improve your weight, diabetes, gut health or just overall wellness, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with me or one of our providers. Fad diets, misinformation in the media, as well as other improperly informed professionals may be causing you harm with their recommendations instead of helping you to reach your own goals by using true, scientifically-proven and researched data. Next time you are at the grocery store look at the fruit section with a new perspective.