So is fruit really as healthy as it’s made out to be? Or is it just the “devil in disguise?”
If you look at the nutritional value of many fruits you’ll see they can contain a good amount of sugar. The sugar in fruit is mostly fructose, which is technically different from table sugar (glucose + fructose).
Many are quick to tell you the sugar in fruit is supposedly healthier because it contains “natural sugars.” The fiber and vitamins in the fruit help slow the blood sugar spike that happens when eating sugar.
But is this fructose sugar any better for you than table sugar? Or maybe it’s just recommended to eat more fruit because it’s a healthier option than snacking on a bag of potato chips. Eating fruit can help to satisfy your sweet tooth so you don’t end up eating a Costco-sized candy bar.
If weight loss is your goal then there are some things you need to know about fruit sugar. It could be unexpectedly making you fat without you even knowing it.
Here you’ll discover if eating fruit really does make you fat, who should and shouldn’t be eating fruits, and the times you should and shouldn’t be eating fruits.
Can Fruit Make You Fat?
One of the most obvious first steps with those trying to lose weight is to cut back on sweets. It’s clearly one of the main causes of weight gain despite its calorie content (1).
For decades we were told it’s all about the calories when it comes to weight loss. Calories in equals calories out… right?
Turns out your hormones play a vital role as well (2). Insulin resistance from eating too many sugars can put your body into a fat-storing mode leading to obesity, increased visceral fat, type 2 diabetes and heart disease (3).
The “natural” sugar found in fruits is in the form of fructose. Fructose was thought to be healthier for you than table sugar since it was lower on the glycemic index. You wouldn’t get the same blood sugar spiking effects from eating a banana as you would a candy bar (4).
Many fruits also contain fiber and other nutrients that help to counteract the blood sugar spiking effects of the sugar. It’s commonly known that blood sugar and insulin spikes are a driving force of weight gain (5).
This review study by Nutrients found those eating a higher amount of fruits daily helped them lose weight. The researchers theorize this is because they actually also reduced their overall intake of total sugar and fats (6).
The researchers found many fruits still contain a lot of simple sugars. This will of course still promote weight gain and related illnesses. They agreed drinking fruit juice is especially bad and should be avoided. Fruit juices are basically liquid sugar and shouldn’t be consumed.
Many say the plant fiber and phytochemicals found in fruits help to promote weight loss. But cereals also have many of those ingredients yet there is zero weight loss to be found.
Fruit Sugar is Still Sugar
Unlike glucose (simple sugar), fructose is processed in your liver (7). Glucose can be used by cells throughout your entire body for energy whereas fructose can only be metabolized in your liver.
Fructose places a lot of pressure on your liver since it’s the only organ that can process it. The problem with eating too much fructose is your body converts this excess fructose into fat by a process called lipogenesis.
Then this fat build-up can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (8). This is when you have too much fat built up in your liver and this leads to metabolic dysfunction (9).
With fatty liver disease, your body will become significantly less efficient at breaking down fats. This is called dyslipidemia (10). When it comes to your liver consuming too much fruit can be just as bad as drinking too much alcohol. Some experts even call it “alcohol but without the buzz.”
Studies have found fatty liver disease leads to obesity, insulin resistance, plaque buildup in arteries, and metabolic syndrome (11). If losing weight and living a healthy life is your goal then lowering your fructose intake is key.
Harvard scientists agree that consuming too much fructose is bad for your liver and heart health (12). Fatty liver disease can accurately predict negative heart health effects like a heart attack or stroke.
You can see how eating fruit can be fattening and drive up insulin resistance even if you’re not getting the same blood sugar spiking effects from straight-up sugar. Instead, your liver builds up fat gradually leading to fatty liver disease and then insulin resistance.
Fruit contains both fructose and glucose. So you’ll not only end up getting the liver fattening impact of fructose but you can also get the blood sugar spiking impact of glucose. And with this excess glucose, your body will end up storing it as fat if you don’t end up burning it off for energy.
After breaking the fruit down your body still reacts to the sugar in fruit the same as the table sugar in a candy bar. Then once it hits your blood stream you’ll experience the same negative impacts on your health.
Increased free radicals are another byproduct of your liver processing fructose (13). These free radicals wreak havoc on your body causing you to age faster than you should.
Our bodies evolved to only be able to consume a small amount of fructose. This was from the rare occasion our ancestors stumbled upon a blackberry bush or a beehive with honey.
But nowadays this fructose is in an over-abundance. And saying it’s healthy to eat a lot of fruit in the diet is concerning, to say the least.
Many processed foods are loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which was thought to be healthier than table sugar. But turns out it was really just a cheaper solution for the food manufacturers at the expense of our waistline.
HFCS is finally starting to be phased out but now they’re using “organic cane sugar” instead. This might sound more natural and healthier but it’s still sugar that’s going to be fattening since it contains 50% fructose.
When you remove fructose from your diet you’ll lower inflammation, improve mitochondrial function and reduce oxidative stress by improving your liver health (14).
But I’ll admit eating some fruit is going to be a healthier option than a Hershey’s candy bar. and This is why so many experts recommend it. They know people have bad eating habits so if they can get the majority of the population to eat an apple instead of a Hershey’s candy bar then that’s a step in the right direction.
Eating Too Much Fruit Can Make You Fat IF…
The bottom line is if you’re on a weight loss diet then cutting out fruit is a must. Fruit sugar is still sugar that’s converted into body fat (15). This is despite it having fiber, vitamins, and water content. Your body will still promote weight gain when eating most fruits despite their other health benefits.
Improving your insulin sensitivity is a big key to weight loss and if you’re eating a lot of fruit then that’s going to be really difficult to do (16). Sure eating an apple isn’t near as bad for your insulin sensitivity as eating white bread but it will add to your weight gain (17).
This is especially true if you have trouble losing weight and have stubborn fat. Adding more sugar even from whole fruit is going to hold you back and cause adverse effects to your health in the long run. The key for many on a weight loss diet is to cut out sugars and starchy carbs. And for this reason, you should also cut back on your whole fruit consumption.
But if you’re unable to 100% stick to a weight loss diet then eating a little fruit is going to be a much healthier option than drinking a glass full of Hershey’s chocolate milk. Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses by eating a piece of fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth than it is to eat a whole loaf of white bread.
The only time eating more fruit is tolerable is if you’re already metabolically healthy. Meaning you’re lean with a low body fat percentage. Your gut health is great, don’t have high blood pressure or heart disease, and no signs of diabetes.
Being metabolically healthy gives your body more leeway and you can handle these sugars much better than somebody who is metabolically unhealthy. But even then portion control is important and you shouldn’t eat a whole fruit platter for dinner.
Those who have metabolic health problems suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, poor gut health, and obesity. If they’re on a weight loss diet then I’d stay away from eating fruit if their goal is to lower their waist circumference.
The sugar in fruit is processed differently than other sugars and that’s not such a good thing when it comes to your weight. Instead, it’s better to eat more vegetables, especially the dark leafy greens, cruciferous and colorful ones.
Fruits That Are Fattening
If you are going to eat fruit it’s best to steer away from those highest in sugar. These are going to be the fruits that can be fattening especially when eaten in excess.
Worst Fruits for Weight Loss:
- Bananas (brown spotted)
- Passion Fruit
Try not to eat overly ripe fruits as they tend to be higher in sugar. When the fruit ripens the starch in them turns into sugars. This is why the riper the fruit the more likely it is to be sweet.
Your body wants to use this excess sugar for future energy stores. But keep in mind fruit is still a much better option. As high fructose corn syrup is much more prevalent in the Western diet.
Make sure you’re also going by the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL) when you’re picking fruit to eat for weight loss. Find a fruit that’s high in antioxidants. You can check the antioxidant value of the fruit on the ORAC scale. The best fruits for weight loss are also high in fiber which will help to slow sugar absorption.
It’s always a better idea to eat more vegetables than your eating fruits. My favorites are dark green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. Unfortunately, these vegetables don’t contain sugar so people are less likely to eat them than whole fruit.
Always make sure you’re not drinking fruit juices or eating dried fruit. They tend to be much higher in sugars. If you are going to eat dried fruit at least check the nutrition label to make sure sugar cane wasn’t added. Many dried fruit manufacturers coat it in sugar cane to boost the taste.
You can find out more hidden foods that cause belly fat here.
What fruit burns the most fat?
The fruit that burns the most fat is going to be on that’s super low on sugar, high in fiber, and has other beneficial nutrients in it. Berries are my favorite as they meet both of those criteria plus they’re packed with antioxidants, low in calories, and taste delicious so it’ll encourage you to eat more of them. I’ll regularly add a handful of frozen blueberries to my protein shake.
If you don’t like eating veggies then I HIGHLY suggest a greens supplement like MetaboGreens. It contains 40+ nutrients from veggies but contains NO SUGAR. I mix a scoop into my daily protein shake and it adds a sweet berry flavor. You can get 51% off MetaboGreens by clicking the button below…
The Last Word
Keep in mind that just because you had an apple for a snack today doesn’t mean you’re going to develop Fatty Liver Disease tomorrow. Fructose’s negative health effects can take a long time to develop which is one of the reasons it flies so low under the radar.
Keep in mind fructose is a fruit sugar and has carbs so if you’re on a low-carb or keto diet then it can become a problem. Low-carb diets are effective for weight loss (37). Especially if you’ve always had trouble with your weight. There’s a reason why the keto diet only allows for a handful of fruits to be eaten on their diet plan.
As long as you’re living an active lifestyle then there’s no reason you can eat a little fruit from the list above. And if you’re metabolically healthy then you’ll be much better off handling the rising insulin levels and blood sugar levels with fruit.
Just because you’re going on a diet to lose weight doesn’t mean you can’t eat your favorite fruits too. There are some fruits out there that can be beneficial in helping you lose weight. But of course, are also some bad apples you don’t want to eat.
Just keep in mind that many fruits are so high in sugar and can cause you to gain weight even though they’re considered natural sugars. At the end of the day, you should still limit your fruit intake. Try to eat more vegetables instead such as kale, spinach, and broccoli. This is why I highly recommend taking a superfoods greens supplement and the best by far is MetaboGreens.
I personally stay away from eating a lot of fruits most of the year. If the fruit is in season in the warmer summer months then I’ll be more open to eating it since I’m more active. But the majority of the time I’ll only consume the fruits above that can actually help with weight loss.
Cut back on the majority of your fruit consumption and instead eat smaller portions of the above list of the best fruits so you can satisfy your sweet tooth and lose weight too.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.