Fruit: Weight Loss Friendly or Fattening?
It’s common knowledge that fruit is one of the staples of a healthy diet.
It’s incredibly nutritious and packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Fruit has even been associated with reduced risks of heart disease and diabetes (, ).
However, it contains more natural sugars than other whole foods like vegetables. For this reason, many people question whether it’s good for your waistline.
This article looks at the potential effects of fruit on weight to determine whether it’s weight loss friendly or fattening.
Fruit is a nutrient-dense food, meaning it is low in calories but high in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.
One large orange can meet 163% of your daily needs for vitamin C, an essential component of immune health (, ).
On the other hand, a medium banana provides 12% of the potassium you need in a day, which helps regulate the activity of your nerves, muscles and heart (, ).
Fruits are also high in antioxidants, which help protect the body from oxidative stress and may lower the risk of certain chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes (, ).
What’s more, they also contain fiber, which can promote regularity, improve gut health and increase feelings of fullness (, , ).
And because fruits are low in calories, including them in your diet may help decrease your daily calorie intake, all while providing essential nutrients.
For example, one small apple contains just 77 calories, yet provides nearly 4 grams of fiber, which is up to 16% of the amount you need for the day ().
Other fruits are similarly low in calories. For instance, a half cup (74 grams) of blueberries contains 42 calories, while a half cup (76 grams) of grapes provides 52 calories (, ).
Using low-calorie foods like fruit to replace higher-calorie foods can help create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss.
A calorie deficit occurs when you expend more calories than you take in. This forces your body to use up stored calories, mostly in the form of fat, which causes weight loss ().
Snacking on whole fruits instead of high-calorie candies, cookies and chips can significantly reduce calorie intake and promote weight loss.
Summary: Fruit is low in calories but high in nutrients. Eating it in place of a high-calorie snack can help increase weight loss.
In addition to being low in calories, fruit is also incredibly filling thanks to its water and fiber contents.
Fiber moves through your body slowly and increases digestion time, which leads to a feeling of fullness (, ).
Some studies have suggested that fiber can also lead to reductions in appetite and food intake ().
In one study, eating a high-fiber meal reduced appetite, food intake and blood sugar in healthy men ().
Other research shows that increased fiber intake can help promote weight loss and reduce the risk of weight and fat gain ().
A 2005 study found that taking fiber supplements in combination with a low-calorie diet caused significantly greater weight loss than a low-calorie diet alone ().
Additionally, fruit has a high water content. This allows you to eat a large volume of it and feel full, yet take in very few calories.
One small study found that eating foods with a higher water content led to a greater increase in fullness, lower calorie intake and reduced hunger, compared to drinking water while eating ().
Due to their high fiber and water contents, fruits like apples and oranges are among the top foods on the satiety index, a tool designed to measure how filling foods are ().
Incorporating whole fruits in your diet could keep you feeling full, which may help reduce your calorie intake and increase weight loss.
Summary: Fruit is high in fiber and water, which may help increase fullness and decrease appetite.
Several studies have found an association between fruit intake and weight loss.
One massive study followed 133,468 adults over a 24-year span and found that fruit intake was associated with a greater weight loss over time. Apples and berries seemed to have the greatest effect on weight ().
Another smaller study in 2010 found that obese and overweight dieters who increased their fruit intake experienced greater weight loss ().
Fruit is also high in fiber, which has been associated with increased weight loss.
One study followed 252 women over 20 months and found that those who ate more fiber had a lower risk of gaining weight and body fat than participants who ate less fiber ().
Another study showed that participants who took fiber supplements experienced decreased body weight, body fat and waist circumference, compared to those in the control group ().
Fruit is a staple component of a whole-food diet, which has been shown to increase weight loss in its own right.
One small study showed that participants who ate a whole-food, plant-based diet experienced significantly decreased body weight and blood cholesterol, compared to those in the control group ().
Keep in mind that these studies show an association between eating fruit and weight loss, but that does not necessarily mean that one caused the other.
Further studies are needed to determine how much of a direct role fruit itself may have on weight.
Summary: Some studies have found that fruit consumption, a high fiber intake and whole-food diets are associated with weight loss. More research is needed to see how much of an effect fruit itself may have.
The natural sugars found in fruit are very different from the added sugars typically used in processed foods. The two types can have very different health effects.
Added sugar has been associated with a range of potential health problems, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease ().
The most common types of added sugar are two simple sugars called glucose and fructose. Sweeteners like table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are a combination of both types ().
Fruits contain a mixture of fructose, glucose and sucrose. When eaten in large amounts, fructose can be harmful and may contribute to issues like obesity, liver disease and heart problems (, ).
For this reason, many people looking to eat less sugar mistakenly believe that they need to eliminate fruit from their diet.
However, it’s important to distinguish between the massive amount of fructose found in added sugars and the small amounts found in fruits.
Fructose is only harmful in larger amounts, and it would be very difficult to eat enough fruit to reach these amounts ().
Additionally, the high fiber and polyphenol content of fruits reduces the rise in blood sugar caused by glucose and sucrose.
Therefore, the sugar content of fruit is not an issue for most people when it comes to health or weight loss.
Summary:Fruits contain fructose, a type of naturally occurring sugar that is harmful in large amounts. However, fruits do not provide enough fructose for this to be a concern.
There’s a big difference between the health effects of fruit and those of fruit juice.
While whole fruit is low in calories and a good source of fiber, the same is not necessarily true of fruit juice.
In the process of juice-making, juice is extracted from the fruit, leaving behind its beneficial fiber and providing a concentrated dose of calories and sugar.
Oranges are one great example. One small orange (96 grams) contains 45 calories and 9 grams of sugar, while 1 cup (237 ml) of orange juice contains 134 calories and 23 grams of sugar (, ).
Some types of fruit juice even contain added sugar, pushing the total number of calories and sugar even higher.
Increasing research shows that drinking fruit juice could be linked to obesity, especially in children.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended against fruit juice for children under 1 year of age ().
One study of 168 preschool-aged children found that drinking 12 ounces (355 ml) or more of fruit juice per day was associated with short stature and obesity ().
Other studies have found that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like fruit juice is associated with weight gain and obesity ().
Instead, try swapping your juicer for a blender and make smoothies, which retain the beneficial fiber found in fruits.
However, eating whole fruit still remains the best option for maximizing your nutrient intake.
Summary: Fruit juice is high in calories and sugar but low in fiber. Drinking fruit juice has been associated with weight gain and obesity.
Some types of dried fruit are well-known for their health benefits.
For example, prunes have a laxative effect that can help treat constipation, while dates have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (, ).
Dried fruits are also highly nutritious. They contain most of the same vitamins, minerals and fiber found in whole fruit, but in a much more concentrated package because the water has been removed.
This means that you will consume a higher amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber eating dried fruit, compared to the same weight of fresh fruit.
Unfortunately, it also means you will consume a higher number of calories, carbs and sugar.
For example, a half cup (78 grams) of raw apricot contains 37 calories, while a half cup (65 grams) of dried apricot contains 157 calories. The dried apricots contain over four times as many calories by volume, compared to raw apricots (, ).
Additionally, some types of dried fruit are candied, meaning the manufacturers add sugar to increase sweetness. Candied fruit is even higher in calories and sugar, and it should be avoided in a healthy diet.
If you’re eating dried fruit, make sure to look for a brand without added sugar, and monitor your portion size closely to make sure you don’t overeat.
Summary: Dried fruit is very nutritious, but it is also higher in calories and sugar than fresh varieties, so make sure to moderate your portions.
Fruit is a healthy dietary addition for most and may help increase weight loss. However, certain people may want to consider limiting their fruit intake.
Because fruit may be high in fructose, people who have a fructose intolerance should limit their intake.
While the amount of fructose found in fruits is not harmful to most people, fructose absorption is impaired in those with fructose intolerance. For these people, consuming fructose causes symptoms like abdominal pain and nausea ().
If you believe you might be fructose intolerant, talk to your doctor.
On a Very Low-Carb or Ketogenic Diet
If you’re on a very low-carb or ketogenic diet, you may also need to restrict your fruit intake.
This is because it is relatively high in carbs and may not fit into the carb restrictions of these diets.
For example, just one small pear contains 23 grams of carbs, which may already exceed the daily amount allowed on some carb-restricted diets ().
Summary:Those who have a fructose intolerance or are on a ketogenic or very low-carb diet may need to restrict their fruit intake.
Fruit is incredibly nutrient-dense and full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but it contains few calories, making it good for weight loss.
Also, its high fiber and water contents make it very filling and appetite-suppressing.
But try sticking to whole fruits instead of fruit juice or dried fruit.
Most guidelines recommend eating about 2 cups (about 228 grams) of whole fruit per day.
For reference, 1 cup (about 114 grams) of fruit is equivalent to a small apple, a medium pear, eight large strawberries or one large banana ().
Finally, remember that fruit is just one piece of the puzzle. Eat it along with an overall healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity to achieve long-lasting weight loss.