The Skinny on Fruit

*Note from Sarah: Jason Seib is back with another informative article! Be sure to visit Jason over at his Facebook page and at Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness!  Thank you Jason

Fruit is not inherently bad, there are just some things you need to know.  Fructose, a primary sugar in fruit, is not quite as user-friendly in the human body as glucose. It is easily stored as fat and can be problematic for the liver. In fact, high fructose corn syrup has basically the same effect on the liver as the ethanol alcohol found in your favorite adult beverage.  In nature, however, we find fructose present with fiber which slows its absorption and eases the load on the liver, making it less problematic to consume, but still quite easy to store.

Another thing to keep in mind regarding fruit is agricultural selection.  If we were to plant the first two apple trees ever planted, and one grew sweeter apples than the other, we would certainly plant the seeds from the sweeter apples as opposed to the more bitter apples.  Rinse and repeat for a few thousand years and the result will be what we see today – apples that are much sweeter than any found in nature. Essentially, the result has been the agricultural production of fruits with higher fructose content and less fiber.

The various fruits in the diets of of our hunter/gatherer ancestors were also only available seasonally.  The option to buy bananas year round has really only been available for the last few decades.  This means that periods of time spent eating lots of fruit would be followed by periods of time eating very little fruit, and metabolic flexibility (our ability to switch between glucose and fat for energy) would likely be maintained.  Eating fruit seasonally today is not a bad idea.

Fruit juice is always a bad idea, and smoothies and shakes are for people without fat loss goals.

Long story short, fruit is not necessarily bad for you when consumed in reasonable quantities, but it must be understood that consuming all of your carbohydrates in the form of fruit will probably hinder fat loss.  We often see people consume too much fruit and end up frustrated.  If you don’t like veggies, eat more meat.

Go forth and be awesome.

Comments

    • says

      If you want to lose fat as fast as possible, any fruit is too much. If you are healthy and just want to stay that way, a little fruit per day is probably fine.

      • Zac says

        I find it just a little odd that you are saying any fruit is to much. Especially since one of the key principles of eating ‘Paleo’ is fruit and non starchy veggies. One of the fundamentals of this lifestyle is to eat lot’s of lean meats, fresh fruit and veggies. If you consider this “seasonal eating” topic and take into account that a large amount of fiber and good carbs come from fruit; then it seems to me that your post lacks merit. Maybe I misunderstood what you were trying to say but fruit is good for you, for thousands of years people have eaten fruit. Yes the fruit they consumed changed with the seasons and maybe that’s what you were trying to encourage is variety and not to only eat bananas everyday.

        In addition, I feel that you shortchanged the other health benefits of fruits, because many antioxidants like the Phytochemicals that we need in our body to help fight off all the “pollutants” in the world can be found in mass quantities of fruit such as blackberries and blueberries.

        Anything is bad for you in mass, there is no doubt about that but I feel like your post goes against the founding principles of Paleo and shortchanges the massive benefits of fruit. I understand where you are coming from and it seems a little one-sided.

        • Christina says

          I think he said any fruit was bad for fat loss. Thousands of years ago people probably didn’t need to lose significant amounts of weight and therefore wouldn’t have had to temporarily give it up- I think he also said a little is fine if you’re healthy.

  1. AddieMay says

    I juice, do you think this is a problem?? I use mostly veggies with a bit of orange or tomato to sweeten slightly. I was wondering if consuming such concentrated doses of the “juice” was good or bad? I would love to see what you OR other people think.

    THANKS

  2. jenny says

    Please define smoothies and shakes…..i often blend spinach, coconut milk and frozen berries for breakfast.

  3. Charlene says

    Fresh juice from ur juicer or smoothies from your blender are ok. Commercial fruit juices are a deff no go. Think about what is in a normal smoothie: yogurt or ice cream and then tropical fruit. All high in sugar.

    • Penny D says

      They are okay for kids, but you get the same insulin reaction no matter where it comes from….unless you don’t have a fat loss goal then go for it.

      • says

        I’m still wondering how much fruit / smoothied fruit is okay for our toddler. They’re not replacing more nutrient dense calories of fat and protein per se, but if I were to do the math on the amount of fruit for her bodyweight would mean to adult, it seems like a lot. To what degree and in what sense is more sugary fruit okay for kids?

  4. terri says

    I start the morning with kale, coconut milk and a few strawberries or peach slices. Should I not use the fruit?

      • Christine Childs says

        Jason – Are you saying that having a few strawberries in the morning is not okay when wanting to lose fat?? I only eat strawberries or blueberries and I also put them in with either Kale or spinach and ice. If I eat this, I won’t lose fat?

        • says

          No, I’m saying you should avoid fruit if you want the fastest possible path to fat loss. I am not saying you won’t lose fat if you eat fruit. The amount of fruit you eat will most likely be reflected in the speed at which you lose fat.

          • Jess says

            Hey Jason,
            So I get what your saying about the fruit. I started eating more of it lately when my lipid panels came back with my bad cholesterol a little elevated. They gave me the whole spill on avoiding fats (which I ignored). But I love eggs and would eat them everyday, but is that whats causingmy cholesterol to be elevated? I try eating only egg whites a couple times a week too, hoping that helps… I am going to try and avoid eating all that fruit now though;
            Thanks!)

  5. Sarah says

    How about the little ones? I can (and should) survive on very little fruit…but my growing boys are tough to keep weight on, and will only eat so much meat and veggies. Do you let your kids eat fruit with virtually no limits? My oldest (5 years old) is super lean (like his Daddy). If we have a meal of just meat and veggies, I am more inclined to add in some sweet potato and/or fruit for the kids.

  6. Mindy says

    I have the same question as Jenny. My green smoothie is usually kale or spinach, coconut milk, and berries or a little pinapple.

  7. Erin D. says

    Great post! Being mindful of fruit consumption seems to be a difficult thing for people who are just starting out on a paleo journey to wrap their heads around. At least that’s been my experience in conversations.

  8. Blaire Mootz says

    Great Post! Nowadays fruit is my treat. And we mostly stick with what we can find at the farmers market. Thanks!

  9. Erica says

    I guess my 1.25lb farmer’s market cherry lovefest today would not be recommended! But hey, they are seasonal, right? ;)

  10. Jenny says

    Green Smoothies are incredibly healthy and have absolutely helped me with weight loss! I use them for breakfast and then eat Paleo the rest of the time. My smoothies are mostly veggies, but there is a fruit in there somewhere… Fruit is healthy and has vitamins we need.

    • Wenchypoo says

      Fruit is healthy and has vitamins we need.

      So too is liver, and mixed liver types also make a “poor man’s multivitamin–no sugar involved. You can cook ‘em, you can make them into smoothies, or whatever…all without running the risk of overloading sugar or fructose.

      • eema gray says

        This is a point more people should pay attention to, but probably won’t because organ meats are such a no-no in our culture.
        I’ve had “post partum depression” for most of the past 5 years. Three pregnancies and 3 years and counting of nursing will mess with a woman’s hormones, you know. Last winter, I put some nutritional pieces into my personal puzzle and realized that the depression was at least partially due to depleted nutrients. Started eating liver and this great ground heart/kidneys mixture my butcher mixes up every week and the depression starting going away. A multi vitamin would never in a million years be able to do that. Organ meats are amazing!

    • says

      Since we don’t see any deficiencies in cultures that eat almost no fruit at all, like the Inuits, I would need to see references to believe that we NEED fruit. In reality, there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. That means that while there are essential fatty acids (fat) and essential amino acids (protein), we can all live the rest of our lives without consuming another carbohydrate.

  11. george says

    I lost over fifty pounds using a juice fast since september 2011 and have kept it off. If juicing is such a high load of sugar how did i lose weight

    • April says

      You can starve yourself, cut calories and lose weight that way too but that doesn’t make it the healthiest option.

    • says

      Caloric restriction, like on biggest loser and in concentration camps, is exactly that – weight loss. Most of us are looking for fat loss. When calories are restricted dramatically, muscle and fat are both lost. when calories return, usually only fat returns. If yo-yo dieting ensues, muscle mass tend to decrease a little more with each loss and regain. That’s not to say that weight does not sometimes stay off in rare anecdotal cases, but it usually requires the return of calories in the form of something very close to paleo. Like April said, if we are doing are job around here, you are trying to get as healthy as you can and not just skinny. Skinny does not equal healthy. It also does not equal not fat. It is quite common to have a small pant size and a higher than ideal body fat percentage. Health is all that really matter.

  12. Anita says

    I was having a hard time losing my “winter weight”..I was drinking protein shakes with blueberries, almond milk and water. My treats were fruit and cashew butter …as soon as Jason and Penny said no more liquid food, even protein shakes..including fruit, the weight fell off me!!! I mean fell off me, within days I started noticing a difference!! Trust me he knows what he is talking about. I am staying off the fruit for a little while longer. I am now hoping to improve my lifts in the gym!!
    If you have not tried EPlifeFit I highly recommend Jason, Sara and their team! EVERYONE there is so amazing, encouraging, helpful and motivating! I wish I wish Iwould have joined sooner!!

  13. Irina says

    How much fruit is too much? I am a 26 years old female. I like to eat a ball of cherries today, a banana and an apple tomorrow. Then a couple of apricots the next day. Is this too much?

    • says

      I can’t definitively answer this question. The fastest possible route to fat loss for most people will be no fruit at all. How fast do you want to lose fat? Nobody can tell you what is right for you.

      • Irina says

        I don’t have a fat loss goal. I just don’t want to get fat from eating fruit, also I don’t want to make my liver work too hard with too much fructose.

  14. Kelly says

    A great alternative to all fruit smoothies is green smoothies! I would be happy to post some recipies. Smoothies are a great breakfast for me when my egg intake is off the charts. I am drinking one now!
    Recipe:

    -1 cup spinach (or cabbage)
    -5 mini carrots or 1/2 cup frozen or fresh cauliflower
    -1/4 cup orange juice
    -1/2 cup water
    -1/2 cup frozen peaches
    -1/2 cup orange
    -1/2 cup of ice (or more if not many of your other ingredients are frozen)
    This makes about 3-1cup servings with only 1/3 of a serving of fruit per cup.
    There are endless combinations, some with even less fruit

    • says

      Again, all liquid food can be problematic for weight loss. We did not evolve to drink our calories. However, nobody can tell you how fast you should want to lose fat. It’s your call.

  15. Joe says

    I would rather chew my food and excersise my jaw muscles. Smoothies are a treat…food that is juiced wether fruit and veggies or whatever bombards your system and does not give it a chance to proces as in its whole form…thus increasing the glucose/insulin effect…oh and also juicing veggies would probably makes you the least fun person ever….because in the end you will be miserable. I see the juicing craze as another culprit working together to enhance the already negative aesthetic feelings that exist in people….that is all

  16. Ashley Sweeney says

    I know I’m in the minority here, but what if we would like to GAIN weight?! I need to gain at least 10 lbs and can’t seem to out eat my metabolism. I struggle with restricting food groups because of this issue. I am GF and dairy free and I get pressured to “just eat whatever” because I am so thin.

    • says

      Eat a solid paleo diet, but you need to EAT! You should be getting well over 2000 calories per day and you should be lifting heavy. But then again, everyone should be lifting heavy.

  17. says

    That studies I am aware show that about 5% of the fructose you eat actually gets converted into fat via DNL (the rest turns into glucose and lactate).

    Not counting sugary drinks, most people who just stick to whole foods (fruits in this case) or not going to have to worry about fructose.

    In addition, most people don’t overeat on fruit. How many apples could you really eat in one sitting?

    Fructose tends to be an issue when individuals are eating in a caloric excess, as long you keep your caloric intake at a normal intake there is nothing to fear about fructose.

    Much other things and foods to worry about than fruit IMHO.

    • says

      I agree.

      Not to mention I know many vegans and fruitarians who are extremely lean and well-muscled. And, they eat a lot of calories!

      If fruit was truly fattening, then why are most fruitarians lean?

    • Soheila says

      To pbo:
      Well, I am afraid of answering this question. You see, I love fruits all of them! Ok Except avocado, I do not even consider them as fruits as they are too greasy to my pallet. To answer your question, I can eat as many apples as I have in my refrigerator. I do not eat any sweet junk but my fruits are really my treats which are hard to give up :( So, I have to really put a break on my fruit eating in order to lose a few extra pounds and feel more confident about my body image.

  18. Erin says

    This was a super useful post, as I have been putting efforts in my diet and gym work outs to follow paleo guidelines but I think I have been relying WAY too much on fruit, and this post is a reminder that while fruit is not severely harmful it is also not optimal.
    I do want to mention, if you’re going to promote this message :” if we are doing are job around here, you are trying to get as healthy as you can and not just skinny. Skinny does not equal healthy” then please don’t put the word “skinny” in the title of the post, as it promotes unhealthy and unrealistic model-like standards that I think we are all trying to move on from.

  19. Brenden says

    Great post Jason! My wife and I love us some fruit. This was a good reminder for us to watch how much of it were eating.

    Sarah after reading this post I ended up on the “About” page and I just wanted to say how awesome it is that your team has had to grow from you and your family with help from Dain to a whole bunch of people. Just goes to show you that this stuff must actually work if people are that interested in what your doing! You and your team keep up the great work!

  20. says

    Totally agree. My mom bought me a juicer so I played around with it for a while, and as soon as it hit my stomach I knew that the insulin load was too much. If you want a carrot for breakfast – eat the whole carrot for breakfast! A lot of times I simply have an apple with sunflower seed butter as a snack or even for breakfast when I’m on the run and my blood sugar levels don’t drop because of the added fat and protein in the seed butter.

  21. says

    Great post! I sooooooo agree. The older I get, the worse the hypoglycemia when I have fruit or a smoothie. So I’ve barely consumed fruit for the past 5 years; I eat a piece of fruit once every 3-4 months. It freaks people out: “You’re so healthy, and slim, how can you not eat fruit?” Hmmmm… This post says it all!

  22. Mary says

    If we shouldn’t drink our calories, why then does Mark from Mark’s Daily Apple sell Protein powder for making shakes…Just curious? I’m just starting out trying to eat the Paleo way, but I’m seem to be getting a few mixed messages.

    • CMHFFEMT says

      There may be a few advantages to using some protein powder for workout recovery depending upon who you listen to but the truth of the matter is protein powder is not paleo/primal or whatever you want to call it. Unless you are a high performance athlete and want to do a lot of self experimentation stick to real food. Especially stick to real food until you have reached the best health it can get you and once you get there you wont want to mess with any of the other stuff.

  23. Jane says

    I am starting this diet today and wonder if I can have a little milk in my coffee. What can I drink besides water?

    • Dana says

      Hi Jane, this is great! Especially in your first 30 days, I’d say no to milk in the coffee. In fact, after that, I’d recommend full fat heavy whipping cream and only on occasion, for the best results. You can drink teas, iced teas, some carbonated waters – some have fruit infused (just look out for sugar!) All the Best to you! You Can do this and you will feel amazing!

  24. AP says

    If you have high cholesterol, you should try taking Green Pasture’s cod liver oil. My Mom lowered her cholesterol quite a bit by taking cod liver oil daily.

  25. David Pryor says

    Jason: One picky detail. You cannot slectively choose and plant apple seeds to promote desired characteristics (sweetness, rednes, etc.) Apples are pretty randoml; I forget the scientific name, but basically you never know WHAT you are going to get from an apple seed. Varieties are propagated through grafting a cutting from the tree you like to a root stock. Other than that, I think you post makes a lot of sense, especially from an evolutionary perspective. However, I just cannot think there are worse things out there than eating blueberries or other “temperate” fruits that have a TON of nutrients and fiber along with their fructose. If a handful of blueberries or cherries keeps me from the snickers, that’s a good thing!

  26. CMHFFEMT says

    In my experience if I eat fruit as a snack it spikes my blood sugar and I get hungry shortly thereafter. If I have fruit I tend to have it with a meal which is usually high fat/protein and it abbreviates the blood sugar spike and hunger. ymmv

  27. Carlos A says

    I liked the article overal; however, I tend to favor Pat below over Jason’s thoughts. It seems that Jason is simply not open to other views that may challenge what he knows. But his is only one view and not necessarily the right or wrong view for that matter.

    “Pat on June 15, 2012 at 8:27 am said:
    I have to side with Chris Kressler on this: http://chriskresser.com/ask-chris-is-fructose-really-that-bad. Reasonable fruit consumption (via it’s whole form) is fine.”
    I’ve been an athlete all my life and currently workout 3 to 4 times a week. About 6 months ago I started eating fruit EVERYDAY usually twice a day…not a lot. Maybe an apple and a few berries or a banana and some watermelon (love me some watermelon!) while following the Paleo diet rather strictly for over 1 year. During the last 6 months I’ve lost 6 pound ( I wasn’t looking to lose weight) and I feel better than I did prior to not eating fruit. I am not suggesting that the fruit had anything to do with the weight loss. But, I am saying that fruit is NOT your enemy. TOO MUCH fruit or anyhting for that matter is not good for anyone! I also don’t believe in evolution (sorry different forum maybe)…but I believe the paleo diet makes sense simply from a health perspective and I love how I know feel and perform. It truly has made a huge difference in my life!

  28. says

    Pls am a very skinny person am lifting weight so i want to know fruits and food that will give me good result in getting big muscle and add weight

  29. Mary says

    Jason, who has made you the “Paleo” expert?

    EAT real foods is the basis of Paleo. Eliminate Grains, Dairy, Sugar and Legumes.

    Now you are telling people not to eat fruit? Eat two meals a day?

    I don’t know, but someday we may see you change your mind as you get older and sick. Or, confined to a wheelchair or bed for some unseen accident. You live your life as though you are GOD to the Paelo community! I use to like your podcasts, but you have become so opioniated that I won’t listen anymore. At least the Paleo View girls are realistic! You can’t solve all your problems eating Paleo in two weeks. I have an autoimmune condition and have been strictly eating real paleo foods for over a year. And, I mean strict. And, i’m still not healed! I take supplements under the guidance of a Naturapath and still have gut issues etc….

    You give people false hope! Especially those of us who have been sick for a very long time!

    Even all the followers of the Wahls protocol are frustrated because they aren’t reversing their MS fast enough or they are failing to reverse it. What people don’t know is that Wahls ate Paleo for 9 years (in some degree or fashion) before healing herself. It didn’t happen in 1 year like we are led to believe from her speeches and book.

    Please remember, most of us come to Paleo for health reasons, not to lose weight and look good. Most that come to lose weight, end up going back to the SAD diet. Most of us for health reasons keep at it with genuine hope!

    Guess I had my “rant” for today…..

    • Sarah says

      Hi Mary,
      I’m obviously not Jason but this is my site so I’m responding. It’s impossible to speak to every single individual out there and to cover every little detail and finite problem that many folks face. The reality is, we are trying our hardest to give the best information possible and for some folks, eating too much fruit can pose a problem. That’s it, simple as that. I know Jason very well and he sleeps, breaths, dreams, and lives for helping people and I’m sure that if you were one of his clients, he wouldn’t quit until he figured out a way to help you. For people who are metabolically healthy, they often fall into the eating two meals a day routine without even thinking about it, but it’s not something that Jason or I recommend before you are actually healthy and the rest of your lifestyle factors are totally dialed. We do know that most people come to paleo for health reasons. I’m one of those stories. I’m just sad to see so much anger out there. It honestly breaks my heart. This site was built to help people and I’m confident that we are doing that to the best of our ability and I’m sorry you are so frustrated and if there is anything I could do to help you, I would. I’m not sure why people would have false hope based on our podcasts or posts; if you are really sick and have an autoimmune disorder, it very well might take you a long time to get better, if you can even get completely better at all dependent on your condition, and Jason and I have talked about this numerous times. This post that jason wrote gives general information and we are truly doing the absolute best that we can. My heart goes out to you, it really does, and I wish you the best and of course will support you however I can on your journey. Best of luck to you.
      Sarah

      • Steve says

        That’s true to an extent, if one consumes extremely large amounts of it, as the document I linked makes clear, but which your page does not:

        “In reality, reports on the metabolic implications of fructose have indicated that negative effects of fructose (e.g., elevated fasting triglyceride concentrations, impaired insulin sensitivity, elevated uric acid, development of obesity and metabolic syndrome, etc.) are not likely to occur unless
        intake exceeds at least 100 grams per day (Livesey and Taylor 2008, Taylor 2009).”

        “On these and many other pages (i.e., pages 20, 97), the author indicates that “fructose…is inevitably metabolized to fat”; yet, synthesis of fructose to fat represents only a small fraction of fructose metabolism and that fraction remains small even during consumption of excessive doses of fructose (Chong et al. 2007, Parks et al 2008, Tappy and Le 2010)”

        To say that fructose is “easily stored as fat” and that “high fructose corn syrup has basically the same effect on the liver as the ethanol alcohol” is a distortion of the facts.

        • pbo says

          +1 Steve!

          This was the point I tried to make a year ago on this point. Everyone is obsessed with blowing fructose out of proportion. Eat fruit, don’t worry about. If you eat a mostly whole food diet and your biggest problem is fruit consumption your probably pretty healthy and shouldn’t worry,

  30. keet says

    Jason, I really appreciate this information. It makes so much sense & solves some problems for me. You have answered some questions I have been instinctually begun asking myself. I was already contemplating eating fruit seasonally as that makes the most sense, seems more natural. I also plan on using fruit as my ultimate treat… in place of wedding cake, birthday cake & other special occasions. Nothing manmade could ever be better than a bowl of strawberries.

  31. says

    Hi, I love your blog and your excellent photography. What a wonderful job you’ve done!
    I was wondering if you (or anyone you know) would like to try a little-known company called Miss Paleo. They make great mixes of cookies, bread/muffin, and brownies. They are totally grain-free, gluten-free, dairy free and fully paleo-friendly.
    I think you may really like them if you want to give them a try. Here is the website if you would like to find out more: http://www.misspaleomixes.com. Also, feel free to contact me for more information or check out my blog (relizabethpaleorunner.blogspot.com) for a review I will be posting. Thanks!

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