People say fruit is nature’s candy for a reason. There’s nothing like biting into a ripe, juicy peach, achieving just the right level of banana flavor in your smoothie, or going to town on a perfect handful of blueberries. Unfortunately, as healthy as fruit is, you can overdo it on the sweet stuff, experts say. We get it: Nothing is sacred. Here, the facts you need to know.
“This is a little bit complicated, because I don’t ever want to send a message that fruit is not a good choice,” Marisa Moore, R.D.N. and consultant in Atlanta, Georgia, tells SELF, but because sugar is the source of fruit’s sweet goodness, you should actually pay attention to how much you eat every day.
For all the benefits of fruit you should definitely not miss out on, it’s possible to go overboard.
Obviously, fruit is excellent for you. Different kinds offer important nutrients Americans are often skimping on, like potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folate, Moore explains. “You get all of those in fruit, so you do want to eat them regularly,” she says. Plus, fruit = carbs which = energy.
Adults should be getting around two cups of fresh fruit per day, depending on their sex and age, or two medium pieces, Abby Langer, R.D. and owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, tells SELF. A smoothie might pack at least two times that much in a single cup.
Therein lies the rub: When it comes down to it, sugar is sugar.
“People have the impression that fruit is so much healthier than a chocolate bar, so they blow the doors off with oranges,” Langer says. “Even though it’s natural, when you consume fruit, your body treats it like any other sugar.”
Of course, there are some big bonuses if you decide on fruit for dessert instead of a treat with added sugar: “The sugar in fruit comes with a side of fiber, so it’s absorbed less rapidly into your bloodstream. And fruit has more going for it than a Snickers bar in terms of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” Langer says.
But it’s possible to eat too much of anything, especially if you’re doing it mindlessly, eating emotionally, or going all out to prevent yourself from eating something else. Eating way too much fruit can lead bloating, thanks to the sugar and fiber, she says. It can also cause fatigue from sugar crashes, weight gain or trouble losing weight, and over time, even health issues like heightened triglycerides (fat in the blood associated with how much sugar you eat) and high blood sugar levels, Langer says.
Thankfully, none of the above means you need to be super-strict with your fruit intake.
Unless you have specific health needs or goals and have talked with a professional about your eating habits, there’s no reason to do things like slice bananas in half (“unless it’s a mega banana,” Langer says) or only choosing fruits with less sugar, like green apples or berries. “When it all comes down to it, I want people to eat fruit, period. I wouldn’t drill it down that much,” Langer says. So, sure, feel free to eat those low-sugar options—but don’t be afraid of fruits with higher sugar, like bananas, mangoes, and grapes.