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Can Eating Fruit Help You Lose Weight?

by
author image Katie Kirkpatrick
Katie Kirkpatrick has been writing nutrition articles since 2005. As a registered dietitian, her work has appeared in the "Massachusetts Dietetic Association Newsletter." Kirkpatrick holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Miami University and a Master of Science in nutrition from Boston University.
Can Eating Fruit Help You Lose Weight?
A close-up on a basket of fresh fruit. Photo Credit Zoonar/P.Jilek/Zoonar/Getty Images

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2009 statistics, 26.7 percent of adults in the U.S. are considered obese. This is a 9.6 percent increase from the year 2000. Given the prevalence of obesity, it is no surprise that Americans spend millions of dollars each year on losing weight. Weight loss is often achieved and maintained with multiple strategies -- among them, eating more fruits and vegetables.

Fruit Functions

While fruit is naturally low in fat, sodium and calories, it is high in nutrients. Fruit contains abundant vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and potassium, all of which are important for optimal health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate Food Guide recommends that adults consume 1.5 cups to 2 cups of fruit per day. Equivalents of one cup include one small apple, one large peach or orange, 32 grapes, one small wedge of watermelon or one cup of pineapple chunks.

Fiber

Fruit is packed with fiber, an indigestible plant-based carbohydrate. Fiber adds bulk and volume without adding a lot of calories. Because of its bulk, fiber helps keep you full longer. A National Institute of Health newsletter reports that people on high fiber diets tend to eat about 10 percent fewer calories. In addition, other large studies found that people who have a high intake of fiber tend to weigh less. Fruit juice provides little or no fiber, so choose whole fruits. Eat the skins of fruits, such as apples, pears and peaches to maximize your fiber and vitamin benefits.

Low in Calories

Nutrient dense foods such as fruit provide a high amount of nutrients in a low calorie package. Fruit has high water content, contributing to satiety. Thirty-five overweight women were randomized to eat oat cookies, apples or pears three times per day along with a hypocaloric diet in a study from Maria Conceicao de Oliveira and team at the State University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. After 12 weeks, the fruit groups lost 1.21 kg compared to 0.88 kg in the oats group. However, the fruit groups had an increase in blood triglycerides at the follow-up.

Mixed Results

Replacing higher calorie and fat foods with fruit can aid in weight loss by decreasing your overall calorie intake. However, a more conventional low calorie diet outperformed a high fruit and vegetable diet in a study by Sherry Tanumihardjo and colleagues from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the study, some participants consumed a diet of eight servings per day of vegetables and two to three servings of fruit. The other group reduced caloric intake by 500 and consumed less than 25 percent of their calories from fat. At all three follow-ups -- three months, 12 months and 18 months -- caloric intake was significantly lower for the vegetable and fruit group, yet body mass index was lower only at the three month mark. At the 12 and 18 month marks, it was higher. The low-calorie, low-fat group had a lower body mass index at all three follow-ups.

Fructose

The mechanism by which fructose is metabolized in the liver may lead to an increase in blood triglycerides. The sweet sugar, fructose, is found naturally in fruit, vegetables and honey, or manufactured into high-fructose corn syrup. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, one theory behind the role of fructose in obesity is that fructose does not affect the hormones that regulate hunger and food intake in the same way as other carbohydrates. The foundation notes that the speculation is based on research involving large amounts of fructose, three to four times the amount in the typical American diet.

Implication

Fruit alone won't cause you to lose weight, but some research shows that it can help your weight loss journey. Increasing your fruit intake, along with a reducing your caloric intake may lead to the greatest weight loss success. Keep in mind that a calorie is a calorie whether it comes from fruit or chocolate cake, and all carbohydrates, in varying degrees, can contribute to weight gain. Overconsuming calories from any source will prevent weight loss, or promote weight gain. Stick to the government's recommendation of 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day and stick to whole fruit instead of fruit juice to get the benefits of fiber and lower sugar content.

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