Eating fruit can add hundreds of calories to your diet

Belly fat goes hand in hand with overindulging in healthy fruit

How healthy food can make you fat

In today’s health article, dietician Jaime Rose Chambers answers Christine’s question about whether her husband’s large intake of fruit is contributing to his weight gain. 

Q. Christine
My husband eats mountains of fruit believing it to be healthy. His daily intake would consist of an apple, an orange, a peach, a banana, strawberries, blackberries, grapes and any other fruit he takes a fancy to. This is not as a meal replacement but comes in between his three meals a day. He has a lot of belly fat and I am convinced it is due to the intake of fructose from all the fruit. He thinks I have rocks in my head as he says everyone knows that fruit is good for you. Can anyone help solve this issue for us, please? 

A. There is no doubt that too much fructose (or fruit sugar) in your diet can contribute to fat gain. This is because fructose is metabolised somewhat differently to other sugars. Fructose gets shuffled through the liver where it can easily be stored as fat. 

It’s important to recognise, though, that fructose-containing foods are not all created equal. The fructose from the recommended two to three servings of fruit per day is an important part of our diet because fruit contains fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. That fibre also helps to slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream.

However, the high doses of fructose found in fruit juice, some sauces and soft drinks can contribute to fat gain. Eating a huge amount of fruit each day may also contribute to this fat gain but increased weight also occurs from generally eating more calories than our body needs. Each serving of fruit contains about 100 calories so it’s possible your husband is consuming too many calories a day, with a vast majority of those calories coming from fruit. 

Jaime Rose Chambers is an accredited practising dietician and nutritionist, and co-author of The Mystery Gut (Pan Macmillan). 



    To make a comment, please register or login
    8th Jan 2018
    The reason your husband prefers all that fruit is that he is addicted to the sugar and most of these are bad sugars (sucrose and fructose) in our modern fruits.

    The thing is that we are driven by several instinctive taste drives. We seek out sweetness, fatty foods, roasted-toasted flavours (what scientists call Maillard products) and micronutrients. I'll expand on these later.

    The problem is that our conventional, cultivated fruits (and vegetables) are being bred to survive the harvest and distribution chain rather than for our ideal nutrition. We breed produce that can be produced in vast quantities; picked unripe so that they can endure the post-harvest handling; they can be stored chilled for years; gassed when needed to be marketed and still be robust enough to be shipped all over the planet to market. By the time we get to eat some 'fresh' fruits, they might be celebrating their first birthday off the tree.

    Consider how we judge our fruits. Taste strawberries, grapes, melons, oranges, apples, mandarins etc and the first comment is usually, Wow. Sweet. Even our vegetables are becoming more addictive – sweet peas, sweet potatoes, sweet corn. The Americans now have a variant of sweet corn that’s 45% sugar, so sweet in fact, it’s called candy corn. Our produce is grown to be big, juicy, low or no fibre, colourful (on the surface at least) and sweet.

    Maybe 50 years ago, our produce was worth eating but things have changed as Big Farma grows vast volumes of 'stuff' to feed the world's burgeoning population. Even organic produce is selected for size, juciness and sweetness and is often cold-stored.

    The bad sugars are definitely contributing to our expanding waistlines and to our failing health. However, it is the absence of micronutrients that is exacerbating the problem.

    The falling levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, anti-allergens (notice the range of food sensitivities these days?), anti-proliferatives (actives against rogue cells eg tumors, cancers etc), good sugars, enzymes and enzyme regulators, minerals and more make the sugar story worse than most of the pandemic outbreaks throughout history.

    Metabolic syndrome might be responsible for upwards of a few hundred million deaths by the time it is done and possibly even a billion is not improbable. This makes it the most effective mass killer in human history. We might be able to reduce the need for these micronutrients if we can fight the addictive impulses we humans love. However, a good sugar hit is often better than sex, gambling, alcohol and even some illicit drugs. You can keep your clothes on, it doesn’t make you sick the next day (it takes a little longer) and it is pretty cheap in comparison to drugs and alcohol.

    Sugar has a lot going for it so far as taste, texture and satisfaction go and hence fruit bingeing is commonly a significant source of fructose.

    To expand on the metabolism of the bad sugar, fructose:

    * it leads to high levels of uric acid (more women these days are getting gout);
    * raised blood pressure;
    * fat storage in the liver as well as in and around other organs (so much so that our muscles look more like wagyu than some steaks);
    * insulin resistance as well as high blood sugars and potentially on to diabetes:
    * leptin resistance leaving us constantly hungry for more rubbish foods:
    * a microbiome (gut flora) that forces us to eat what they want (a bad diet for us) because it developed through the poor diet we chose in response to our taste drives and low quality foods
    * and more...

    Did you know that a mango, pineapple, some stone fruits and melons can have 2-3% MORE sugar than the same weight of one of those branded Cola drinks. And the micronutrients and fibre content are about the same too.

    Not to be all gloom and doom, the solution is to limit your intake of sweet and fatty foods, what the added sugars in roasted (baked) or processed foods and beverages and boost your micronutrient intake by eating wild, near-wild and heirloom varieties of produce. Also look to wild game (not farmed emu, salmon, game birds etc).
    8th Jan 2018
    where do u find a dietician that knows about fatty liver isses ?? that one can afford . and the issues around gaining weight on anti depressants
    8th Jan 2018
    Watch this a few times to let it sink in:
    Energy density explains how a study can show participants lose an average of 17 pounds within 21 days while eating a greater quantity of food.

    The weight gain is not from the fruits but is surely from the 3 meals eaten which is energy dense especially from saturated fats and oils.
    8th Jan 2018
    When are people going to learn that fructose in whole fruit is not the issue. It is only when fructose in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup for example is added to other foods or when the fructose is extracted from the fruit in fruit juices devoid of fibre that it becomes an issue.

    Eating whole fruit will only cause weight gain if the total calorie intake is higher than the body needs to cover all its functions including activity. The exact same thing would happen even if the food of choice was lettuce - you'd just have to eat more of it!

    Lets stop demonising whole fruit and its inherent fructose and put the blame where it belongs. A generally poor diet caused by overeating and poor nutritional balance even when gorging on so called 'healthy foods'.
    8th Jan 2018
    You are spot on. Our bodies are able to absorb natural foods like fruit and vegetables and most people do not have anywhere near what is recommended. Berries are low in calories as are cherries.
    If his fruit fits into his calorie intake for the day then he is healthier than someone who eats biscuits and scones with a cuppa and huge steaks and chips.
    If he is on 2000 calories a day and his fruit is around 500 calories or less for the entire day but he eats light meals like grills and steamed vegetables and rolled oats etc. he is doing fine.
    Have fruit and leave the processed foods and rubbish in the shop.
    8th Jan 2018
    I was 112 kgs and went onto a Paw Paw (Papaya for some) diet. This consisted of one bowl (normal soup bowl) of Paw Paw for breakfast each morning. after 12 months I now weigh 83 kgs and my waist is 102 from 114 cms.
    I am also a diabetic, and my blood sugar levels have dropped from 14 to between 4.5 and 6, taken weekly at the Doctors, during this period.
    I think it may be the enzymes in the Paw Paw, but I am not sure. At least it has worked for me. I also feel better and the Doctor is happy with both the weight loss and the Blood Sugar levels attained.
    8th Jan 2018
    Congrats FedUp, well done to you!
    8th Jan 2018
    Let’s compare having a lot of fruit with having rubbish like donuts and biscuits, etc.
    One average each of apple, orange, banana, pear plus 25 cherries and half cup of blueberries comes in at under 400 calories.
    On the other hand, one piece of carrot cake from Muffin Break is 761 calories, even half that is huge. One donut contains 291 calories and 100 grams of cheesecake is 320 calories.
    8th Jan 2018
    Whole fruit is good for you. If you eat too much you are more likely to get diarrhoea before you have to worry about the sugar.
    fish head
    8th Jan 2018
    Let's try for a little common sense here. You eat large quantities of ANY food you are going to have a weight problem. The secret is moderation. Your man is not practising moderation. Suggest he turn sideways and look at his outline in the mirror. That should be enough to shock him into using common sense. 'Tain't a pretty sight.
    9th Jan 2018
    Actually that is incorrect. What you are eating is important not the amount. You can eat lettuce til your heart’s content but one donut is one too many. Fruit and all natural food is good for you and your body processes it. Processed food is not good but vegetables are very healthy especially ones like leafy greens, carrots and tomatoes.
    Meat is okay but not too much of it.
    So it does depend what the food is. One piece of cake is as many calories as all that fruit the man is accused of having. If he is having the fruit instead of any other snacks and his meals are sensible with lots of vegetables he does have a healthy diet.
    With people not having sufficient fruit and vegetables to come out and put down someone eating a lot of fruit seems foolish to me.
    He guy under discussion would have a happy bowel as well lol.
    9th Jan 2018
    I believe that this article is grossly wrong. A serving of fruit is NOT contain 100 calories. A tim tam doesn't even make the 100 calorie mark.An apple is approximately 50 calories and a cup of watermelon approximately 40 calories. Serves of fruit are usually between 40 and 50 calories, half the calories of a processed sweet snack.

    The weight issue is likely to be hormonal. Testosterone loss in older age means lost muscle mass because of not enough testosterone to maintain the existing muscle, which means less calories that used to be used to maintain as well as use that muscle, resulting in increased fat mass and loss of proportion. Women generally suffer the same issue post menopause.

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