Can You Eat Too Much Fruit? Dietitians Discuss the Downsides of Nature's Candy
We've all heard for decades how great fruit is for our health, with studies linking fruit consumption to everything from reduced risk of cardiovascular disease to lower BMI. On the MyPlate food guide—the easy-to-follow visual guidelines from the USDA designed to help people prepare nutritious, well-balanced meals—fruit occupies a sizable portion of the plate graphic. In fact, fruit comprises nearly a quarter of the plate alongside vegetables, with guidance suggesting you help yourself to a combination of fruits and vegetables capable of comprising half your plate. However, is it possible that someone might eat too much fruit? Is there even such a thing as eating too much fruit?
If you live with diabetes or are concerned about sweets in your diet, you may find yourself avoiding fruit due to its high sugar content. After all, there's a reason why it sometimes gets the nickname "nature's candy." Also, if more sugar equals more pounds and you're concerned about weight gain, you might wonder if you should limit the amount of fruit you eat daily to help manage your weight.
To better understand how much is too much of nature's candy, we tapped a few dietitians to answer this burning question: Can you really eat too much fruit? Keep reading to find out what these nutrition experts think about the prospect of eating too much fruit—and for more dietitian-approved healthy eating advice, be sure to also explore the Surprising Side Effects of Not Eating Fruit, Say Dietitians.
Some potential downsides of eating too much fruit
Allow me to start by reiterating that fruit is an incredibly healthy food with tremendous benefits! However, overdoing it on any food comes with downsides—and fruit is no exception. Though apples, berries, citrus, and other fruits provide natural hydration and tons of important nutrients, if you eat so many of them that you exclude other food groups, you could land in trouble.
"Too much fruit can cause you to eat less of other food like healthy fats and proteins," explains Amanda Lane, MS, RDN, CDCES, founder of Healthful Lane Nutrition. Going without these critical nutrients could eventually lead to harmful deficiencies.
Believe it or not, reaching for too many fruits could backfire and counter your health and wellness efforts, if your primary aim is ultimately to lose weight.
"Eating too much fruit at one sitting may spike your blood sugar, leaving you with cravings," says Bonnie Newlin, MS, RD, CLT, of Crave Nourishment.
How eating too much fruit can impact certain health conditions
For people with prediabetes or diabetes, it's essential to keep an eye on carbs—which fruits contain in abundance. According to Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet, people with these conditions do need to exercise caution around these naturally sweet foods.
"Although eating a diet rich in whole produce has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, most fruit contains a source of carbohydrate—so balance is key," says Palinski-Wade. "Fruit portion size needs to be considered as well as what the fruit is paired with."
For fruit intake to folks with diabetes or prediabetes, Palinski-Wade recommends sticking to one serving of fruit per meal or snack, and to combine this with a source of protein, fiber, or fat.
Other health issues could also put the kibosh on eating extra helpings of fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, especially for those with gastrointestinal problems.
"With GI conditions, high-fiber foods may be challenging to digest or cause GI discomfort such as gas and bloating," explains Palinski-Wade. "Because food tolerance with conditions such as IBS or IBD are highly individualized, it is best to work with a healthcare professional to determine what fruit is best tolerated and if any restrictions apply," she adds.
Do other health benefits outweigh concerns about sugar?
OK, so fruit contains lots of sugar—but it's naturally occurring, not artificially added. Does that make a difference for health? According to Newlin, the answer is yes. (Woohoo!)
"The body responds differently to added sugars verses natural sugars," explains Newlin. "Natural sugars found in fruit are delivered into your bloodstream gradually due to the presence of nutrients like fiber and polyphenols. The body has to break down these nutrients, which means the sugar is absorbed into body more slowly, creating less of a blood sugar spike."
Palinski-Wade agrees that the vitamins, minerals, and fiber in fruit help balance out the potential drawback of its sugar content.
"The beneficial nutrients fruit contains outweigh the limited risk of consuming natural sugars, and should not be avoided," Palinski-Wade advises. "Research has shown that diets containing whole fruit can promote a variety of health benefits. Since most adults do not meet the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, adding more fruit to the diet is beneficial for most people."
So, how much fruit can you eat in a day?
Clearly, fruit makes a healthy choice in meals and snacks—but turning into a total fruitarian isn't necessarily the goal.
"Four to five servings of fruits is an acceptable upper level," explains Lane.
Lane adds that though eating this much fruit is fine, you should also remember to always strive for moderation and variety on your plate.
"Make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of non-starchy vegetables, legumes, whole grains and plant or animal proteins [too], as part of a balanced diet," Lane advises.
- Source: https://www.myplate.gov/
- Source: https://myplate-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/2022-01/SSwMP%20Mini-Poster_English_Final2022.pdf
- Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/#:~:text=A%20diet%20rich%20in%20vegetables,help%20keep%20appetite%20in%20check.
- Source: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/