When health experts talk about eating a healthy diet, they always lump fruits and vegetables into one group—with vegetables typically getting more emphasis.
Federal guidelines, for instance, recommend that adults get 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit per day, but 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.
Why the discrepancy? After all, fruits are nutritious too, and for many people, they just plain taste better. Here, we examine that question—as well as all the health benefits fruits have to offer.
5 Reasons Why Fruits are Good for You
1. Fruits Keep You Satisfied and Help with Weight Control
If you’re trying to lose weight or avoid snacking, make sure your meals include some whole fruit. Scientists say that as long as you eat the real thing—not fruit juice—you’ll feel satisfied, longer.
In 2008, for instance, researchers found that those who ate an apple at lunch consumed fewer calories than those who ate applesauce or fruit juice. They also felt fuller longer. A later 2019 study found similar results—consuming whole fruits promoted weight maintenance or modest weight loss over a period of 3-24 weeks because it helped people feel satisfied.
It doesn’t have to be fresh fruit, either. In a 2011 study, scientists found that those who regularly ate dried fruit had a higher overall diet quality score and lower body weights.
2. Fruits Keep Your Heart Healthy
Several studies have linked greater consumption of fruits and vegetables to better heart health, but some studies have focused specifically on fruit.
In 2014, for instance, researchers found that eating fruit every day lowered the risk of heart problems and stroke by up to 40 percent. The results also showed that the more fruit people ate, the more their risk of cardiovascular disease declined.
3. Fruits May Lower Your Risk of Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease in which the body has too much sugar in the bloodstream. You might think, then, that if you want to avoid diabetes, it would be best to avoid eating too much fruit.
Studies have found the opposite, however—eating whole fruit can help reduce your risk of diabetes. In a recent study of over 7,600 people, scientists found that those who consumed around two servings of fruit per day had a 36 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next five years.
An earlier study found that greater consumption of specific whole fruits—including blueberries, grapes, and apples—was significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Keep in mind this was whole fruits. Higher consumption of fruit juice resulted in a higher risk of diabetes.
4. Fruits Can Help Keep Kidney Stones Away
If you’re at risk for kidney stones, eat more fruit! According to a 2021 study, it may help. Participants in that study who ate fruit every day enjoyed a lower risk of kidney stones than those who ate fruit only once per week. (The same is true of tea, by the way!)
An earlier study also found that a greater intake of fruit—along with other high-fiber foods like vegetables—helped reduce the risk of kidney stones in postmenopausal women.
5. Fruits Fight Cancer
Most studies examining the effect of fruit on cancer include vegetables as well—and many suggest that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk of cancer. In 2018, for instance, scientists reported that women who ate a high amount of fruits and vegetables each day might have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate fewer fruits and vegetables.
But in a 2019 study, researchers found that a higher intake of raisins and other dried fruits like prunes and dates helped reduce the risk of cancer and the risk of mortality from cancer. The data also suggested that a higher intake of these dried fruits “may be important in the prevention of cancers of the digestive system.”
Should I Limit My Fruit Intake?
As to why federal guidelines suggest you eat more vegetables than fruits per day, here are a few reasons:
- In general, vegetables contain less sugar than fruit, and on the whole, Americans eat too much sugar.
- Fruit also tends to have more calories than vegetables, and America is facing an obesity epidemic.
- Vegetables have a different nutritional profile than fruit, and often contain more iron, calcium, vitamin A, and other important nutrients like cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
That doesn’t mean, however, that eating more than two servings a day of fruit is bad for you. In fact, it’s better to eat more fruit if you can—as then you’ll get more healthy nutrients like fiber, which is often higher in fruit than in vegetables.
The best approach is to consume a mix of both, and when choosing fruit, to always choose whole fruit. Any kind is fine—fresh, frozen, dried, and canned—as long as you stick to only a moderate intake of juice. Fruit juice is high in sugar and calories without the fiber content and has been linked to weight gain when consumed too often.