Ask the Diet Doctor: Is Fruit Really a "Free" Diet Food?
Find out how snacking on fresh fruit can ruin your weight-loss progress.
Q: Can I really eat as much fresh fruit as I want and still lose weight?
A: Unfortunately, no. Fresh fruit is a healthy choice and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants; however fruit still contains calories and carbohydrates. These are two things that can stop your weight-loss progress in its tracks if left unchecked.
Whether or not you should eat fruit while dieting has always been a controversial topic. The Internet is cluttered with articles claiming that eating fruit will make you fat, while more recently Weight Watchers has deemed fruit a 'zero points food' as part of the Points Plus system, allowing dieters to eat all the fruit they want without it impacting their daily points total.
Which is correct? Is your daily cup of blueberries to blame for that extra layer of belly fat you can't seem to burn off? Or is it an innocent bystander in your quest for your ideal body? One of the reasons that fruit is so controversial is because it can be a double-edged sword. While fruit is a very nutritious food that should be included in a weight loss diet, there may come a time when you will need to reduce or temporarily remove fruit from your diet to reach your goals. Let's take a closer look at both sides of this controversy.
Why Fruit is a Good Food for Weight Loss
The carbohydrates in fruit do not have a huge impact on your blood sugar levels, as most fruits have a low glycemic load. Fruits can also supply a significant dose of fiber to your diet, which will slow digestion and make you feel fuller. For example, just one cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber.
Fruits like blueberries are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help lower your blood pressure, fight off oxidative stress, and in some cases work at the DNA level to aid in weight loss.
Fruit has multiple benefits that warrant it being a staple in your diet; but what about its supposed dark side?
Why Fruit Might Hinder Weight Loss
Fruit is high in the simple sugar fructose, which is the main reason why many people trying to lose weight remove it from their diet. Unlike glucose, the most common simple sugar that's sent to your muscles, brain, and other organs for them to use as energy, fructose is only processed by your liver. Why is that bad? If your liver already has ample energy, there is a higher likelihood that your liver will repackage the excess fructose as fat, saving it for use at a later time. While this is a biochemical truth, its impact on your waistline is blown out of proportion, especially when you consider that fruit isn't even one of the top five sources of fructose in the American diet.
More relevant reasons why fruit should not be given the 'eat as much as you want' label: When you're trying to lose weight, calories and carbohydrates matter. One banana contains 100 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates. One apple can contain as much as 115 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates.
Limiting carbohydrate intake to 100 grams per day is a common target for people using a moderately carbohydrate-restricted approach to weight loss. If that is the case, eating two bananas and one apple will take up 84 percent of your carbohydrate intake for the entire day. Even if you are eating 1800 calories per day and 40 percent of those calories from carbohydrates (a 'zone' type approach), two bananas and one apple will take up 46 percent of your carbohydrates for that day.
The main point that I'm trying to illustrate is that fruits are not 'free' foods, and that treating them that way could quickly derail your weight-loss efforts. It's easy to eat 100 grams worth of carbohydrates in one day from fruit alone, and if you're treating them as if they have no caloric value, you will unknowingly be eating 400 extra calories per day.