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Dieting? Don't give up fruit; use it wisely

Sarah: I LOVE fruit. I have a fruit smoothie every morning for breakfast and fruit with most meals. Then, I heard that fruit is bad for weight loss (I'd like to lose about 10 pounds). Am I eating too much fruit?

Fruit gets its healthy reputation from the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it contains. Fruit can be a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Fruit is also a source of sugar and carbohydrates, notorious "no-no's" for weight loss. This is why many popular weight loss plans such as Atkins or South Beach restrict or even eliminate fruit from the diet. Don't worry; you don't have to give up fruit to lose weight. You just have to know how to use it wisely.

The first step in using fruit wisely is selecting fruit with minimal impact on blood sugar levels. A food's impact on blood sugar is referred to as its Glycemic Index. Simple carbohydrates like table sugar and white flour cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, which is followed by a rapid fall, triggering hungry signals far too quickly. These foods have a high GI. The lower a food's GI, the longer it takes for the body to break down, leaving us feeling full longer. Stick with fruits with a low GI such as cherries, plums, peaches, apples, and grapefruit.

The second step in a weight loss friendly, fruit-incorporating diet is eating fruit to fuel your day forward, not backward. Fruit may be a "complex carb," but it's still primarily a carb. Like all carbs, left unused, the body stores carbs from fruit as fat. In order to prevent this, keep fruit in the a.m. I give my clients the rule of "two fruits before two p.m." for weight loss. Eating fruit as a late night snack may satisfy your sweet tooth, but all those healthy carbs will be stored as unhealthy fat while you sleep.

The third and final step for a fruit-wise diet is moderation. As I mentioned above, I limit my clients to two fruits a day for weight loss. Similarly, Harvard Medical School's Healthy Eating Pyramid recommends two to three servings of fruit a day. To get the most out of each serving, don't get all your fruit in one sitting. Yup, you may want to rethink that morning smoothie. One banana, one cup of strawberries, and some sugar sweetened yogurt and you've got one heck of a carbohydrate overload. Unless you're preparing for a triathlon, one serving of fruit per sitting is plenty of fuel. Careful also not to kid yourself that fruit juice is a convenient substitute for the real deal. Most fruit juices add sugar, eliminate the fiber found in fruit skin, and make it far too easy to inhale multiple servings at once. Half a cup of fruit juice (4 oz.) is equal to one serving of fruit. Besides, the simple act of peeling an orange, biting into a crisp apple, or slicing a juicy grapefruit promotes mindful, conscious eating, a seemingly endangered concept in our "grab and go" society.

Fruit is helpful for a healthy diet, but it's not a necessity. All of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fruits are also found in abundance in vegetables. One cup of broccoli has just 31 calories and135 percent Vitamin C. One cup of baked acorn squash has 896 mg of potassium, 9 grams of fiber and 0 grams of sugar; while one medium banana has only 422 mg potassium, 3 grams of fiber and 14 grams of sugar. Because the nutrients in fruit are coupled with sugars and carbohydrates and the same nutrients can be obtained through more figure-friendly vegetables, a free-for-all fruit diet can impede weight loss. Don't stop eating fruit; just don't go bananas when it comes to your daily intake.

Sarah Frieden is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Park Rapids. Please email your health and fitness questions to All questions will remain anonymous.