Fruits in All Forms

In honor of this year’s March Madness, Foodinsight decided to create our own bracket to find out what you are doing more often to improve your diet. Well, the votes are now in and the options have been whittled down from 30 down to just one.

In case you missed it, the winner is "eating more fruits and vegetables." Americans don’t consume enough fruits and veggies, but high-profile new campaigns seek to change this fact. It got us thinking about fruit specifically, since fruit comes in all shapes, sizes, and options from fresh to dried, and from sauce to juice. Because of all the great forms of fruit available, there can be some confusion and misinformation regarding the health effects of our fruit choices, so let’s take a closer look at the benefits of consuming fruit.

Is fresh the only way to eat fruit?

Fruit can be found in a variety of products—fresh fruit isn’t the only way you can get the right amount of fruit in your diet. MyPlate (a great nutrition resource, by the way) is very helpful here: "Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, Dried Fruitand may be whole, cut-up, or puréed."

What’s a serving of fruit?

Typically, a serving of fruit is either 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried or puréed fruit. This table can help you determine serving sizes for your favorite fruits.

How much fruit should I eat each day?

The amount of fruit you should eat depends on a variety of factors such as your age, sex, and amount of physical activity. According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overwhelming majority of us aren’t getting the recommended amounts. Aim to include a variety of fruits (1.5-2 servings/day) and veggies (2-3 servings/day) in your diet.

What sugars are found in fruit, 100% fruit juice, and other fruit products?

Similar to other sweet foods like soda and desserts, the types of sugars found in fruit, 100% fruit juice, and fruit products are fructose and glucose. Fructose is a simple sugar that makes up about half of the total sugars in sucrose (50% fructose/50% glucose) or high fructose corn syrup (55% fructose/45% glucose). Fructose is broken down in the liver and does not raise your blood sugar like glucose.

Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. When you eat carbohydrates, most carbs are eventually converted into glucose for quick sources of energy. If more glucose is available than what your body needs for energy, the excess glucose gets stored as glycogen or fat, both of which can be accessed for future energy use. Wondering why this is important? It’s important because glucose (a simple sugar) is the primary source of fuel for your brain.

Are there differences between the sugars found in fruit, 100% fruit juice, and other fruit products?

When eaten within recommended quantities, neither of the sugars found in fruit is better or worse for your health. Despite this, fructose has become a target for its alleged role in obesity and other chronic diseases. However, research shows that there is no benefit to replacing fructose with glucose in the diet.

That being said, the amount of sugars (and calories) you consume from fruit juice can be different from the amount you get from a piece of fruit. Fruit juice can contain more sugars per serving than fruit, especially if the juice has added sugars. 100% fruit juices do not contain added sugars. Recent guidelines from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines have given recommendations to "consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars" and to "choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level." So while fruit juice can offer the healthful components like vitamins and minerals, it’s important to keep consumption of this type of fruit product within your overall calorie budget.

What are the health benefits of fruit, 100% fruit juice, and other fruit products?

Compared to most fruit juices, fresh, canned, frozen, dried, or puréed forms of fruit have the extra benefit of providing fiber. Fiber plays an important role in maintaining digestive and heart health. While various studies have associated fiber with lower body weight in cohort studies, there is limited evidence showing that liquid sources increase weight. Moreover, there is limited evidence associating 100% fruit juice with adiposity (being "fat") in children, when consumed in amounts that are appropriate for the age and energy needs of the child. Whether the fruit is fresh, canned, frozen, dried, puréed, or 100% fruit juice, fruit is a great source of healthful components like carotenoids, flavonoids, phenols, vitamins and minerals.

Eating a diet rich in fruits is associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. While you may read or hear alarmist points of view about fruit, this article should help put those fears to bed. Rest easy and enjoy fruit in all forms!

This blog includes contributions from Kris Sollid, RD.

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