I love me some fruit. I can’t imagine you don’t, too. I love it so much that because of the dearth of fresh, organic fruit lately, I’ve been thawing out bags of frozen berries and mangoes and eating little cups of it every day. It’s awesome that way because there’s a natural syrup that forms when the fruit thaws. I eat at least one banana a day. Screw all that talk about fructose; I love fructose. I’ve been eating a couple dates every day, and don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I’ll even sneak in a pear amidst all these fruitscapades. Why would anyone eat this much fruit, you ask? I feel better when I eat this much fruit, and I think that many of you would, too.
We’re not Atkins, like I’ve said before here. We’re Paleo. We’re supposed to eat what would have been available to us long, long ago. And no, fruit wouldn’t have been available to all of us around the globe every day of the year. Equatorial people were likely to have had access to it most often, while people everywhere else had it only seasonally. But in my opinion, fruit is incredibly good for you. Often just as nutritious or even moreso than vegetables. Let’s compare the amount of a small selection of nutrients in 1 cup of raw blueberries, 1 cup of raw cabbage, 1 cup of raw almonds, and 5 ounces of buffalo sirloin (just for the heck of it).
As you’ll see in the table below, raw cabbage is often negligibly higher than blueberries in most nutrients, but the key word here is negligibly. And I picked sort of a high nutrient vegetable. Cabbage is related to kale, the holy grail of vegetables. And these are not wild blueberries in the table, whose nutrient values would be higher than the domesticated blueberries I detailed below. You can see that nuts and meat are way higher in many of the nutrients, compared to either the cabbage or the blueberries. The blueberries, however, do contain relatively more carbohydrates and that’s what I’m trying to get at here.
(All data collected from the USDA nutrient database here.)
I need carbs. I feel better when I eat them. I rock climb 3 to 5 times per week, plus I walk for an hour or more almost every day. Plus a few particularly motivated friends recently got me into doing stupid pull-up workouts and finger strengthening exercises so I’m burning calories there a couple times a week, too. And I’m not trying to lose weight, so this girl needs lots (relatively) of carbs. All in all, I probably end up eating around 100 to 150 grams of carbs a day, but sometimes less than 100 and my energy is really good. I don’t really want to eat 549 calories plus the phytic acid in almonds to get my carbs. I’d gain weight (and so would you) at a rapid pace if I did that.
If you’re not trying to cut out all carbs – and why would you? – then eat some fruit. If you’re at all active, the carbs will help you, unless you’re not eating ANY carbs and LOTS of fat and are actually in ketosis. At which point, you will only excel at low to moderate intensity exercise. Or unless you have some severe sensitivity to fructose that your naturopath has told you about. Or unless you just don’t like the taste of fruit (weirdo), then eat your fruit without fear.
Now, having said that, there is a limit to how much fruit one might want to enjoy every day. You probably don’t want to garner all your calories from the stuff, as from the table you can see it’s lacking in protein and fat… But even if you’re trying to lose weight, have a piece or 3 a day. If you’re not trying to lose weight and you’re active, then have 3-5 servings a day. If you’re an endurance athlete, you may want to have a few bananas and some berries every day plus a bunch of sweet potatoes on the days you have hard workouts. In my opinion, if you work out at least 3 times a week, stay between 100 and 150 grams of carbs a day (possibly more if you’re an enduro athlete). A medium banana has about 27 grams of carbohydrates in it. An entire large sweet potato only has about 40 grams of carbs in it, so you do the math. If you’re not eating grains or sugar and you’re a very active person, you want to eat fruit.
Beyond that, though, it’s a tough world out there and fruit can make life seem a little easier. Eat it because it tastes good and because you’re lucky enough to live in a world where fruit magically grows on Whole Foods trees. I know you guys are confused about how much fruit to eat because I get about 3 emails a week from you asking, “What about fruit? Can I still eat fruit on the Paleo diet?” Yes. Go ahead. There are bigger fish to fry in this lifetime, like grains and soybean oil…
If you have comments or questions about this, I encourage you to take them over to the forums here. I’d love to know what your experiences have been with eating fruit and not eating fruit.