What a Dietitian Says You Need To Know About Using Fruit as a Source of Plant-Based Protein

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By now, most health-conscious people are aware of how important eating protein is for achieving optimal health, stamina, and fitness. “There is a lot of research to protein's positive impact on energy levels, muscle strength and repair, immune health, and so much more,” explains functional medicine registered dietitian Brigid Titgemeier, RD. The good news is that many of the plant-based foods you already know and love are good sources of protein, from the classic soy-based proteins like tempeh and tofu to beans, nuts, and even plenty of vegetables.

But what about everyone’s go-to nutritious (and naturally sweet) snack, fresh fruit? We sincerely hope that the days when fruit was considered not healthy according to some practitioners due to its sugar content are long behind us, but does that mean you should be mainlining the juicy stuff as part of your strategy to achieve a balanced set of macronutrients (protein specifically)? TL; DR: While there’s no doubt that eating fruit has some incredible health benefits, getting in your daily protein intake may not be one of them.

Experts In This Article

Protein 101

Including the right amount of protein in your diet is certainly important. “Protein consists of amino acids—often referred to as the 'building blocks' that form all of our cells, tissues, organs, as well as enzymes and hormones that help our cells communicate with each other,” says Tigemeier. The macronutrient plays a crucial role in just about every single bodily function, from digestion and hormone regulation to the benefits Titgemeier outlined above.

But with various dietary philosophies from keto to paleo proclaiming different “ideal” ratios of carbs, protein, and fat, it can be hard to know how much protein we should really be aiming for when it comes to our daily meals and snacks. Short answer: One size does not fit all. According to Titgemeier, most people need a minimum of one gram of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. As you get older or become especially physically active, those needs can increase; this is simply a basic guideline.

How much protein does fruit contain?

So, back to the original question: Is fruit a good source of plant-based protein? The answer is… not really. “While fruit is an amazing source of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, it is not a good source of protein,” says Titgemeier. She explains that one serving of most fruits has approximately one gram of protein, which means that in order to get enough protein, you’d have to eat a ton of fruit. For example, if you ate 12 cups of strawberries a day, you’d still only be getting about nine and a half grams of protein.

Plus, you may be wondering: Can you eat too much fruit? The answer is yes, and Titgemeier explains that eating this amount of fruit throughout the day can increase the risk of blood sugar fluctuations because of the carbohydrate content, which may lead to increased anxiety and stress or low energy levels. It's also a lot of fiber, which is great news, but may come as a shock to your digestive system.

Again, there is no reason to be scared to eat fruit due to its carbohydrate content, and the fiber content of the fruit does help slow down the absorption of sugars when compared to foods with added sugars. The point here is that you shouldn’t be relying on fruit alone for your protein intake.

Find stronger sources of plant-based protein an RD recommends in this video:

According to Titgemeier, it’s always a good idea to pair fruit with a protein source in order to help balance blood sugar levels and boost nutrient absorption. Titgemeier recommends combining a serving of fruit with some Greek yogurt and a tablespoon of nut butter for a well-balanced breakfast or snack, having your avocado with some eggs, or trying her peach porridge recipe that’s loaded with fruit, healthy fat, and plant-based protein. Smoothies can also be great options. “Just be sure that you have at least one source of protein, such as nut butter or yogurt, and a source of fat, like chia or nut butter, in your smoothie to prevent crashes,” says Titgemeier.

7 (relatively) high-protein fruits to nosh on

Fruit may not have a ton of protein, but it does have some (in addition to tons of other important nutrients, like fiber and antioxidants). Here, a list of seven relatively high-protein fruits to choose from.

1. Guava

A third of a cup of this tropical fruit will give you three grams of protein. Try it cubed on top of a greek yogurt bowl with chopped nuts for a protein-packed breakfast combo.

2. Avocado

If you’re looking for an excuse to eat more avocado, here's one of many. Half of an avocado yields two grams of protein, making it a great complement to eggs or smashed on toast with a sprinkle of roasted chickpeas. (Or you can also try one of these avocado substitute options packed with loads of protein.)

3. Blackberries

These sweet, tart treats boast the most protein of the berry bunch at two grams per cup. Throw into a smoothie with nut butter or oats, or top a bowl of cottage cheese.

4. Apricots

Four small apricots will get you two grams of plant-based protein. Pair them with a chunk of high-quality cheese and a handful of nuts for a superstar midday snack that will keep your energy levels up.

5. Jackfruit

This popular meat substitute will get you nearly two grams of protein per half cup, making it versatile in a wide variety of recipes, from summer rolls to nachos.

6. Kiwi

One large kiwi contains one gram of protein, making it a portable snack that pair well with a nut butter packet or cheese stick. Eat the skin for even more fiber (yes, really).

7. Oranges

Among many other health benefits, the mighty orange yields one gram of protein per medium-sized fruit. Try Sumo Citrus for a candy-like treat, without the sugar crash.

One more reason to love fruit? It helps you poop! Learn which are best for regularity by checking out this video:

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