You’ve probably read in popular media that orange juice is just as bad for you as soda, or that jumbo-sized smoothies from a local shop can have over 900 calories and a lot of sugar. It’s easy to read those things and assume that staying away from fruit might be better for your health.
Don’t throw out the banana with the peel: You can eat fruit on a diet. Fruit can and should be part of a healthy diet for weight loss or weight maintenance. What’s important is how you enjoy it.
The benefits of eating fruit
First, the benefits: Fruit contain nutrients you need. Among the vitamins and minerals you’ve always heard about, fruit contains potassium, which nutrition scientists believe may be a factor in bone health, kidney health, and cardiovascular health—including helping to lower blood pressure and avoid strokes.
Fruit also contains fiber—one of the reasons that nutritionists encourage eating whole fruit instead of juice. Fiber helps you feel full after you eat. Fiber also may help lower cholesterol, promote gut health, and help you keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
A traditional Mediterranean diet includes whole fruit like apricots, plums, oranges, peaches, pears, dates, figs, tangerines, melon, grapes, and more. Studies show eating a Mediterranean diet may benefit your brain, lower your risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases, help prevent cancer or diabetes, support your mental health, and more.
Healthy ways to enjoy fruit on a diet
As for healthy ways to enjoy fruit to manage your weight: You’ll probably want to skip the 900-calorie smoothies (or save them for a rare treat). Instead, reach for whole fresh fruit. Frozen fruit is a great option when your favorites are out of season. You can also eat small amounts of dried fruit as part of your daily intake—just keep an eye on the calories and sugar in dried fruit. You don’t have to eat fruit raw—you can grill it, roast it, bake it, and poach it. You can also include it in savory dishes. Use fruit salsa to top a taco or seafood. Roast fruit with chicken, beef, pork, or vegetables.
If you’re eating to manage your weight or if you have other health conditions, you may have to limit the amount of fruit you enjoy every day, or avoid certain fruit. (For example, certain medications can interact with some varieties.) You’ll benefit from consulting with a health care provider.
What to watch while eating fruit on a diet
As for what to avoid, pay attention to added sugar, and not the natural sugars found in fruit. The newest Nutrition Facts panels now include added sugars to make it easier. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of your day’s calories. The American Heart Association recommends about half that, which is no more than 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams, a day for men and 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, for women.