Mother Nature's candy is by far the most conflicting food when it comes to losing weight. For one thing, American adults don't eat the recommended daily amount of fruit (about two servings), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, healthy women trying to lose body fat sometimes eat too much, says Melina Jampolis, MD, author of The No-Time-to-Lose Diet: The Busy Person's Guide to Permanent Weight Loss (Thomas Nelson, 2008). "Eating too much of anything, including fruit, will either cause weight gain or prevent weight loss," says Jampolis. So should you keep your fruit bowl full or empty?
Fruit and Fat Loss
The amount of fruit sugar (fructose) varies from fruit to fruit and may have some adverse metabolic effects, such as a decrease in fat burning, explains Jampolis. "However, the benefits of fruit (low calories, high fiber, water and nutrient content) outweigh the adverse effects in most people. But if you are having trouble losing weight and can't figure out why, limiting your fruit intake may help."
Firstly, it's important to differentiate between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. Most experts recommend a minimum of 130 grams of total carbs per day, including fruits and whole grains. "In general, no more than 10 percent of your calories should come from added sugars found in products like sweetened beverages, sauces and dressings," says Jampolis. While fruit does not contain added sugars, if you are trying to lose weight, limiting your sugar intake is key, and this means no more than two servings of fruit per day. That's a medium banana and a half cup of berries. But if you're active and do not have excess belly fat, you can go up to three or four servings a day, says Jampolis.
Besides sugar, the total number of calories also counts. Fruit contains almost three times the calories per serving as most nonstarchy vegetables, so don't consider fruit a "free food" (where the calories don't matter), as you may unknowingly consume up to 250 extra calories per day. "This may prevent you from losing one pound of fat every two weeks," explains Jampolis. Avoid dried fruit, fruit cups and fruit juice, since they're higher in calories and typically lower in fiber than fresh or frozen fruit. For effective weight loss, stick with fresh or frozen fruit only. And remember, while natural sugar is healthier than refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, it still contains the same number of calories per serving (four per gram).
Some fruit pack hidden, weight-loss and fat-burning potential. Add these to salads, stir into yogurt, whirl into a smoothie or eat out of hand.
- Apples contain pectin, a great source of dietary fiber, which keeps you full longer and helps in weight loss. DAILY RX: Dip a few slices in natural peanut butter for a mid-morning snack.
- Cranberries have antimicrobial properties that render E. coli bacteria harmless, warding off kidney and urinary tract infections. DAILY RX: Mix a few into your morning oatmeal with chopped walnuts. Add 1/2 of raw honey to tame the tartness, if desired.
- Berries contain soluble fiber, which slows digestion and helps to reduce body fat buildup. DAILY RX: Toss a handful into a protein shake or mix into a Greek yogurt parfait.
- Grapefruit contains nootkatone, a naturally-occurring energy booster, which may help increase fat burning. DAILY RX: Garnish a warm chicken breast salad with several slices.
- Persimmons contain six grams of fiber per fruit, twice the amount as apples. DAILY RX: Eat one per day, and try it with the skin intact.