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Menopause Corner
Menopause Corner

Wendy Hoffman blogs about menopause and women's health—particularly focusing on how diet and nutrition can positively affect a woman's life around the age of menopause.

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Nutritionists Tell Us To Watch Our Sugar Intake and Go Easy on the Fruits

If you’re a fruit lover like me, this is your favorite time of year. In Northern California, where I live, the farmers' markets are loaded with locally grown, ultra-fresh strawberries, juicy peaches and sweet apricots and I’m counting the days until figs make a showing. I don’t feel guilty indulging since fruit provides so many health benefits. But with a fairly high sugar content, I wonder if there is such a thing as too much fruit?  And if so, how much is too much? I did some research to find out. 

Leading nutritionists and researchers recommend that Americans consume as much as nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day to obtain the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that are essential to optimal health. As Barbara Rollis, writes in her top selling book, The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet, “study after study shows that people whose diets include a lot of vegetables and fruits are less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers and obestity.” 

But when parsed to show how much of those recommended nine cups fruits and veggies should be fruits, I found a consensus around the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines (2010) of just two cups a day, which is the same as four 1/2 cup servings.

If you had to drink two cups of bitter tea you’d think it was way too much. But only two cups of fruit? 

During the summer months, when everything looks and tastes so delicious, that’s really not very much. It’s a handful of blueberries, a few cherries or strawberries, a thin slice of cantaloupe and a small peach. 

If fruit is so good for you, why not have ten times that amount?

I found the answer in Ann Louise Gittleman’s book, Your Body Knows Best, in which she cautions readers about how fructose, the major ingredient in fruits and fruit juices, and excessive carbos promote body fat.

“Fructose (a simple sugar) provides a steady stream of energy instead of a rush, but it is also known for stimulating fat storage. [It] goes directly to the liver, the only organ that can metabolize it, where it is converted into triglycerides, a fat. High triglyceride levels, especially in women, are associated with heart disease.” 

She further explained that consuming a lot of fruit, fruit juices and fruit juice sweetened snacks, thinking that they’re good substitutes for refined sugars, will thwart your efforts to lose weight.

That’s right, fruit juice, a staple of the American breakfast, and an ingredient in a lot of “low-fat” foods, is not a good substitute, explains Monica Reinagel, aka The Nutrition Diva, on her website.

“When it comes to fruit juice, less really is more. Research shows that people who drink more fruit juice have a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. On the other hand, eating more whole fruit decreases your risk. If I had my way, fruit juice would not be in the “fruit” category of the USDA’s Food Pyramid, but in the sweetened beverage category.”

Weight issues aside, sugar is sugar whether it’s from honey, table sugar or a glass of orange juice. As Ann Louise Gittleman reminds us in her book, too much of it has a negative effect on the ability of the body to fight disease:

“The immune system is so sensitive to sugars of any kind that its effectiveness is immediately reduced by half when sugars are consumed, even in as small an amount as one glass of juice. 

I’m still going to enjoy the summer’s bounty, but I plan to eat every sweet piece of fruit much more mindfully, savoring every bite like it was candy.

Wendy Hoffman writes about women’s health at www.menopausetheblog.com.

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About the Author

Wendy writes about women's health in midlife.