Fruit has been quite a hot subject in the health and wellness industry in the last few years, with debate going back and forth as to how large a role fruit should play in a healthy diet, which ones we should eat, and how and when we should consume them.

However, I think it’s first important to stress that the validity of nutritional advice is very often dependent on the specific health circumstances and goals of the reader. With that in mind, please accept any recommendations or advice here as guidelines, which you can tweak, based on your unique situation and goals.

So, fruit. Delicious, colorful, convenient, nutritious – what’s not to like?

While our not-to-distant ancestors had a relatively narrow selection of much smaller, less sweet and only seasonable available fruit at their disposal, in modern society, we pretty much have access to all the worlds fruits at any time we like, sounds great right?

Well, maybe. Today fruit is considered a nutritious food, which we are encouraged to consume regularly, and for good reason. Fruit contains many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients, which help our body function properly. However, it also contains sugar, which is why we should be mindful of how much we consume.

Specifically, fruit is high in a sugar called Fructose. There are many types of sugar, such as Glucose, Sucrose, Galactose, Lactose, Maltose etc. but what makes Fructose different? Well, the main difference is that it is metabolized entirely in the Liver, whereas Glucose goes from you digestive tract almost exclusively to your blood and then on to many parts of the body that need it to make energy. Though the biochemistry is somewhat complex, the Liver will basically breakdown Fructose to Glucose and take what it needs for immediate use, and a little extra for storage. But what does it do with any excess? Well, again, this is a simplification, but it converts that remaining glucose to Triglycerides and they get stored as fat! Specifically, the type of fat around the organs and mid-section that many find it so difficult to get rid of.

That’s not all. Although Fructose doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on blood sugar, many fruits also contain Glucose, and Glucose does affect blood sugar. Why is this important? Well, I’ll have to devote another article to this topic in the future, but again, if there is too much Glucose floating around in the blood, then the hormone Insulin comes along and removes it, bringing some to the Liver and some to the muscles to store for later use (when we need energy). Here again, the problem is that if there is too much, some of this excess gets converted to fat for ‘long-term’ storage, and again, often around the waistline where it is so hard to get rid of.

But having said all that, don’t be scared! Fruit is still a very important component of a healthy diet that you can and should continue to enjoy. So to help you do so, here are some guidelines to keep in mind. (By the way, this list will already assume you are mostly staying away from the really bad non-fruit sources of sugar like flavoured beverages, sodas, candy, sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup etc.)

  1. Avoid store-bought fruit juice. Limit or eliminate store-bought juices like orange-juice, apple-juice etc. These drinks are often very high in sugar and can lead to accidentally going way over your daily sugar limit.
  2. Do smoothies correctly. Smoothies are great, but they are not healthy just because you filled your blender with fruit and called it a ‘Smoothie’. Done properly, smoothies are a super convenient (and tasty) way to get a concentrated blast of nutrients, but be careful not to use too much fruit. 1-2 half-servings of fruit, combined with a lot of green leafy vegetables, healthy nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut oil, whatever you like, just be sure to use fruit as one of many ingredients, and not the only one!
  3. Consider activity level. Fruit provides us with energy, but we don’t always need the same amount of energy. For example, some days we may be more active than others. On the days that I have a really hard Muay Thai workout, I feel comfortable consuming a little more fruit. I treat it as a reward for my hard work, but it also helps me to replenish my depleted supplies (Glycogen).
  4. Eat fruit post-exercise. Eating fruit after exercise will replenish your Glycogen stores but it will also help promote growth and recovery (another topic I will explore in the future). 
  5. Fruit in the evening? Eat the majority of your fruit (and carbohydrates) in the afternoon, for better focus and energy levels throughout the day, and better sleep at night. This is a personal diet ‘hack’ that I have found useful, which may not appeal to everyone, but I thought I would include it so you could give it a try!
  6. Low Glycemic Load. For the fruits you eat most regularly, try to focus on low-Glycemic Load fruits like strawberries, blueberries, grapefruit, lemon, oranges, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple etc.
  7. Limit dried fruit. Dried fruit can be delicious, but again, I use it as a very occasional treat. Common dried fruits like dates, figs and raisins are very high in sugar and have a very high Glycemic Load.
  8. Fresh and seasonal. When given the choice, choose fruit that has been freshly grown or picked, and which is ‘in season’ in your environment. This helps ensure your fruit contains the highest amount of nutrients possible, but also allows for some pleasant diversity in your diet which many traditional medicine systems believe helps to maintain a harmony between your body and the natural environment.
  9. The dose makes the poison. It’s difficult to recommend a general amount of fruit that everyone should eat. As I said, it depends on many variables. In general, you should be safe in the 1-3 servings per day, depending on your activity levels, body composition goals, type of fruit consumed etc.
  10. Enjoy! Don’t forget that ultimately, optimizing your diet should be about figuring out what works for you so that you can feel your best and enjoy life to the fullest! Have fun experimenting on yourself and try not to take it too seriously!
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