Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. In fact, diets high in fruit are associated with all sorts of health benefits, including a decreased risk of many diseases. However, some people are concerned with the sugar content of fruit and worry that eating too much of it may be harmful. So how many servings of fruit should you eat each day to be healthy? And is it possible to eat too much?
Fruit Is Rich in Many Important Nutrients
The nutrient composition of fruit varies greatly among the different types, but all varieties contain important nutrients. For starters, fruit tends to be high in vitamins and minerals. These include vitamin C, potassium and folate, of which many people don’t get enough. Fruit is also high in fiber, which has many health benefits. Eating fiber may help lower cholesterol, increase feelings of fullness and contribute to weight loss over time. What’s more, fruits are loaded with antioxidants, which help fight free radicals that can damage cells. Eating a diet high in antioxidants may help slow aging and reduce the risk of disease. Because different fruits contain different amounts of nutrients, it is important to eat a variety of them to maximize the health benefits.
Summary: Fruit is high in important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Eat many different types to get the most benefits.
Eating Fruit Can Help You Lose Weight
Fruits are high in nutrients and relatively low in calories, making them a great choice for those looking to lose weight. What’s more, they are high in water and fiber, which help you feel full. Because of this, you can typically eat fruit until you’re satisfied, without consuming a lot of calories. In fact, multiple studies indicate that eating fruit is associated with lower calorie intake and may contribute to weight loss over time. Apples and citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit, are among the most filling. It is also important to note that whole, solid fruit is much more filling than puréed fruit or juice, which you can typically consume a lot of without feeling full. Studies show that drinking a lot of fruit juice is linked with increased calorie intake and may increase your risk of obesity and other serious diseases. In other words, avoid drinking a lot of fruit juice and enjoy whole fruits instead.
Summary: Eating whole fruit may help you consume fewer calories and lose weight over time. However, drinking fruit juice may have the opposite effect.
Eating Fruit May Lower Your Risk of Disease
Research consistently shows that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of many serious diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. While many studies look at fruit and vegetable consumption as a whole, there are a few studies that explore the benefits of fruits specifically. One review of nine studies found that each additional serving of fruit eaten each day reduced the risk of heart disease by 7%. Another study showed that eating fruits like grapes, apples and blueberries is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Citrus fruits, in particular, can raise the levels of citrate in your urine, which lowers the risk of kidney stones. Increased fruit intake can also help lower blood pressure and reduce oxidative stress, which may decrease the risk of heart disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables is also associated with improved blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
Summary: There are many studies indicating that fruit intake is associated with a lower risk of many serious diseases, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Is Fruit Safe for People With Diabetes?
Most dietary recommendations for people with diabetes suggest eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Current nutrition guidelines recommend that people with diabetes consume 2–4 servings of fruit per day, which is the same as the general population. Still, some people restrict the amount they eat because they are worried about the sugar content. However, studies show that when sugar is consumed in a whole fruit, it has very little effect on blood sugar levels. What’s more, fruit is high in fiber, which actually slows the digestion and absorption of sugar, improving overall blood sugar control). The fiber in fruit can also reduce insulin resistance and may help protect against type 2 diabetes. Fruits also contain polyphenols, which have been shown to improve blood sugar control. Furthermore, eating more fruits and vegetables has been linked with lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in people with diabetes. That being said, not all fruits are created equal. Some of them raise blood sugar more than others, and diabetics are encouraged to monitor their blood sugar levels after eating to figure out which foods they should limit.
Summary: Fruit does contain sugar, but its fiber and polyphenols may actually improve long-term blood sugar control and protect against type 2 diabetes.
What About People Following a Low-Carb Diet?
Some people consider eating 100–150 grams of carbs per day to be “low-carb.” Others strive to get into nutritional ketosis and reduce carb intake to below 50 grams per day. This type of diet is called a ketogenic diet and goes beyond the standard low-carb diet. The average piece of fruit contains anywhere from 15–30 grams of carbs, so the amount of you should eat depends entirely on how many grams of carbs you want to consume each day. Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of room to include fruit on a ketogenic diet. That’s not to say ketogenic diets are unhealthy, though. In fact, following a ketogenic diet can help you lose weight and can even help fight several diseases. Of all fruit, berries are the lowest in carbs. So if you’re counting carbs, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are all excellent choices. At the end of the day, fruits are very nutritious, but they don’t contain any nutrients that you can’t get from other foods, like vegetables. If you choose to follow a ketogenic diet and greatly restrict your carb intake, it’s fine to avoid fruits as long as you are getting those nutrients from other foods. For everyone else, fruit can and should be part of a healthy low-carb diet.
Summary: Fruit can be a healthy part of a low-carb diet. However, people who follow a very low-carb ketogenic diet may want to avoid fruit.
Is It Possible to Eat Too Much Fruit?
It’s been established that fruit is good for you, but can “too much” be harmful? First of all, when eating whole fruit, it’s rather difficult to eat too much. This is because fruits are very high in water and fiber, which makes them incredibly filling — to the point where you will likely feel full after just one piece. Because of this, it is very difficult to eat large amounts of fruit every day. In fact, fewer than 1 in 10 Americans meet the minimum daily fruit recommendation. Even though eating large amounts of fruit each day is very unlikely, a few studies have examined the effects of eating 20 servings each day. In one study, 10 people ate 20 servings of fruit per day for two weeks and experienced no adverse effects. In a slightly larger study, 17 people ate 20 servings of fruit per day for several months with no adverse effects. In fact, researchers even found possible health benefits. Although these studies are small, they provide reason to believe that fruit is safe to eat in any amount. At the end of the day, if you eat fruit until you feel full, it is almost impossible to eat “too much.” Nevertheless, it’s important to note that fruit should ideally be consumed as part of a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of other whole foods.
Summary: For the average person, fruit is safe in almost any amount. Unless you have an intolerance or are following a very low-carb or ketogenic diet, there really is no reason to limit your intake.
How Much Fruit Is Optimal?
Though it’s possible to eat healthy while eating very little or a lot of fruit, the ideal amount lies somewhere in the middle. The general recommendation for fruit and vegetable intake is at least 400 grams per day, or five servings of 80 grams. One 80-gram serving is equivalent to a small piece about the size of a tennis ball. For fruits and vegetables that can be measured by the cup, a serving is roughly 1 cup. This recommendation stems from the fact that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily is associated with a lower risk of death from diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer. One large analysis of 16 scientific studies found that eating more than five servings per day provides no added benefit. However, another systematic review of 95 scientific studies found the lowest disease risk at 800 grams, or 10 daily servings. Keep in mind that these studies looked at both fruits and vegetables. Assuming half of these servings come from fruit, you should consume somewhere between two to five servings of fruit daily. Recommendations from different health authorities vary slightly, but generally seem to align with the current research. For example, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines recommend the average adult consume two servings of fruit per day, while the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults eat four to five servings of fruit per day.
Summary: Most studies show health benefits with two to five servings of fruit per day. However, there seems to be no harm in eating more than that.
The Bottom Line
Eating whole fruit promotes good health and can lower the risk of many serious diseases. Unless you are following a ketogenic diet or have some sort of intolerance, there really is no reason to limit the amount of fruit you eat. While most studies suggest that the optimal amount is two to five servings of fruit per day, there seems to be no harm in eating more.