I am often asked, “Is it okay if I eat fruit?” Yes, absolutely. Fruit is just fine. Not to be confused with fruit juice, whole fruit is high in fiber and provides some powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients that you can’t get anywhere else.
You may have been advised to avoid fruit while dieting—or altogether—because of the sugar content. It’s true that fruits contain fructose, a simple sugar found in both fruits and vegetables. However, most fruits have a low glycemic impact; they won’t spike your blood sugar and insulin or cause a crash later. Instead they provide your body with steady, sustained energy. In fact, many seemingly harmless “low sugar” or “no sugar” foods, like white rice or potatoes, have a much greater impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Not good.
Even diabetics need not fear fruit. A recent study in Nutrition Journal showed that restricting fruit intake didn’t necessarily benefit type 2 diabetics. In fact, it showed that those who ate two or more servings of fruit per day had the same weight loss and waist size reduction in a 12-week period as those who ate one serving per day. The study also indicated that there was no significant difference between the two groups when it came to their blood sugar numbers.
I’m not disputing the idea that too much fruit can be problematic, potentially adding sugar to your diet in excess and leading to fat storage. And, if you’re diabetic, it’s always important to be cautious and monitor your blood sugar carefully.
But the fact is that fruits are incredibly nutrient dense, rich in disease-fighting agents, and some can even help to enhance your metabolism. Fruit is an excellent source of fiber—often more so than grains or legumes. Fruits are rich in the essential nutrients potassium, folate, vitamins A, C, and E, and are chock full of a plethora of other antioxidants that help to prevent and fight illness and disease.
The benefits definitely outweigh the risks here. I recommend that you eat one to two servings of low glycemic fruit a day–in the morning, before your workout, or both. Remember that variety is essential and fresh is best. Go easy on dried fruits and be mindful of their labels, as they often contain added sugar. If you buy frozen, be sure to get the “no sugar added” options. Avoid canned fruit altogether.
So, next time you hit the gym, don’t hesitate to have an apple beforehand. It’s a portable, healthy, and delicious way to fuel your workout.