In today’s article I’d like to discuss, “Can eating too much fruit cause weight gain?”
I can just imagine many of you recoiling in horror just at the mere mention that fruit may potentially be hampering your weight loss efforts (or worse, making you put on weight).
I mean we’ve gone through a number of decades now where we read or hear government sponsored messages about ensuring we eat the recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Although, even these messages can be somewhat confusing.
Here in the UK we are typically told to eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, where the ideal proportion is three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit.
With that said, I have seen opposing information in various countries, where some even suggest up to 9 servings a day.
However, one thing that we can rely on is that fruit is definitely good for you, and can help us maintain, or even lose, weight.
Or so we thought.
Can Eating Too Much Fruit Cause Weight Gain?
Firstly, before I go any further I want to tell you about my story.
I grew up as your typical child who would do anything to avoid eating fruit.
I recall my parents trying to get me to eat more fruit, and their creative ways of trying to achieve this.
My father used to chop up an apple into tiny square blocks and place a cocktail stick into each individual piece.
This practice was inspired by “party food” and I even remember eating fresh pineapple in the same way (although I would have much preferred this with the cheese to still be attached, and a cocktail sausage or three).
I even used to share a satsuma with my mother at the same time every evening.
However, in truth, no matter how hard they tried, my parents were fighting a losing battle.
I’d frequently hide fruit pieces in a folded up tissue placed in my pocket to be disposed of later.
I’d take my empty plate back to dad and exclaim “all gone” to his delight.
Things didn’t improve much as I grew older. I was always more partial to a chocolate bar, cake, dessert, packet of crisps (potato chips), and a fizzy drink.
These wonderful joyous snacks provided me with so much more happiness than a boring pear or bunch of grapes.
With that said, I have always been into my fitness and exercise (although healthy eating took a back seat for many years), and eventually at some point in my late twenties I decided that “eating right” was the way forward.
I actually became pretty obsessed for a while and was eating the perfect split of macros, but fruit still didn’t really get a look-in.
I was wolfing down many vegetables, typically by pinching my nose and trying to swallow them without chewing (or tasting), but fruit still remained my nemesis.
This is when I finally decided to get myself a blender.
The supermarkets now sold frozen fruit and I could whizz these up in my blender with other accompaniments in order to make a tasty treat, a smoothie if you will.
I eventually settled on a pre-workout drink that contained a suitable amount of calories, as well as protein, carbs and fats.
Something along the lines of – 3 tablespoons of oats, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a giant handful of frozen fruit, a dash of honey (my idea of a dash leaves a lot to be desired), and all topped up with a dairy free milk.
Wonderful, I was finally getting more fruit into my life.
To my horror over a period of a few weeks I found that I had started to put on weight and my belly was definitely more bulky than it had been the previous month.
It had to be the peanut butter, right?
After disposing of the peanut butter I continued my early morning, fruit-based cocktail swilling, but things seemed to get worse.
It had to be the honey, right?
Gone was the honey and yet that belly started bulging more than the week before.
After losing more-and-more ingredients, week-after-week, I was down to fruit and water, so obviously I had to be onto a winner.
As it turns out, NO.
This led me to research whether eating too much fruit can cause weight gain, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned.
The Truth About Fruit
I’m sure like many of you, I always viewed fruit as a “free food”.
So, when I eventually joined the fruit-eating party I assumed I could eat as much of it as I wanted.
Serving sizes meant nothing to me, as far as I was concerned fruit is nutritious and full of fibre, so the more I had the better it would be for me.
Unfortunately, the “more of a good thing is better” attitude has pretty much been the bane of my life in just about every area you can think of, although I’m starting to learn that moderation is the key (no more 2-3 hour workouts for me).
As it turns out, when it comes to fruit being a “free food” nothing could be further from the truth.
Now I’m not saying that we should all completely eradicate fruit from our diet, and the nutritious and fibre part is certainly true, but there’s also much more to eating fruit than that.
Fruit contains various natural sugars including, sucrose, fructose, and glucose.
I discovered that fructose is actually harmful in large amounts, although you’ll find it extremely difficult to consume too much fructose from just eating fruit.
I already knew that free sugars were bad.
Although free sugars still contain sucrose, fructose, and glucose, as they have been removed from their natural source they can lead to weight gain and dental problems.
A prime example of products containing free sugars would be cakes, sweets, candies, lollies, etc.
With that said, fruit still contains the same sugars that are found in these products containing free sugars.
Something else to consider is that eating too much of any food, irrespective of what it is, can cause you to put on weight or halt your weight loss efforts.
Granted, fruits have a higher water content and fewer calories than many other foods, and are therefore far less likely to lead to weight gain, as you’d have to eat a far greater amount to overdo it on the calories.
However, it’s important to know that fruit typically has three times the number of calories per serving as non-starchy vegetables. Therefore, it is possible to consume too many calories of fruit.
Once I was aware that fruit was not a “free food” (silly me) I started to investigate the number of calories in certain items of fruit.
I was greeted with figures such as 116 calories in a large apple, 121 calories in a large banana.
You can check the FDAs fruits nutrition facts here
I always knew that berries were good for you in terms of our overall health, vitamins, nutrients, and certainly for weight loss.
However, I was getting through a 500g packet of frozen berries in about 3 days.
As it turns out that was also over 100 calories per serving, and juicing or blending fruit makes matters even worse (more on that in a moment).
For me, in terms of weight gain and that ever-expanding waistline, the main culprit was blending, but as I say I’ll get to that very soon.
However, if you are aiming for the recommended 2-3 portions a day, then you are potentially consuming another 300-400 calories a day.
This has to be taken into consideration for your daily calorie allowance, especially if you’re looking to lose weight.
Plus, if you’re anything like I was, and you see fruit as “free food” and eat as much as possible, well you could be getting into the realms of consuming in excess of 500-600 calories a day in addition to whatever else you’re eating.
Is Blending/Juicing Fruit Bad For You?
I alluded to above that one of the main culprits for me putting on weight (apart from the gigantic amounts of fruit I was consuming) was the fact that I was blending them.
As it turns out blending or juicing fruit isn’t as great as we’d like to believe it to be.
In fact, for those of you who became (or still are) part of the blending/juicing craze, I’m sorry to tell you that you may as well be consuming the various “free sugars” that we associate with chocolate, candies, cookies, cakes, desserts, etc.
You’re basically consuming the same thing anyway, so if you’re going to sabotage your weight loss efforts you may as well enjoy yourself.
Okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but not as much as you would think.
As soon as you blend fruit the natural sugars are released from within the fruit’s cell walls, thus creating “free sugars” (remember, sucrose, fructose, and glucose that has been removed from its natural source).
Unfortunately blended fruit (and fruit put through a juicer) doesn’t carry the same nutritional value as the whole fruit itself.
Obviously, many of the properties remain, but a lot of the “goodness” is removed.
I spoke of fruit containing fibre, which is made up of soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre will remain intact following the blending process, but insoluble fibre is typically broken down.
Soluble fibre will help to slow the digestion process down, while also helping you to absorb nutrients from the foods (including fruit) that you eat.
So, whenever you hear that fibre is good for us because it helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer, this refers to the soluble part.
Insoluble fibre is the type of fibre that no-one really wants to talk about, but it is ultimately essential in the workings of the gastrointestinal system.
Basically, insoluble fibre will add bulk to your stool, which will aid the stool to pass more quickly through the intestines, thus helping you to poop.
In terms of weight loss (and avoiding weight gain) pooping is good.
Actually, come to think of it, pooping is good for the general workings of the human body.
Never have I said (or written) the word poop so much in space of 30 seconds. Right, no more “poop talk”.
The other thing about blending fruit, which didn’t really occur to me is that you are consuming your calories at a far quicker pace.
So, in effect I was consuming around 3 portions of fruit in about 1 minute flat.
However, if I was to sit down and eat those fruits whole, and actually go through the entire eating process of chewing, salivation, and swallowing, this same amount of fruit would have probably taken me about an hour to eat.
I know for a fact I would have stopped a lot earlier, thus meaning I would’ve eaten less and consumed fewer calories (and let’s not forget this wouldn’t have involved the break down of insoluble fibre and the production of free sugars).
The Effects of Natural Sugar vs. Refined Sugar In the Body
A Quick Word On Dried Fruits
I remember the start of the dried fruit revolution a number of years ago.
It was heralded as an easier way to get some fruit into your diet, while also helping you to lose weight.
We then started to understand that certain types of fats were good for us, especially those found in various nuts and seeds.
And before long the fruit and nut snack packets were born and soon adorning the aisles and shelves of supermarkets and grocery stores.
In my attempt to increase my fruit intake (and my dietary consumption of “good fats”) I was chowing down on these delicious snacks on a daily basis.
However, as with pretty much everything I do, I started to overdo it, and I was probably consuming around 3-4 ”servings” in one hit.
Dried fruit are nutrient dense in sugars and calories and therefore should be eaten in moderation, just the same as whole fruits, but on a much smaller scale.
I would suggest that you don’t eat dried fruit (or the fruit and nut mixture) directly from the bag.
A serving will be around a small handful (around 20g) and you shouldn’t really do this more than a couple of times a day.
How Much Fruit Should You Be Eating?
This is the most important aspect of eating fruit in terms of losing weight, and of course weight gain.
The general advice is to stick to 2-3 servings of fruit a day, but what exactly is a serving.
A serving in terms of a whole fruit such as apples, oranges, bananas, etc. would typically be one medium-sized item a day.
So, just going by the above example, if you ate one apple, one orange, and one banana a day, you would be getting plenty of essential vitamins, nutrients, and fibre, without having to worry about gaining weight.
In fact, you could even pick just two items just to be on the safe side.
However, we know certain fruits, such as berries, are really good for us, so how do we decipher the correct quantity to eat?
This is where one of the most annoying (to me anyway) measurements of food comes into play – the cup.
Oh my, I can’t even begin to tell you the pure frustration (and anger) that boils through my veins whenever I hear anyone mention “a cup” when it comes to cooking or food measurements.
I mean, what is a cup anyway?
Well after some research it turns out that a cup for food measurement is approximately 250ml, which just happens to be standard size for an average “cup” (as in tea and coffee cup) in most countries.
With that said, just to confuse matters a little further (and possibly a way to make me slightly more angry), in terms of fruits, such as berries or chopped up mangoes, melons, etc. a cup constitutes half a cup.
Right, thanks for that, it’s as clear as mud.
Basically, get your normal-sized coffee cup, pour in some mixed berries to about the halfway point, and you now have the perfect serving (apparently).
Once again, 2-3 servings a day is ample in terms of health benefits, and you won’t have to worry about putting on weight.
What Are the Best Types of Fruit to Eat?
So, we know that fruits are packed with vitamins, nutrients, dietary fibre, and they also happen to contain phytonutrients, but some are definitely more nutritionally dense than others.
Your best option is to stick to fruits that have the highest fibre content and the lowest sugar content, such as:
It’s also a great idea to enjoy a wide assortment of colours when it comes to eating fruit, and the various colours each have their own unique phytochemicals.
It is these phytochemicals that give fruit their vibrant colours, health benefits, as well as their disease-fighting qualities.
A prime example of this is the orange pigment found in fruits including, clementines, nectarines, mangoes, apricots, papaya, etc. contain beta-carotene.
This is antioxidant which has huge benefits for the health of our eyes and skin.
Who would’ve thought that eating too much fruit could cause weight gain?
But, the evidence is clear.
So, we have learned that fruits contain sugars, the exact same sugars (that when removed from their original source) that are found in many sweets, desserts and sugary snacks.
Therefore, by blending or juicing fruit you are in fact removing these sugars from their original source, and it is this practice that led to my own weight gain.
We are also aware that there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” and fruit should not be considered a “free food”, as this once again can lead to you putting on weight.
Finally, sticking to certain portion sizes and particular items of fruit will ensure that those scales don’t move in the wrong direction.
I’m happy to announce that my own daily fruit intake is still in full flourish, but in far more controlled portion sizes.
I sprinkle my morning oats with a small handful of strawberries and blueberries (as well as a small amount of milled seeds and nuts).
I eat a banana every day just prior to my workout, and I often reminisce in the early evenings while enjoying a satsuma (without stuffing any of it into my pocket).
Thank you for reading.