Is Eating Fruit Really Good for You?
The second habit in our Simple 9© nutritional program is Eat 2 to 3 Servings of Fruit a Day. Seems like a simple enough habit to adopt, right? But most Americans, including toddlers, eat little or no fruit.
Perhaps Americans don’t eat much fruit because we don’t find fruit in “king size” proportions at every retail store checkout lane in America. Maybe we’ve become so addicted to sugar that something as tasty as an apple has the palatability of cardboard. Or maybe we’re misinformed by the “carb haters” who believe people should avoid fruit because it will make you fat.
At Exercise Inc, we believe the health benefits of fruit are life changing. The nutrients in fruit are necessary. And, very few people, if any, get fat from eating too much fruit. Let’s look at what some of the most recent research says about the benefits of fruit.
Eating Fruit Will Improve Your Psychological Health
A systemic review published in 2020 found that consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables a day promoted higher levels of optimism and self-efficacy. And who didn’t need a little optimism in 2020?
A study conducted this year surveyed 428 adults regarding the relationship between the consumption of fruit, vegetables, sweet and savory food snacks, and their psychological health. The study found that people who ate more fruit had lower symptoms of depression and greater positive mental wellbeing. The study also found that research participants who ate more sweet (cookies) and savory (chips) snacks had increased levels of anxiety, symptoms of depression, stress, and reduced psychological wellbeing. So, that “comfort food” you reach for may not provide much comfort after all.
This study should certainly make you want to think twice about giving your kids chips and cookies as an after-school snack. Berries, apples, and oranges (my kids like Cuties) will make your kids happier and healthier.
And while we know vegetables are vital to our physiological health, the study found no direct association between eating vegetables and psychological health. Something about eating fruit just makes us feel good. Maybe it’s all the bright colors.
Fruit Will Improve Your Cardiovascular Health
A study conducted in 2019, estimated that 1 in 7 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough fruit, and 1 in 12 cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough vegetables. The study found that low intake of fruit resulted in 1.8 million cardiovascular deaths in 2010, while low vegetable intake resulted in 1 million deaths.
The overall impact on cardiovascular health from not eating fruit was almost double the impact of not eating enough vegetables. This is surprising because we tend to think of vegetables as the healthier food group. Food science even tells us that vegetables have fewer calories and contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than fruit.
Fruit’s unique contribution to cardiovascular health may be its high flavonoid content. Flavonoids are chemical compounds found in plants, coffee, tea, and chocolate. They reduce stress, prevent and repair cell damage, and help lower blood pressure. They have a strong impact on cardiovascular health. Berries (especially blue ones) and citrus fruit both reside on the top 10 list for flavonoid content.
You probably thought I was joking about the bright colors in the last section, but flavonoids are part of the reason fruits have such bright colors.
Consumption of Dried Fruit is Associated with Better Health
A recent cross-sectional analysis looked at the association of greater intakes of under-consumed nutrients with dried fruit consumption. The study found that people who regularly ate dried fruit had higher quality diets.
We have always included dried fruit like raisins, apples, apricots, figs, and prunes in our Simple 9© nutritional program. We recommend about ¼ cup of dried fruit as a serving, because with the moisture removed, fruit becomes more calorically dense. Here are a few calorie counts for some popular dried fruits:
- Raisins — 120 calories
- Prunes — 100 calories
- Apples — 60 calories
- Apricots — 100 calories
Those calorie counts seem high when you consider a whole cup of grapes contains only 60 calories. But they are low when you compare them to the average king size candy bar that contains 440 calories (let’s just go with “king size” since you don’t even see the regular size in stores anymore).
The study found that people who regularly ate ¼ cup of dried fruit—or more—consumed more calories but had a lower BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure than people who didn’t eat dried fruit. Quality is more important than quantity.
Dried fruits contain an array of phytochemicals (bioactive compounds that have a positive effect on your health). About 10,000 different phytochemicals have been identified, but we only really know the benefits of about 150 of them. Maybe people who eat dried fruit regularly weigh less because they get an array of stress fighting phytochemicals, which helps them stay healthier and leaner.
Hopefully, this latest research on the benefits of fruit will convince you to stick with our second healthy habit—Eat 2 to 3 Servings of Fruit a Day. If you don’t follow our Simple 9©, talk to your coach today about getting on the program.