Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Much Is Too Much Fruit?

Dear Laurie,
I just found out that I love kiwis and have been enjoying them along with lots of other fresh fruits this month.  It got me to wondering, can a person eat too much fruit?  I mean, I know that fruit is good for you, but what if you are eating a lot?  Is there some maximum number of servings above which it's not good for you anymore?    Francine K.

Dear Francine,
This is quite a thoughtful question and you bring up a good point: At some level, even things that are "good for you" can take a turn and become more harmful than helpful for a number of reasons.  As far as fruit goes there are a few ways that eating many servings per day could start to be less "good for you":

1) Eating so much fruit that you experience discomfort from the fiber intake:  If you aren't used to a high fiber intake you could begin to experience intestinal bloating and/or diarrhea.  At this point it would be a good idea to back off to fewer servings per day.

2) Eating so much fruit that you don't have room for other nutritious foods:  The reason it's important to include balance and variety in your diet is to get in good sources of all the vitamins and minerals.  Fruits contain some, like vitamin A and C and potassium, but are poor sources of thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, protein, and vitamin B12.  You must leave room in your diet to include grains, dairy, protein, and some healthy fats to keep your diet balanced and include all of these nutrients.

3) Eating so many fruits your calorie intake becomes too high:  You can eat so many fruits, or juices, that you gain weight from an excessive calorie intake.  Fruit, while fat-free and low-calorie, is not calorie free!  A typical fruit serving has 60-80 calories, so if you start having 10 each day, you can see how this could quickly add up!  Limit fruits to three or four servings daily (and leave juice out of your diet) if you are trying to limit your calorie intake, and focus on taking in more vegetables, which are generally lower in calories.

4) Fruit isn't a good choice for some people on medical therapeutic diets: If a person has diabetes or renal disease, their fruit intake has to be limited to control the intake of sugar and potassium, respectively.  For a normal healthy diet fruit contributes necessary nutrients, but in some conditions these same nutrients must be restricted.  If you are on a special diet for a medical condition, be sure your doctor or dietitian has explained to you what really is good for you and what should be limited in your diet.

Fruits are healthy snacks and additions to any meal for all the nutrients they contain.  But you certainly can overdo it!  Even though the recommendations are for 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, there are people who eat more than this, and for the above reasons, it can become a case of doing more harm than good.  It goes back to the rule we dietitians use all of the time in deciding how much is a good amount: Everything in moderation!

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