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Fruit – friend or foe?

The following article is courtesy of Deanna Minich, PhD


People seem to either love them or fear them. Most people are not eating enough fruit: in 2019, only 12% of Americans surveyed were meeting their daily intake of fruit (1.5-2 cup equivalents).

I think we need to pick apart the context to see the spectrum of how to best be in relationship with fruits. First, let’s talk about why they are important to include in the diet on a seasonal basis:

  1. They are nutritious. Whole fruit provides vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals, which can help with nutritional status and reducing the risk for diseases. Pectin is a fruit prebiotic that has been studied for its beneficial effects on the gut microbiome. Higher-fiber fruits include blackberries (1 cup = 7.6 grams fiber), avocado (1/3 avocado = 6.8 grams fiber), and pomegranate arils (1 cup = 5.7 grams of fiber).
  2. They are hydrating. Certain fruits are very hydrating with their high water content and naturally-occurring minerals, like watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, cucumbers, and peaches. You can cut them up and toss them into a glass pitcher with purified water to amp up your phytochemical intake!
  3. They are portable healthy foods. Fruits make great “travel foods” as they are easy to take along on trips. I usually bring avocados and apples in my travel backpack, and when I get to my destination, I go to the grocery store for grapes and berries.
  4. They may have chronobiotic effects. When we eat certain fruits in season, like grapes in the autumn or cherries in the spring-summer, their polyphenol content may be assisting us with the physiological needs we have during those seasons. Therefore, we stay more in “rhythm” and in alignment with nature through these phytochemicals.

They are associated with health benefits. Some of the research findings comparing fruits and vegetables would suggest that there is a particular benefit of certain fruits for mood (especially papaya, watermelon, oranges, tangerines, and bananas) and reproductive health (citrus fruits). More on the countless benefits can be found in this review article. One of the graphs from that article is shown below, indicating that with 3 or more fruit servings per day there is reduced vascular aging compared with eating none or 1-2 servings daily.


Association between the number of fruit servings/day and excessive vascular age from pooled estimates of World Health Organization (WHO) and US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data among adults aged 30–74 years (p = 0.038). Image Credit: Dreher ML. Whole Fruits and Fruit Fiber Emerging Health Effects. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 28;10(12):1833. doi: 10.3390/nu10121833. PMID: 30487459; PMCID: PMC6315720.

Here is the spectrum of different fruits and an overview of their nutritional profile:


On the other hand, there are some best practices around fruits to consider (and, of course, please discuss fruit intake with your health practitioner to know what is best for you personally!):

  • Aiming for whole fruit over fruit juice and dried fruit would be preferable.
  • Choosing fresh over frozen fruit would be better, although frozen fruits can retain much of their nutritional quality.
  • Avoiding fruits that cause sensitivity, digestive upset, and allergic response is important to consider. Not all foods are good for all people at all times.

For those on special diets, such as a ketogenic diet and low FODMAPs diet, fruit intake would need to be monitored closely or completely omitted.