How much fruit is too much?
Mixed messages about sugar in recent years has caused some confusion about where fruit fits as part of a healthy diet. Some diets ban it altogether, while others remind us that naturally occurring sugars such as fructose (found naturally in fruit) and lactose (found naturally in dairy foods) are very different to the added refined sugars found in processed foods. So can you eat as much fruit as you like, and how much is too much?
Fruit, depending on the type provides a wide range of different nutrients including Vitamin C, beta carotene, Vitamin K as well as carbohydrates for energy and dietary fibre. The average piece of fruit contains 80-120 calories which is equivalent to a slice of bread. Some varieties of fruit have slighter higher amounts of sugars than others, but overall the differences are relatively small. For example a large banana may have 5-10g more natural sugar than a small peach or apple but in the diet overall these differences are not significant.
The same can be said for the glycaemic index of different types of fruit. While some types of fruit including watermelon and bananas have a higher glycaemic index than others, meaning they release their sugar more quickly into the bloodstream than fruit that has a lower GI, the calorie content of all types of fruit is relatively low. This means that all fruit is a good choice, whether it has a high GI or not.
The two exceptions to this rule are dried fruit and fruit juice. Both of these forms of fruit result in the energy content of the fruit being concentrated. For example, an average box of sultanas contains as much carbohydrate or sugar as two pieces of regular fruit. While juicing fruit, again results in you getting a much more concentrated source of energy, without the fibre and bulk that actually eating the fruit provides. For this reason, fresh fruit is always much better than any processed varieties.
From a weight control perspective, if you model different diets to determine how much of each food group we need to not only satisfy our nutrient requirements but to avoid taking in too many calories, the average Australian adult needs at most two to three pieces of fruit each day. Naturally this quantity can be increased for extremely active people, but if you consider that up to 60% of Australian adults are overweight, many of us need less food and two to three pieces of fruit is more than enough.
When it comes to choosing better different types of fruit, generally speaking all types of fresh fruit are good choices. Eat the types you enjoy and perhaps target different types of fruit for different reasons as part of your overall healthy diet. For example choosing a banana when you need an energy boost, and a daily serve of berries for an antioxidant hit. Fruit is one of nature’s superfoods, and two to three pieces each day forms part of a balanced, healthy diet so you can feel free to enjoy its natural sweetness minus the food guilt.
Fruit | Total cal | Total carbohydrate (g)
Banana | 100 | 20
Mango | 120 | 25
2 peaches | 100 | 18
Cup of grapes | 115 | 25
1 cup strawberries | 35 | 5
Box of sultanas | 75 | 17
6 dried apricots | 100 | 19
250mls fruit juice | 120 | 19