Should you include fruit in your weight loss diet?
“Sugars are bad, sugars make you fat, and fruit has sugar, so you shouldn’t eat fruit if you want to lose weight.” -Most People
This is the popular story we have been told, and indeed, fruit does have sugar, but as with most things in the diet and fitness realm, the details matter, and no one has ever gotten fat eating fruit. The fact is that there is a big difference between “bad” sugar like candy or cookies and fruit. I personally eat fruit multiple times a day. I do this whether I’m trying to build muscle or lose weight. (In fact, I eat more fruit when I’m trying to lose fat). Fruit is the only carb (besides green things) that I eat every day, and I actually feel it helps me lose fat instead of the other way around. This, however, is not the popular narrative about fruit, but let me explain why fruit, in fact, is one of the best things you can add to your diet in your quest to get lean and healthy.
#1) Fruit has a very low calorie density: The first reason I like fruit in my weight loss diet is that fruit has a very low calorie density, that is, per volume, fruit has very few calories. Watermelon has only 0.3 calories per gram, apples have 0.59 calories per gram, compare that to whole wheat bread (which is middle of the spectrum) which has 2.48 calories per gram, which is over eight times the calories as watermelon by weight. So why does that matter? It matters because you can eat a lot of fruit to fill yourself up without paying much of a caloric penalty. Eat more, stay full. Since over 90% of diets fail because we succumb to hunger, this is a huge asset to have in your diet, especially when you are running a caloric deficit.
#2) Fruit digests slower than you think: The biggest difference between eating fruit versus candy or cookies as far as digestion is the huge amount of soluble fiber found in fruit. The problem with simple, refined sugars like candy and sweets is that they digest very fast. When they digest fast, it does two bad things, it spikes your insulin levels and it provides a glut of calories to the blood stream, which highly encourages your body to store it as fat. This is, in fact why sugar is so vilified, and also why sugar is even worse than actual dietary fat when it comes to weight gain, the rate of digestion and the insulin spike. This, however, is not the case with fruit. In addition to being low calorie density, fruit also has lots of soluble fiber, which significantly slows digestion. This both reduces the insulin spike and the glut of calories flooding the blood stream. Soluble fiber, in effect, makes the sugars in fruit act much more like a complex carb than a simple sugar, except you get far less calories per gram with fruit than say potatoes or rice, so you can eat even more of it.
#3) Fruit can promote an anabolic state: Fructose, which is largely the sugar found in fruit, can only be metabolized in the liver and therefore can only replenish liver glycogen supplies. Muscles lack the ability to convert fructose to glycogen. So fruit can replenish liver glycogen levels without spilling over to the rest of the body. Having high liver glycogen is a major trigger for the body to become more anabolic and thus, grow more muscle and lose more fat. Because fructose, and only fructose, can only be metabolized by the liver, fruit has the unique ability to trigger this response in a very targeted way.
#4) Fruit is stuffed with vitamins and nutrients: Last but not least, fruit is loaded with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. While we know these are always important, they are of particular importance for those on restricted diets who may not be getting enough from the rest of their diets. A couple pieces of fruit added to the diet daily may fill a nutritional gap that can make the difference between a medium functioning body and a high functioning body. When you are on a restricted diet, its much more difficult to maintain adequate nutrient levels, and fruit is very effective at filling these gaps.
I will always have fruit in my diet. Fruit is healthy, filling and its nutrient dense without being calorie dense. While we have always known fruit was good for being healthy, its actually even better for weight loss. Satiating hunger is your best asset to stay on your diet, and fruit provides this. People gain weight eating cookies and cake, but I’ve never met anyone who got fat from eating fruit,