“Eat your fruits and vegetables,” is and always has been, a common mantra in Nutritionland.
In fact, the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you fill half your plate with fruits AND vegetables.
Sounds healthy, but there’s just one little problem….
Fruits and vegetables are NOT the same nutritionally.
Why is this important? One of these you can eat with reckless abandon, while the other can cause all kinds of health problems when eaten in large volumes.
This is why it bothers me that they are so often mentioned in the same sentence.
If you don’t know already, you can pretty much eat all the vegetables you want without any negative consequences. In fact, you’re most likely not eating enough vegetables as it is. And I can’t stress enough how important it is that you load up on veggies every day.
Fruit is the problem, so here are some things to think about before diving headfirst into the nearest fruit bowl.
#1: Fruits are higher in carbs
Fruit has three times the carbs as non-starchy veggies (15 g vs. 5 g per serving). This is bad news for your blood sugar, as carbs are converted to sugar soon after they reach your bloodstream. Add the fact that most real world portions are much larger than one serving and those carbs ratchet up quickly.
Case in point. A typical all-fruit smoothie stuffed with berries, banana, mangos, and more can pack over 100 grams of total carbs per serving.
Compare that to a green smoothie such as our popular “Green As You Get” smoothie made with spinach. It not only has fewer than 20 grams of carbs, but only 9 grams of net carbs!
#2: Fruits lack any protein
Protein is a dieter’s best friend for many reasons. While you’re losing body fat, you naturally lose muscle mass as well. An optimal intake of protein helps you preserve more of this critical lean tissue.
A new study found that dieters need double the amount of protein that the RDA recommends in order to preserve lean muscle tissue as they lose weight.
And protein takes more time to digest, so it helps keep you fuller longer.
Vegetables, on the other hand, do contain protein. Non-starchy veggies provide about 2 grams of protein per serving. It may not seem like much at first glance, but by day’s end, eating plenty of veggies can put a serious dent in your daily protein needs.
Protein can add up quicker and easier than you think. Watch this:
- Sautee mushrooms, diced onions and red peppers and add a cup to your morning omelet. You’ll add 4 grams of protein to your breakfast.
- Serve up two cups of sliced jicama, carrot sticks and cucumber coins with your favorite dip for a morning snack. You’ll boost your protein intake by about 4 grams.
- Order up a steaming bowl of veggies (usually about 3 cups) for lunch. You’ll add about 12 grams of protein to your daily total.
- Add a generous helping of vegetables at dinner—a medley of green beans and pearl onions, a mixed green salad, steamed Brussels sprouts. You’ll boost your protein intake by about 6 grams.
You just upped your protein intake by over 25 grams while keeping carbs in check. Not too shabby.
#3: Fruits are high in fructose
This is super bad news for dieters. Our bodies can’t use fructose, a form of sugar, directly for energy. Most of the fructose you consume is shuttled to the liver to be converted to another form of sugar – glucose.
But when your liver is on fructose overload (can you say “fruit smoothie?”), it also ramps up fat production. The result is a double whammy: higher levels of blood lipids (not good for your heart health) AND more belly fat, including the most dangerous type: visceral adipose fat.
In other words, if you eat too much fructose, you’ll tax the liver, and more fructose will end up as fat.
And get this… new research demonstrates that fructose gets turned into fat more quickly than even simple table sugar. Also, unlike table sugar, fructose does not provide a signal to your brain that you’re full.
So not only are you more likely to turn fructose into fat, you’re also more likely to finish all your dinner, your spouse’s dinner, and polish off a nice piece of chocolate cake without feeling full.
Find it in fruit? It’s also in a veggie.
Fruits are absolutely a good source of vitamins and minerals, no question about it. And they can help lower your blood pressure and fight off oxidative stress. They are also good sources of phytonutrients with other potential health benefits.
But guess what? If you find it in a fruit, you can find it in a vegetable, especially phytonutrients, which are found in the same color family. For instance:
- Berries are rich in anthocyanins, but you can reach for eggplant instead.
- Watermelon is rich in lycopene, but you can get lycopene in tomatoes and red cabbage.
- Oranges are rich in carotenoids, but carrots also have plenty. .
Here’s what I recommend…
Keep fruit to two to three servings per day. And choose anti-inflammatory fruits more often. Fruits that are naturally rich in anti-inflammatory compounds include:
|Black currants||Concord grapes||Raspberries (black or red)|
|Black plums||Cranberries||Red grapes|
To insure you’re getting the antioxidant power of fruit, add RealReds Advanced Phytonutrient Blend to your day. With one serving, you get the protective benefits of six servings of fruit while cutting out more than 300 calories of pure sugar.
Now before you get all up in arms about this blog post, remember, I’m not saying that we should banish fruit from our diet altogether. What I am saying is that fruits and vegetables should not be thought of as one in the same. They don’t offer the same benefits and they don’t work the same in the body.
So let’s get off the “fruits AND vegetable” bandwagon and separate the two. Do you agree?
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.
I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!
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1. Pasiakos SM, Cao JJ, Margolis LM, et al. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J. 2013;27(9):3837-3847. PMID: 23739654.
2. Stanhope KL, Schwarz JM, Keim NL, et al. Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. J Clin Invest. 2009;119(5):1322-1334. PMID: 19381015.
3. Parks EJ, Skokan LE, Timlin MT, Dingfelder CS. Dietary sugars stimulate fatty acid synthesis in adults. J Nutr. 2008;138(6):1039-1046. PMID: 18492831.