We’ve all heard that fruits are good for you, if you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you will know I am a bodybuilder who eats lots and lots of protein, but tries to have a fairly balanced diet. Many of us have always heard the saying, “fruits are good for you!” but oftentimes there’s not really a good reason why other than “vitamins” or “they just are!”. This is a big problem for many bodybuilders because fruits inherently have lots of carbs due to their high sugar and not lots of protein. We will be looking into the actual health benefits of fruit, and if fruits are actually good for you.
Fruit has lots of sugar, but is it bad for you?
Recently news has shifted over to stating that sugar is horrible for the body and is helping the rise of obesity, while most of this is true, fruit has a lot of sugar, but has an anti-obesity effect according to the NIH. Why is this? NerdFitness explains this excellently and goes in great depth about how sugar in fruits is actually healthy for us due to the fiber content in the fruits. NerdFitness quickly says how added sugars are bad for you, but the sugar in the fruits are naturally occurring and it is healthy because the way it interacts with the fiber content, this is far different than sugars in say a soda or “fruit smoothie”.Steve Kamb at NerdFitness states, “The sugar in fruit is accompanied by fiber, which helps our bodies slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.“(NerdFitness). Additionally, the fiber has an effect that makes you feel more satiated and eat less according to healthline.com when author Kris Gunnars states, “
A single apple would make you feel quite full and less inclined to eat more food. Conversely, a bottle of soda has remarkably poor satiety and people don’t compensate for the sugar by eating less food”(Kris Gunnars). Both of these authors are really explaining how the combination of sugar and fiber does great things for you, for starters it makes you less inclined to keep eating due to the high fiber content therefore helping you control your eating, and it allows the liver to slowly metabolize that sugar with the high fiber content to ensure your body can use all of that sugar effectively and correctly without making you feel worse. However, NerdFitness warns that the sugar in things like fruit smoothies or apple juice is purely just the sugar from the fruit with none of the fiber, and when you take the fiber out of this, the effects are detrimental to your health. To recap, the fiber with the sugar makes the sugar healthy and you feel full, but when you take the fiber out in say a brownie, then the sugar becomes incredibly unhealthy.
Benefits of Fruit
You always hear, “fruits have so many vitamins, they’re so good for your health!” but what exactly are the benefits of fruit? I did lots of research to give you an accurate list of the current (as of 2019) benefits eating fruit gives us.
For starters, Harvard’s School of Public Health mentions numerous studies backing up the evidence that fruits have a protection effect against cancer. Additionally, Harvard also shares some benefits of fruit that we may not have thought of, such as evidence that eating more fruits can help you prevent and/or slow down common eye diseases we get as we age. Additionally, things like reduced cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and surprisingly enough a reduced change of type 2 diabetes.
Health.com additionally cited a study that highlighted those who ate more servings of fruit daily were seen as more attractive and helped your skin prevent against sun exposure, pollution, and smoking. Additionally, an article by the National Institute of Health stated, “Nutrients in fruits and vegetables, such as dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, including polyphenols, all provide support for the biological plausibility that fruits and vegetables play a role in health”. I won’t go into the whole typical crossfit blog and say these vitamins and nutrients are incredibly powerful for your body, because the truth is, we scientists don’t know yet. Very little is understood about antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals. However, we do understand that getting a good mix of these vitamins and minerals in your fruit can help you grow and develop, and severely damaging effects to your body if you are deficient in some minerals or vitamins. Until more research comes out giving concrete and specific evidence of all of these vitamins and minerals, I refuse to say fruit is a superfood, but, it is really good, especially considering the typical foods in an american diet (sugary snacks, sodas, etc.). Fruit is like milk in my mind, it is way healthier to consume than the things we regularly consume, but it is by no means a superfood that fixes everything, it can do a lot for you, but if you have a poor diet already it won’t fix your mistakes.
Negatives of Fruit
While we went over a wide variety of the benefits of fruit, let us talk about some of the negatives. Luckily, there aren’t many disadvantages at all. Most disadvantages of fruit stem from things like potentially harmful bacteria being present on the food due to it not undergoing a cooking process (livestrong.com). Additionally, fruit may cause indigestion to some, or if you have a fruit intolerance (like me) it can cause fevers and nausea. All in all, fruit seems to lack most negatives and actually has a pretty good impact on your body.
Fruit is controversial in bodybuilding namely because it is hard to fit into a bodybuilder’s diet of usually tons of protein and nothing else. For starters, how about considering fruit as a preworkout? A health.com article cites that eating a banana pre-workout had much greater effects including more nutrients and a shift in dopamine than a sports drink preworkout. However, it is known many bodybuilders will remove fruit from their diets before their competitions. The International Sports Science Association provides us with why that happens, stating, “Once the fructose (fruit sugar) enters the liver and liver glycogen is already full, then it cannot be used by the muscles for glycogen or energy production. It is converted to fat and released back into the bloodstream to be stored as adipose tissue. The low glycemic response is based on the fact that fructose leaves the liver as fat, and fat does not raise insulin levels.”(ISSA). The International Sports Science Association is telling us, yes, fruits are good for you, but they still are a fast acting carbohydrate and will get stored as fat if you have too many carbohydrates in your system. However, many may interpret this quote in the wrong way, and think this means fruit only goes to fat. If you had just worked out, and you need carbohydrates to replenish your energy, your fruit will not go straight to fat. Additionally, for 99.99% of us who aren’t competing at The Arnold this information is useless to us. The amount of fat that would be accumulated assuming the conditions were perfect for all of the fruit to turn straight into adipose tissue would be absolutely minimal for a normal athlete/bodybuilder, and is only apparent for the bodybuilders hovering around 3% body fat like Phil Heath for instance. To recap, unless you’re going for a big stage competition and are below 5% body fat (which 99.99% of us aren’t) then fruit is alright in your diet!
Can You Eat Too Much Fruit?
Unfortunately, yes, you can eat too much fruit. Steve at NerdFitness shares his experiences with some of his clients consuming over 2,500 calories a day of fruits and gaining lots of weight. Fruits are also still sugar, and this can lead to binging if you eat too much of it, and can become an addiction because it does hit the brain’s reward pathways. While it is incredibly hard to eat too much fruit, stick to 8-10 servings maximum a day. You don’t need more than that, and you can fill the rest of your diet with other things such as proteins or fats.
We learned today, that fruits are actually good for you, but the science around them is still unclear and there is much to learn about still. Fruits can be the perfect fuel your body needs after a workout or a snack that will keep you satiated, but stay away from fruit juice or fruit smoothies which take out the fiber and make a dangerous concoction of sugar. Also, fruit has a lot of health benefits people don’t mention, but will help you tons in your social life and when you’re aging. So yes, eat that apple, and eat right.