FOOD

How Much Fruit Is Too Much, According To Health Experts

Let's sort the fruit facts from fiction.

22/03/2017 5:43 AM AEDT | Updated 22/03/2017 5:52 AM AEDT

Strangely, fruit is a contentious topic these days. It's commonplace to class fruit as 'good' or 'bad', so much so that people are afraid of bananas and apples, and only stick to certain fruits.

There's a lot of conflicting information out there about fruit and nutrition, leaving many of us asking: How much fruit should we really be eating? And how much fruit is too much?

To set the facts straight, The Huffington Post Australia spoke to Alexandra Parker and Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitians from The Biting Truth.

"There is a lot of confusion at the moment about where we find sugar and which ones we should be looking to reduce," Parker told HuffPost Australia.

"Sugar-free diets and concerns about fructose have lead to people removing fruit from their diet, which can have damaging effects on our long term health.

"The important thing to remember is that sugar in fruit is natural sugar and far less likely to lead to chronic disease or being overweight than the consumption of 'treat' foods that have had added sugar in them."

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Why should we include fruit in the first place?

"Fruits are chock-full of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytonutrients, which help us stay healthy and even reduce the risk of disease," Debenham said. "Fruit is low in kilojoules, making them a great choice for our waistlines."

But remember to not just stick to one type of fruit.

"Choosing a colourful assortment of fruits is important, as each colour carries its own set of unique disease-fighting chemicals called phytochemicals. It is these phytochemicals that give fruits their vibrant colours and, of course, some of their healthy properties.

"The orange pigment found in rockmelon, oranges and mangoes, for example, contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is important for our eyes and skin health."

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Tip: when having fruit, choose whole fruit over juice.

When we don't eat fruit, we remove or reduce the vitamins and minerals that help keep our bodies function optimally.

"Fruit is rich in antioxidants, which help to remove free radicals from our body, preventing diseases like cancer. When we don't eat fruits, we miss out on fibre which helps us to feel full and keeps our digestive systems healthy," Debenham said.

"In some extreme cases, removing fruit from your diet may result in nutrient deficiencies. For example, while very uncommon today, scurvy is still possible if you don't get enough vitamin C in your diet.

"Other nutrient deficiencies include anemia and weakness from magnesium deficiencies. You're also more prone to digestive problems, such as constipation, as the fibre in fruit aids digestion."

How much fruit is enough -- or too much?

Generally speaking, we should be aiming to eat two serves of fruit a day. A serve of fruit is equivalent to:

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruit or plums
  • 1 cup diced fruit (berries, grapes, fruit salad)

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Active people usually require more fruit (and food, in general) per day.

"As dietitians we've had clients on both ends of the spectrum," Debenham told HuffPost Australia. "While some remove fruit from their diet due to its sugar and carb content, others load up on it because it's full of nutrients.

"We believe that the ideal amount is somewhere in between and it differs slightly for each person. Generally speaking, you probably need somewhere between 2-4 servings of fruit a day to make sure that you are getting enough of other food groups."

For those with higher energy requirements, or on days you work out, that's when you might need those four servings of fruit.

"Some of the pro athletes may eat even more than four serves a day, which is important for them but wouldn't be a good choice for the rest of the population," Parker said.

For the majority of the people, four serves of fruit per day is the upper recommended limit.

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Breakfast is an easy way to fit in delicious fruits.

"The reason why we don't want to eat unlimited amounts of fruit each day is that, while it is loaded with nutrients, it's still a source of carbs and sugars and even too much of a healthy food can have negative effects, like weight gain," Parker explained.

"If you're eating too much fruit throughout the day, you're also likely to be replacing other important food groups."

In saying that, chances are you're not eating too much fruit -- shockingly, only two percent of Australians eat the required two serves of fruit and five serves of veg each day.

"It's safe to say we probably don't need to worry about eating too much," Debenham said. "The bottom line is that fruit is healthy and it's certainly a better option than reaching for the biscuit jar or vending machine."


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