Well, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing—even when it comes to something as healthy as fruit. Below, learn the dietary guidelines (aka how much fruit is too much!), the side effects of overdoing it, and the benefits of eating the right amount.
Can you eat too much fruit?
Fruit is an important part of every healthy diet. But can you eat too much fruit? The simple answer is: "Yes, it’s possible to eat too much of any food—including fruit," says Malina Malkani, RDN, media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and creator of Solve Picky Eating. But don’t worry—according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 12 percent of Americans are eating enough fruit, so the likelihood of needing a fruit intake limit is probably slim. In cases of extremes, however—such as for those who follow a fruitarian diet—getting some balanced diet advice may be necessary.
- Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition
- Ariane Hundt, clinical nutritionist
- Kiran Rajneesh, MD, neurologist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center
- Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, registered dietitian and co-founder of The Nutrition Twins
- Madeleine Putzi, MS, RDN, Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian
- Malina Malkani, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, pediatric dietitian, author, and founder of Solve Picky Eating
- Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD, registered dietitian
Let’s talk about that extreme. Fruit makes up 55 to 75 percent of a fruitarian diet. This type of eating has not been scientifically studied, but dietary experts emphasize that eating a fruit quantity this excessive can lead to malnutrition. Why? It lacks nutritional balance. The truth is, you can't get everything your body needs from fruit alone. This type of eating is also super restrictive, which can lead to forms of disordered eating.
The side effects of eating too much fruit can be very unpleasant. "Risks associated with excess fruit intake include stomach discomfort, diarrhea, bloating, heartburn, and potential nutrient deficiencies if excess fruit is replacing other important nutrients in the diet," says Malkani.
Also, from an absorption standpoint, Shena Jaramillo, RD, notes that it's important to remember that your body can only take in so much of the goodness of fruit in one sitting, so portion control is key. "It's great to get a variety of fruits daily, but once our bodies acquire the essential nutrients they need from it, there really is not a benefit to having more," she says. That means you don't need to triple up on oranges to triple your vitamin C intake, for example—your body can only take in so much at once.
How much fruit should you eat a day?
So, the question of the hour: Since it’s possible to eat too much fruit, how much fruit should you eat a day? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2020 to 2025 Dietary Guidelines suggest that Americans eat about two cups of fruit a day (that's the equivalent of a large banana and half of a large apple) in order to achieve nutritional balance in their daily diet. However, Malkani says there's a very real reason why many of us are confused about the nutritional fortitude of fruit: It stems (pardon the pun) from the widespread demonizing of sugar.
"Sugar gets a bad rap, in part because added sugars are often excessively present in processed foods, and it’s easy to get confused because fruit does contain sugar," says Malkani. "But the nutrient profiles of fruits—which include naturally-occurring sugars that provide energy and are accompanied by vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber—are keenly different from the refined sugars added to processed foods to increase their palatability and shelf life."
There are also questions surrounding whole fruit vs. fruit juice, dried fruit, and fruit portion control in a low-carb or diabetes diet. Overall, your individual fruit and nutrition needs may differ from someone else's. If you feel as though you have specific fruit intake limits that need to be addressed, a doctor or dietitian is always there to give you balanced diet advice.
Fruit vs. fruit juices
If your healthy eating habits include drinking fruit juice over eating actual fruit, Madeleine Putzi, MS, RDN, a Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian, says you may want to consider opting for the whole fruit instead. At least most of the time. “While juice is fine in moderation, you’re really missing out on the vital nutrients that the whole fruit provides,” she says. “Fruit juice has some vitamin C, but there are really no health benefits specifically aligned with its consumption.”
But what about 100 percent fruit juice? Unfortunately, Putzi says even that option is very high in sugar. “Consider limiting it to one to two cups a day and watering it down by about 50 percent, if possible,” she says.
Dried fruit is undoubtedly delicious. While dietitians say it's a great source of fiber and antioxidants, there are some downsides to be aware of. Primarily, how high it is in sugar, with most options being double the sugar content of fresh fruit. "We're talking 70 grams of sugar per serving," Ariane Hundt, a clinical nutritionist, previously told Well+Good. To put that into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that women cap their sugar intake at 25 grams per day. While dried fruit (the benefits of raisins are definitely worthwhile) can be part of a healthy diet, dietitians recommend keeping portion sizes in check and pairing it with protein and/or a healthy fat to prevent a blood sugar spike from occurring.
Fruit and diabetes
When managing diabetes, it's extra important that individuals consider how their fruit and diet choices affect their blood sugar levels. Dietary experts recommend that individuals with diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels should reach out to a registered dietitian or physician if they’re unsure about what fruit quantity is appropriate for their diet, as they need to be particularly careful of their sugar intake compared to others.
“While there are some fruits that are higher in naturally occurring sugars than others, diabetics can still enjoy fruit in moderation. If you’re choosing a fruit that’s higher in total sugars, such as oranges or mangos, you can compromise by enjoying half of the fruit instead of the whole piece,” says Putzi. “Pairing higher-sugar foods with protein and fat will help prevent or slow blood sugar spikes. Eating an apple with two tablespoons of almond butter, for example—which is rich in protein and fat—will help stabilize your blood sugar, in addition to helping you stay fuller for longer.”
Eating fruit on a low-carb diet
While fruit is incredibly nutritious, it can be fairly high in carbohydrates, making those on a low-carb diet wonder about fruit intake limits. However, rest assured that your healthy eating habits can still include the sweet and delicious food group, so long as you're mindful of portion control.
“If you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet, you can still enjoy fruits, even if you’re cutting them in half,” says Putzi. “Some fruits have a lower glycemic index than others, which is based on the total sugar content and speed at which the food affects blood sugar levels. Bananas and mangos, for example, have a higher glycemic index, so it may be beneficial to split them in half (or thirds) depending on why you’re adhering to a low-carbohydrate diet.”
Healthy eating tips for consuming fruit
Ahead, you'll find all the balanced diet advice you'll need on fruit consumption—from tips on healthy fruit servings to why you should always be trying to eat the rainbow.
Sometimes timing matters
According to Putzi, for the general population, the timing of eating fruit—or any carbohydrate, for that matter—isn’t something you need to worry about. However, for those who need to be conscious of blood sugar regulation, timing is key.
“For diabetics or prediabetics, it’s recommended to spread carbohydrate sources evenly throughout the day—and around the same times each day—to help your body know when to expect dips and rises in blood sugar,” says Putzi. “Remembering to pair fruits with healthy fats and proteins at your meal will help regulate this rise. This will look different for each person depending on a variety of factors, such as whether they’re taking medications.”
Pay attention to fruit colors
One of the best healthy eating tips dietary experts can provide is to eat the rainbow (and make your two cups of fruit as colorful as possible). Just like when it comes to your daily fruit quantity, you can add more color to your veggies, too. “It’s important to try and get a variety of fruits and vegetable colors in your diet for optimal health. Highly pigmented fruits and veggies—such as cherries, beets, and peppers—contain phytonutrients, which provide antioxidants and a multitude of health benefits, such as disease prevention,” says Putzi. “Try to use the mantra ‘follow the rainbow’ throughout the day. This will help you achieve a diverse profile of all beneficial plant compounds, such as carotenoids, anthocyanins, beta-carotene, and flavanols.”
Be aware of serving sizes
Your daily allotment of two cups can come in the form of fresh, frozen, dried, canned, pre-cut, or puréed fruit. If you're making a smoothie to get in those healthy fruit servings, you might not find it that hard to measure out two cups of apple, blackberries, or another combo. If you're enjoying whole fruits, however, it's not always easy to eyeball a serving size when figuring out how much fruit you should eat a day. While you can find an exhaustive list of fruit serving sizes here, this list is a helpful start:
- 1 cup apple is equal to 1/2 of a large apple
- 1 cup of banana is equal to one large banana
- 1 cup of grapes is the equivalent of 32 seedless grapes
- 1 cup of grapefruit equals one medium grapefruit
- 1 cup of orange is the equivalent of one large orange
- 1 cup of plums is the equivalent of three medium-sized plums
- 1 cup of strawberries is equal to eight large strawberries
The benefits of eating the right amounts of your favorite kinds of fruit
Fruit isn’t just delicious—it also plays a pivotal role in fostering healthy eating habits and maintaining nutritional balance. When you follow dietitian recommendations on fruit intake limits, there are plenty of benefits to get excited about.
1. Fruit is rich in satiating fiber
"Fruit contains fiber, which helps slow the rate of the absorption of fructose—the main type of sugar found in fruit—into your bloodstream," says Malkani. “This is good because it helps prevent the surges in blood sugar that when repeated, can over time lead to insulin resistance and increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.”
If you've enjoyed fruit in your oatmeal, you've probably also experienced its satiating superpowers. "The fiber in fruit helps us feel fuller longer," says Malkani. "It also contributes to the good bacteria in our intestines, which in turn contributes to better gut health." That means more poops and better overall digestion. Who could complain?
A few fruits come out on top when it comes to fiber content. Raspberries contain about eight grams per cup, a medium pear has about six grams, an apple contains five grams, and bananas, oranges, and strawberries all contain about three grams for their respective serving sizes. Design your fruit salad accordingly.
2. It's super hydrating
Fruit may be something you eat, but your body processes it a whole lot like it would a glass of water. "Wild blueberries are about 86 percent water, as are apples. Fresh cherries are 82 percent water, and even a banana is 75 percent water," says registered dietitian Amy Gorin, RDN. Especially if you wake up in the morning feeling thirsty, fruit is a really good addition to whatever breakfast you're making for yourself—whether it's oatmeal with banana, Greek yogurt with blueberries, or protein pancakes with strawberries.
3. It’s loaded with antioxidants
Antioxidants help protect against inflammation because they fight free radical damage, which comes about during exposure to sunlight and pollution, among other situations. And fruit is abundant in these protective compounds.
4. Fruit offers a diverse range of vitamins and minerals
A 2018 study, which looked at the gut health of 11,000 participants, found that the healthiest folks eat more than 30 different types of plants each week. A diverse diet, researchers found, equals a diverse helping of vitamins and minerals—and fruit can be an instrumental part of that.
For example, says Jaramillo: "Some nutrients we might find in fruit include vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin K, manganese, and vitamin E. All of fruit's nutrients are essential for optimal functions of body systems. Important electrolytes such as potassium are also essential in renal and cardiovascular function."
5. Fruit is good for your heart
Cardiologists have repeatedly told Well+Good that they eat fruit every day to protect their ticker. Their most popular go-tos? Avocado (which is full of healthy fats and is one of the most high-protein fruits) and berries (linked to lowering blood pressure). Of course, dietitian recommendations include eating fruit for heart health too, with Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, previously telling Well+Good that you can switch things up by adding some persimmons to your diet: “They’re rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol, which help to fight oxidative damage and decrease the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease,” she says.
6. It’s good for your brain, too
The reason why fruit is such a brain-healthy food is because of its antioxidants. "Antioxidants are an important dietary need to repair neurons and keep them in prime function," neurologist Kiran Rajneesh, MD, previously told Well+Good.
7. Consuming fruit is linked to living longer
Fruit is an important part of the Mediterranean diet, which is the most science-backed eating plan in the entire world. Following the Med diet (fruit included) is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and cancer and may add years to your life.
So it's clear: Fruit is really awesome. But side effects of eating too much fruit are possible. If you eat a lot of fruit and start experiencing stomach discomfort, bloating, or diarrhea, that's a sign that you may be overdoing it. If that's the case, this is when being mindful of the recommended serving sizes above can especially come in handy.
Frequently asked questions
Is sugar from fruit bad for you?
Putzi wants to make something very clear: The idea that sugar that comes from fruit is bad for you is a myth. “Whole foods with naturally occurring sugars provide many essential vitamins and minerals that are needed to support our daily bodily functions,” she says. While she notes that it’s always good to be mindful of your total sugar consumption, it’s better to monitor your added sugar consumption.
“‘Added sugars,’ which are now listed on food labels, indicate the amount of sugar that was added to the product that was not already naturally occurring,” she says. “The dietary guidelines recommend that less than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake should come from added sugars.”
How do you know if you're eating too much fruit?
There are some side effects of eating too much fruit. “If you eat too much fruit, as with any food, you may experience indigestion. Because fruit is higher in fiber, eating too much at once may upset your stomach or give you the runs,” says Putzi. That happens when your body isn’t accustomed to a high fiber load. But she says if you gradually increase your fiber intake over time (or add in some low-fiber fruits), your body should adjust. So long as you stick to the dietitian recommendation of two cups of fruit a day, you should be just fine.
What is the best fruit to eat every day?
There’s no “best” option when it comes to getting in your healthy fruit servings every day. Putzi says one of her best healthy eating tips is focusing on getting a good variety, which you can turn into a fun new adventure in your fruit and nutrition journey. “If you’re used to only eating one or two of your favorites, I challenge you to go to the grocery store or farmers’ market and pick out something you normally wouldn’t select,” she says. “You may be surprised with how much you like it.” Also, don’t skimp on the freezer section. You’ll find some of the best frozen fruits there, often at a more affordable price than fresh.
- Lee-Kwan, Seung Hee et al. “Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption – United States, 2015.” MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report vol. 66,45 1241-1247. 17 Nov. 2017, doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6645a1
- McDonald, Daniel et al. “American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research.” mSystems vol. 3,3 e00031-18. 15 May. 2018, doi:10.1128/mSystems.00031-18
Loading More Posts...