Fruit is a well-known part of healthy nutrition and habits associated with wellness.
Many of us try to improve our health by taking supplements (e.g. vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.) with ingredients found in fruits and vegetables. Ironically, we are separating the molecules of something that is already healthy for us and creating a product that is often less healthy and more expensive. Some supplements are useful (especially if you have a nutritional deficiency). However, most people can benefit more from eating whole fruit and vegetables than taking supplements. Plus, whole fresh fruits cost less than supplements and add to our daily food plan, so they can help us save money.
Adopt the Habit: Why You Need to Eat More Fruit
Ideally at least 50% of your diet should consist of fruits and vegetables (Slavin & Lloyd, 2012). Consuming this amount may help reduce your risks of diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
Whole, fresh fruits consist of water, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals). As we continue to learn about these beneficial chemicals, businesses quickly try to package the ingredients into health supplements and sell these ingredients at high prices. However, these nutritional components work together in the body. Therefore, you will not get the same benefits of eating fresh, whole fruit if you just consume some of the ingredients in a pill or extract. In addition, whole fresh fruits reduce hunger, which is helpful for maintaining a healthy weight.
Juices do have some of the ingredients in whole fruit, but juicing removes the fruit’s fiber. The fiber itself is necessary for a healthy gastrointestinal system. (If your medical provider prescribed a liquid-only diet for you, follow your medical provider’s instructions.) Also, the reduced fiber in juices can cause the sugar in the juice to absorb into the stomach and intestines quickly, causing spikes in blood sugar/glucose. In general, we don’t see the health benefits of eating whole fruits when using juice instead. Therefore, smoothies made with whole fresh fruits are better than juices.
Adapt the Habit: Eat Fruit When and How You Can
Commit to adding 1 whole, fresh fruit to at least 1 meal each day. You can choose any meal you wish.
Breakfast is often the easiest meal to add fruit to. You can just throw it on your oatmeal or cereal or add it to a smoothie and drink it on the go. But if you don’t eat breakfast, you can always grab a piece of fruit (like a banana or apple) for eating later in your day. Sweet and tangy fruits also work as a healthy desert, whether eaten alone or mixed into a cobbler (no sugar added).
And don’t forget, not all fruits are sweet (e.g. tomatoes, squash, eggplant, bell peppers, … yup, those are fruits according to botany classifications). If you don’t like sweet foods, you can mix your fruit into your daily soup, eat it with a sandwich or salad at lunch, or add it as a side dish during dinner.
Incorporating fruit into commonly used spaces (e.g. the family kitchen, classrooms, the office) can also be a way to increase access to fruit and serve as a reminder to eat it regularly (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
If you want to add more fruit to your diet, excellent! Go for it. Add 1 to every meal if you can.
Attach the Habit: Adding Fruit to a Food Routine
Add your new whole-fresh-fruit-eating habit to a routine you already have. If you don’t normally eat breakfast, don’t feel as if you need to start eating breakfast just to add fruit to it. Instead, add fruit to a different meal, such as lunch or your afternoon snack. You can even replace a not-so-good food habit with a new good-for-you fruit habit.
Wellness Habits Are the Foundation of a Life of Well-Being
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Strategies to prevent obesity and other chronic diseases-the cdc guide to strategies to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/fandv_2011_web_tag508.pdf
Slavin, J. L., & Lloyd, B. (2012). Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Advances in Nutrition, 3(4), 506–516. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.002154