A number of national and international health organizations laud the benefits associated with a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and recommend that folks increase their consumption to reduce the risk of developing lifestyle-related conditions, including overweight and obesity.1–3 Despite the myriad benefits, many health professionals often recommend that folks limit fruit intake when they’re trying to lose weight, and fitness “pros” may go so far as to suggest the complete elimination of fruit from the diet when trying to lose fat.
Often, recommendations for fruit intake get grouped together with vegetables, and this can lead folks to believe that the two are synonymous. It is fair to say that fruits and vegetables may not be identical in nutritional value, and as a result, they shouldn’t be lumped together in a single category.
For instance, vegetables typically contain fewer calories and carbohydrates per serving than fruits, which contain more naturally-occurring sugar. With that being said, steadily- rising rates of overweight and obesity have far more to do with overconsumption of refined carbohydrates and added sugars than they do with eating too much fruit.4
Understanding Nutrient and Energy Density
Nutrient density refers to the amount of key, healthful nutrients per calorie of food, and just like vegetables, fruits are nutrient dense, rich in important micronutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals), fiber, and health-promoting, disease-fighting phytochemicals, which act as potent antioxidants that help combat free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Because whole fruits are also a very good source of dietary fiber and they have high water content, they are considered low-energy-dense foods, which means that they contain a relatively low amount of calories per unit of food.