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Does Eating Fruit Make You Gain Fat? – No, It Doesn’t.

By Charlie Seltzer, MD / November 4, 2016

Has anyone ever told you that in order to get ripped, you must eliminate fruit?

I know many physique competitors who completely cut fruit from their nutrition plans, even months away from a contest, out of fear that fruit will limit the amount of fat they can lose – or even cause them to gain weight.

Where does this reasoning come from, and most importantly, is it correct?

What Is Fruit?

According to botany (the study of plants) fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant. It is usually sweet. Vegetables, on the other hand, are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems.

In the context of food, certain “vegetables,” like eggplant and bell peppers are actually fruits, and some foods, such as tomatoes, have properties of both fruits and vegetables. For this article, I use the term fruit to describe what you probably think of when someone says the word fruit (berries, apples, papaya, etc.), though technically speaking avocados, cucumbers, and olives are all fruit as well.

Where Does The “Fruit Makes You Fat” Idea Come From?

Many people who believe fruit makes you fat adhere to the principles of “bro-science,” which Urban Dictionary accurately defines as “the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.” In this case, while hearing what others have to say is generally a good thing, it’s important to understand that genetically gifted or “assisted” individuals often look the way they do in spite of their approach, not because of it.

Others believe the fructose (a type of sugar found in fruit) causes fat gain. Some studies suggest that fructose ingestion leads to insulin resistance, elevated blood cholesterol levels and increased fat gain, especially in the abdominal area.1 Additionally, fructose lowers the amount of insulin released in response to meals. This in turn lowers the circulating levels of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for increasing feelings of fullness and raises the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin.2 This scenario can lead to excess calorie consumption, which can cause fat gain.

Several studies show an association between beverages containing fructose (or high fructose corn syrup, which is not found in nature) and weight gain.34 However, there is good research that suggests it is the calories from the sugar and not the particular type of sugar that is responsible for the weight gain.56

Additionally, fruit contains relatively low levels of fructose compared to sweetened beverages. For example, a medium apple contains around 13 grams of fructose7 and 90 calories. A 20-ounce Coke has 65 grams of sugar, about half of which is fructose, and 240 calories. (And, yes, the calories should be 260 , due to 4 calories per gram of sugar. I couldn’t find an explanation for this discrepancy.)

If Fruit Doesn’t Make You Fat, What Does?

Excess calories cause weight gain. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight no matter where the calories come from. So does fruit make you fat? It can in the sense that if you eat too much of it (or too much of anything) you will gain weight. If you eat higher calorie fruits like bananas you will be more likely to put on weight than if you eat lower calorie fruits like strawberries.

Fruit is packed with nutrients, has a high water content that makes it filling, and contains fiber. In moderation, fruit is an excellent choice as a healthy source of carbohydrates.

Show 7 References

  1. Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K. Fructose, Insulin Resistance, and Metabolic Dyslipidemia. Nutr Metab. (Lond). 2005; 2:5.
  2. Teff Kl, Elliott SS, Tschop M, Kieffer TJ, Rader D, Heiman M, Townsend RR, Keim NL, D’Alessio D, Havel PJ. Dietary fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, attenuates postprandial suppression of ghrelin, and increases triglycerides in women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jun; 89(6): 2963-72.
  3. Malik V, Schulze M, Hu F. Intake of sugar sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. Aug 2006; 84(2); 274-88.
  4. Schulze M, Manson J, Ludwig D, Colditz G, Stampfer M, Willet W, Hu F. Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. JAMA. 2004; 292(8): 927-34.
  5. Sievenpiper JL, de Souza RJ, Mirrahimi A, Yu ME, Carleton AJ, Beyene J, Chiavaroli L, Di Buono M, Jenkins AL, Leiter LA, Wolever TM, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ. Effect of fructose on bodyweight in controlled feeding trials: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Feb 21;156(4): 291-394.
  6. Forshee R, Storey M, Allison D, Glinsmann W, Hein G, Lineback D, Miller S, Nicklas T, Weaver G, White J. A critical examination of evidence relating high fructose corn syrup and weight gain. Food Sci Nutr. 2007; 47(6).
  7. High fructose corn syrup is made from fructose bonded to glucose, aka dextrose. The ratios generally come in 42% or 55% fructose. Interestingly, table sugar is made up of equal parts fructose and glucose.

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40 Comments

  • Mike says:

    I have been studying about vegetarianism and fruitarianism and I have to tell you that you could eat just fruit and still do amazing things. Check this guy out who has the fruitarian life style and is a marathon runner. Amazing!! http://www.thefruitarian.com/ or this you tube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgEgMuJijd8

  • uncadonego says:

    I liked this article, particularly the title.
    As a comparison, even though most of us wouldn't eat this meal, a quarter pounder with cheese, a medium fry, a medium coke and an apple pie is 1380 calories.

    Eating an equal amount of fruit would be 100 grams each of grapefruit, watermelon, starfruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, peaches, nectarines, pineapple, plums, apricots, and apple. That's over 2.6 pounds of food. Do you think you would be full yet? But wait, you haven't eaten the same as the McDonald's meal yet. Eat all of those quantities of fruit two more times.....

    Don't need to worry about reduced leptin when you're splitting a gut!!

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Good point! Volume of food makes a big difference for satiety.

  • Jiana says:

    Great Article :D
    Thank you for the information, I am using it in my work :)

  • Ammy says:

    It's a great article Mark. I completely agree with it. Eating fruits not only provides you with enough fiber and energy to boost your workout, but also provide you with essential vitamins and nutrients which can only be found in nature foods unless you want to pop a multi-vitamin.
    Great article. (y) :D

  • Dennis says:

    Great article as always, although i have a question regarding this topic.

    A friend of mine is working out quite some time now and he swears that the diet hes on now makes him very lean. He claims that eating fruits (apples, nectarines, banana etc.) has a lot of sugars in it, making him increase body fat. Instead he relies on taking a lot of fats (saturated and unsaturated) by taking a lot of fat containing foods (beef, full-fat yoghurt, whole eggs etc.). I know for a fact that his overall calorie (and carb) intake is relatively low, but taking fats instead of (unprocessed) sugars to get lean seems very contradictory to me. What is your opinion on taking fats versus sugars in that matter?

    I am aware that nutrition works differently for every person and that this issue depends on a lot of factors, but i would like to know your take on this.

    Greetings,

    Dennis

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Dennis - I recommend checking out the comment I gave to Christopher's question => http://www.builtlean.com/2014/07/15/fruit-gain-fat/#comment-178998. I personally prefer relatively higher protein, moderate carbs, and moderate fat, around a 40 / 30 / 30 split which is similar to what is advocated on the zone diet, but as you mention, it's different for every person. So in my opinion, whether you want to go lower carbs, or lower fat depends on which helps you feel more full eating less calories. When I go too low on carbs, I'm constantly hungry even if I'm eating a decent amount of calories.

  • Hank says:

    I am amazed at many of the cogent comments. As a prior chemical engineer I know that the calories in equal the calories out no matter what the source. Thermodynamics is a law not a theory, the 5000 calorie diet will result in a weight gain that will not change in any individual unless his burn of calories changes.

  • Randy says:

    Eating too much fructose and glucose can turn off the gene that regulates the levels of active testosterone and estrogen in the body, shows a new study in mice and human cell cultures that's published this month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. This discovery reinforces public health advice to eat complex carbohydrates and avoid sugar.

    I will eat fruit one day a week, otherwise I leave it alone...

    • Kristin says:

      Thanks for sharing that info, Randy! It's definitely an interesting perspective on fruit. I'll check out the research report that you mentioned.
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Stephen says:

    The type of fruit consumed is also relevant to this issue. See Muraki, et. al., Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies, (2013) British Medical Journal, 347.

    Open access here: http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5001

  • Ro says:

    hi guys ! great article for this summer!

    i eat as a snack some fruits and orange juice during summer but for the breakfast i uses mixed dried fruits with oats n milk.

    -i wondering whats the difference with fresh fruits and some dried fruits? (coconut, papaya, apricots, pineapple, raisins)

    - do u think its risky to eat this on a daily basis? is there more sugar in it than fresh ones? should i balance to change my habit? i love them a lot lol.

    thanks for the answer !

    sorry im from france not super fluent :)

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Ro - That's a great question. In general, dried fruits have a higher amount of sugar than fresh fruit in terms of volume. One of the benefits of fresh fruit is that it's filled with water and has more volume to help fill you up. I definitely eat dried fruits sometimes, but if and when possible, fresh fruits are ideal.

  • Louis says:

    Enjoying your article ps! It really helps since I've changed my eating habits if fast food and drinking alcohol to a more healthy eating and limit my intake of alcohol ! Along with weekly exercise ! I've lost over 17 pounds in 8 weeks and yes I eat fruit as well !

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      That's awesome, Louis. Congrats on your success and thanks for sharing.

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