Can You Eat Too Much Fruit

As you can see in my How Much Fruit is Too Much? video, a quarter cup of blueberries didn’t seem to help much, but a half cup of blueberries did.

Is It Possible to Eat Too Much Fruit?

Here’s how to tell if you’re getting too much—or too little—according to an RD.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor and counsels clients one-on-one through her virtual private practice. Cynthia is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics and has consulted for five professional sports teams, including five seasons with the New York Yankees. She is currently the nutrition consultant for UCLA’s Executive Health program. Sass is also a three-time New York Times best-selling author and Certified Plant Based Professional Cook. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook, or visit www.CynthiaSass.com.

Updated on January 8, 2020

You’ve been told since you were a kid how important it is to eat fruit. But is there such thing as too much? As a nutritionist, I’ve worked with clients on both ends of the fruit-eating spectrum: Some shunned fruit completely due to its carb and sugar content, while others loaded up on fruit because it’s rich in nutrients. The reality is, the ideal amount lies somewhere in between these two extremes, and it varies from person to person. To help you figure out your own sweet spot when it comes to fruit, here are four important things to keep in mind.

Stick with two to four servings

As a general rule, you probably need somewhere between two to four servings of fruit a day. What’s a proper serving? Either one cup, or a piece of fruit about the size of a baseball. But if your activity level varies from day to day, your fruit needs might change as well. For example, many of my female clients eat one serving of fruit with breakfast, and another as part of a daytime snack (a good go-to strategy!). But on days they have a tough workout, they may add a third serving, such as a small, pre-exercise banana. However, for active men, teens, and tall, younger women with active jobs, four servings a day tends to be about right. Some of my pro athlete clients need more than four servings a day, but that’s not the norm for most of us.

Your fruit needs are based on your fuel needs

Here’s why you shouldn’t eat an unlimited amount of fruit, or even overdo it: While it may be packed with nutrients, fruit is also a major source of carbs. One medium apple, a cup of blueberries, and a small banana each contain about 20 grams. It’s important to get a healthy amount of carbs in your daily diet, to fuel the activity of your cells. But when you eat more carbs than you can burn after a meal or snack, the surplus can either feed existing fat, or even increase your body fat stores. For this reason, your total carb intake—including nutrient-rich foods like fruit—should correspond to your fuel needs, which are based on your height, ideal weight, sex, age, and physical activity level.

The taller you are and the higher your ideal weight, the more of you there is to fuel, and therefore the more carbs you need. Men generally need more than women, younger people more than older adults, and active folks more than inactive individuals. (Men are on average taller than women, and even at the same height they have more muscle mass—two reasons they require extra fuel.) For example, if you’re a petite woman who mostly sits at work and exercises for 45 minutes five days a week, you don’t need as many servings of fruit per day as a tall, muscular man with a physically demanding job.

Timing matters

Since the carbs in fruit fuel the activity of your cells, when you eat berries, apples, and the like makes a big difference. Downing a huge fruit plate late at night while you’re watching TV or surfing the web (i.e., when your fuel demand is low) may be healthier than eating cookies or candy. But if you don’t burn off all those carbs, then—yep you guessed it—surplus city! So try to eat fruit before you’re going to be more active, so you’ll use the carbs for fuel. If you really enjoy eating fruit in the evening, at least try to limit your portion to, say, one cup of grapes (as opposed to three big handfuls).

The nutrients in fruit are worth the carbs (if you don’t overdo it)

While carbs are a consideration, it’s also important to remember that fruit is chock-full of other key nutrients. Natural substances in fruit—including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and prebiotics—do wonders for your health. And the nutrients found in one fruit family, like berries, differ from those in apples and pears, stone fruits, melon, or citrus. So rather than limiting yourself to apples and berries only, aim for variety, and work in seasonal options.

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Another thing: Don’t freak out about the sugar. Even the strictest nutrition guidelines zero in on added sugar, not naturally-occurring sugar from whole, fresh fruit. That’s because sugar found in fruit is unrefined, far less concentrated, and bundled with a number of other key nutrients. For example, one whole orange provides about 17 grams of carbs, around 12 of which are natural sugar. But that orange also supplies fluid, 12% of your daily fiber, nearly 100% of your vitamin C needs, B vitamins, potassium, and compounds like herperidin—which has been shown to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and act as an anti-inflammatory. In comparison, one level tablespoon of table sugar contains 16 grams of carbs, all from refined sugar, and is devoid of nutrients. In other words, fruit and refined sugar don’t belong in the same category.

So please, enjoy fruit as part of a balanced diet. If you’re strategic about the timing and amount, you won’t have to worry about these healthy plants causing weight gain or preventing weight loss, and at the same time you’ll better protect your health.

Do you have a question about nutrition? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Can You Eat Too Much Fruit

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Fruit Has Fantastic Health Benefits, But Can You Eat Too Much Fruit?

Can You Eat Too Much Fruit

Can you eat too much fruit? How much is too much? And what about fruit for diabetics? Get answers to these common questions about fruit.

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By Michael Greger, MD • Originally published on Nutritionfacts.org

In my video, If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit, I explored how adding berries to our meals can actually blunt the detrimental effects of high glycemic foods, but how many berries?

The purpose of one study out of Finland was to determine the minimum level of blueberry consumption at which a consumer may realistically expect to receive antioxidant benefits after eating blueberries with a sugary breakfast cereal.

If we eat a bowl of corn flakes with no berries, within two hours, we create so many free radicals, it puts us into oxidative debt. The antioxidant power of our bloodstream drops below where we started from before breakfast, as the antioxidants in our bodies get used up dealing with such a crappy breakfast.

As you can see in my How Much Fruit is Too Much? video, a quarter cup of blueberries didn’t seem to help much, but a half cup of blueberries did.

What About Fruit for Diabetics?

Can you eat too much fruit?

Most guidelines recommend eating a diet with a high intake of fiber-rich food, including fruit, because they’re so healthy — antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, improving artery function, and reducing cancer risk. However, some health professionals have concerns about the sugar content of fruit and therefore recommend restricting the fruit intake.

So let’s put it to the test! A study from Denmark put diabetics into two randomized groups: one was told to eat at least two pieces of fruit a day, and the other told at most, two fruits a day.

The reduce fruit group indeed reduced their fruit consumption, but it had no effect on the control of their diabetes or weight. So the researchers concluded, the intake of fruit should not be restricted in patients with type 2 diabetes.

An emerging literature has shown that low-dose fructose may actually benefit blood sugar control. Having a piece of fruit with each meal would be expected to lower, not raise the blood sugar response.

The threshold for toxicity of fructose may be around 50 grams. The problem is that’s the current average adult fructose consumption. So, the levels of half of all adults are likely above the threshold for fructose toxicity, and adolescents currently average 75. Is that limit for added sugars or for all fructose? If we don’t want more than 50 and there’s about ten in a piece of fruit, should we not eat more than five fruit a day?

Quoting from the Harvard Health Letter, “the nutritional problems of fructose and sugar come when they are added to foods. Fruit, on the other hand, is beneficial in almost any amount.”

What Do They Mean? Can You Eat Too Much Fruit? How Much Is Too Much?

It’s actually been put to the test.

Seventeen people were made to eat 20 servings a day of fruit. Despite the extraordinarily high fructose content of this diet, presumably about 200 g/d—eight cans of soda worth, the investigators reported no adverse effects (and possible benefit actually) for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels after three to six months.

More recently, Jenkins and colleagues put people on about a 20 servings of fruit a day diet for a few weeks and found no adverse effects on weight or blood pressure or triglycerides, and an astounding 38 point drop in LDL cholesterol.

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There was one side effect, though. Given the 44 servings of vegetables they had on top of all that fruit, they recorded the largest bowel movements apparently ever documented in a dietary intervention.

From the editor: Here’s a short video from Dr. Greger discussing how sugar in its natural form (fruit) and industrials sugars, including fructose, table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup, have a different effect on the body.

The Difference Between Sugar in Fruit and Added Sugar

As Dr. Greger says:

Absolutely, we should stuff our face with as many fruits and vegetables as possible. But indeed, we need to eliminate or reduce, on a day-to-day basis, our consumption of added industrial sugars.

  • Do you eat fruit regularly?
  • Does this change the way you think about fruit?

Read Next:

  • Summer Fruits You’ll Love for Their Incredible Health Benefits and Tempting Tastes (Including 3 That Are Surprisingly Healthy!)
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Can You Eat Too Much Fruit? Dietitians Discuss the Downsides of Nature’s Candy

holding fruit

We’ve all heard for decades how great fruit is for our health, with studies linking fruit consumption to everything from reduced risk of cardiovascular disease to lower BMI. On the MyPlate food guide—the easy-to-follow visual guidelines from the USDA designed to help people prepare nutritious, well-balanced meals—fruit occupies a sizable portion of the plate graphic. In fact, fruit comprises nearly a quarter of the plate alongside vegetables, with guidance suggesting you help yourself to a combination of fruits and vegetables capable of comprising half your plate. However, is it possible that someone might eat too much fruit? Is there even such a thing as eating too much fruit?

If you live with diabetes or are concerned about sweets in your diet, you may find yourself avoiding fruit due to its high sugar content. After all, there’s a reason why it sometimes gets the nickname “nature’s candy.” Also, if more sugar equals more pounds and you’re concerned about weight gain, you might wonder if you should limit the amount of fruit you eat daily to help manage your weight.

To better understand how much is too much of nature’s candy, we tapped a few dietitians to answer this burning question: Can you really eat too much fruit? Keep reading to find out what these nutrition experts think about the prospect of eating too much fruit—and for more dietitian-approved healthy eating advice, be sure to also explore the Surprising Side Effects of Not Eating Fruit, Say Dietitians.

Some potential downsides of eating too much fruit

eating oatmeal with fruit, nuts, and seeds and coffee

Allow me to start by reiterating that fruit is an incredibly healthy food with tremendous benefits! However, overdoing it on any food comes with downsides—and fruit is no exception. Though apples, berries, citrus, and other fruits provide natural hydration and tons of important nutrients, if you eat so many of them that you exclude other food groups, you could land in trouble. 6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e

“Too much fruit can cause you to eat less of other food like healthy fats and proteins,” explains Amanda Lane, MS, RDN, CDCES, founder of Healthful Lane Nutrition. Going without these critical nutrients could eventually lead to harmful deficiencies.

Believe it or not, reaching for too many fruits could backfire and counter your health and wellness efforts, if your primary aim is ultimately to lose weight.

“Eating too much fruit at one sitting may spike your blood sugar, leaving you with cravings,” says Bonnie Newlin, MS, RD, CLT, of Crave Nourishment.

How eating too much fruit can impact certain health conditions

For people with prediabetes or diabetes, it’s essential to keep an eye on carbs—which fruits contain in abundance. According to Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet, people with these conditions do need to exercise caution around these naturally sweet foods.

“Although eating a diet rich in whole produce has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, most fruit contains a source of carbohydrate—so balance is key,” says Palinski-Wade. “Fruit portion size needs to be considered as well as what the fruit is paired with.”

For fruit intake to folks with diabetes or prediabetes, Palinski-Wade recommends sticking to one serving of fruit per meal or snack, and to combine this with a source of protein, fiber, or fat.

Other health issues could also put the kibosh on eating extra helpings of fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, especially for those with gastrointestinal problems.

“With GI conditions, high-fiber foods may be challenging to digest or cause GI discomfort such as gas and bloating,” explains Palinski-Wade. “Because food tolerance with conditions such as IBS or IBD are highly individualized, it is best to work with a healthcare professional to determine what fruit is best tolerated and if any restrictions apply,” she adds.

Do other health benefits outweigh concerns about sugar?

Woman eating bowl of fruit

OK, so fruit contains lots of sugar—but it’s naturally occurring, not artificially added. Does that make a difference for health? According to Newlin, the answer is yes. (Woohoo!)

“The body responds differently to added sugars verses natural sugars,” explains Newlin. “Natural sugars found in fruit are delivered into your bloodstream gradually due to the presence of nutrients like fiber and polyphenols. The body has to break down these nutrients, which means the sugar is absorbed into body more slowly, creating less of a blood sugar spike.”

Palinski-Wade agrees that the vitamins, minerals, and fiber in fruit help balance out the potential drawback of its sugar content.

“The beneficial nutrients fruit contains outweigh the limited risk of consuming natural sugars, and should not be avoided,” Palinski-Wade advises. “Research has shown that diets containing whole fruit can promote a variety of health benefits. Since most adults do not meet the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, adding more fruit to the diet is beneficial for most people.”

So, how much fruit can you eat in a day?

Clearly, fruit makes a healthy choice in meals and snacks—but turning into a total fruitarian isn’t necessarily the goal.

“Four to five servings of fruits is an acceptable upper level,” explains Lane.

Lane adds that though eating this much fruit is fine, you should also remember to always strive for moderation and variety on your plate.

“Make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of non-starchy vegetables, legumes, whole grains and plant or animal proteins [too], as part of a balanced diet,” Lane advises.

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Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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