Since we’ve been kids, we’ve always been told that we should be eating ‘5 portions of fruit and veg a day’ – then articles started telling us that we shouldn’t eat any fruit at all, while the Irish government recently said we should be eating 5-9 portions of fruit and veg per day… what are we meant to believe? Is there such a thing as too much fruit? And it’s also important to note, that somewhere along the way, people have forgotten that vegetables are part of the ‘guidelines’ above.
Some people shun fruit completely due to it’s carb and sugar content, and others eat all the fruit they can as it’s rich in nutrients. Ideally, the right amount should lie somewhere in between both extremes, and it can vary from person to person.
Ideally, most of us should stick to 2-4 fruit servings a day. Either one cup or a piece of fruit about the size of a baseball makes up one serving.
However, if you are quite active and lead an active lifestyle then your fruit needs might change a bit. Myself for instance, I have one serving of fruit for breakfast, and then again about 11am as a snack. However if I’m going training in the evening then I might grab a banana pre-exercise. But that’s okay.
Your fruit needs are based on your fuel needs and therefore you shouldn’t eat an unlimited amount of fruit or you can overdo it. Fruit is packed with nutrients, but it is also a major source of carbs.
Eg. One medium, apple or a small banana contains about 20 grams of carbs.
I am not condemning carbs in any way, no, quite the opposite, it is crucial that we get a healthy amount of carbs every day to fuel our daily activity. However, as always we need to be mindful of Calories in V Calories out, and when you eat more carbs than you burn, then the surplus can either feed existing fat or increase your body fat stores. That is why you need to be mindful of Fruit portions – your total carb intake (including fruit) – should all correspond to your fuel needs determined by your height, weight, gender, age and activity levels.
Another thing worth mentioning here is that as fruit is a carb, WHEN you eat it can make a big difference. Snacking on fruit while watching TV late at night may be healthier than eating that packet of biscuits, however, it can create a daily carb surplus if you don’t burn enough calories throughout the day.
My advice, try and eat fruit before or after you’re going to be a little more active, so that the carbs are used for fuel. If you really do enjoy eating fruit in the evening, try and limit it to a portion.
How can you tell if you’re consuming too much fruit?
- You’re frequently bloated – Fruit is a classic bloat trigger due to it’s sugar type called fructose. Unfortunately our digestive systems are not well equipped to digest and absorb large amounts of fructose. Sometimes fruit can sit in the gut and ferments with the help of bacteria resulting in a lot of gas and bloating.
- You have diarrhoea or IBS – Along with bloating, fruit can mess with our digestion due to the fructose being mal absorbed. Fruits carry seeds so they sometimes are not fully digested by our systems. This can lead to diarrhoea. Some might suffer from IBS when eating fruit as many fruits are rich in a certain fibre that some people’s digestive systems can’t break down.
- You can’t lose weight – ties in with the entire article surrounding carbs and sugars. Calories in V Calories out.
- You Always Crave Sugar – Eating fruit spikes your blood sugar, and doesn’t sustain you for very long. Sometimes after having fruit as a snack you might notice that you’re satisfied for a little while but then your tummy starts rumbling and you get cravings. This is because foods that spike your blood sugar levels cause a sugar-hunger connection. Fructose doesn’t trigger the release of leptin, a hormone that signals satiety but actually triggers the release of ghrelin, a hunger stimulating hormone instead. No wonder eating fruit makes you want to eat more fruit.
Take home Points
The nutrients in fruit however are worth the carbs. Natural substances like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and prebiotic do wonders for your health.
The nutrients found in one fruit family aka berries, are not the same as those found in say citrus fruits. So rather than limiting yourself to just apples and berries, aim for variety.
And lastly, don’t freak out about sugar. The sugar found in fruits in unrefined, less concentrated and bundled in with a number of other nutrients.
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.