Can Fruit Make You Fat? The Best and Worst Fruits for Female Fat Loss

On my latest webinar, “The Female Fat Loss {tem}plate,” several women asked me,

“What about fruit?”

Then, two days later when I gave the same presentation to a group of women at my gym here in North Carolina, I got the exact same question:

“What about fruit?”

I’m the first to admit, the topic of fruit can be very confusing. There are several schools of thought when it comes to fruit and how much we should eat, or whether we should eat it at all.  Perhaps you’ve heard one of these opinions on fruit from a trainer or nutrition coach:

– You can only eat fruit that Paleolithic man (hunter-gatherers) had access to.

– You should not eat any fruit period. It’s all sugar.

– Bananas make you fat. Never ever eat bananas.

– Fruit is healthy and all-natural and loaded with vitamins. Eat as much fruit as you want.

– Drinking juices made from fresh fruit can detox the body of harmful toxins and aid in weight loss.

– You should only eat fruit if it is organic and local.

So what’s the deal with FRUIT and FAT LOSS?

Here’s the bottom line:

Fruit itself is neither good nor bad. It’s how you use it that matters. How you use fruit in your diet depends entirely on two things:
1. Your unique metabolism
2. Your goals.

If your goal is to complete a marathon, then you should be eating for performance (namely endurance.) You will need more carbohydrates and fruit is an ideal source for many people. Eating a banana with nut butter before you head out on a run makes perfect sense!

However, if your goal is fat loss, it may not make sense for you to eat a banana with nut butter before a workout. That will depend on how sensitive you are to carbohydrates.

For a client who cannot lose fat, or whose fat loss has slowed significantly, manipulating carbohydrate intake by removing or reducing fruit is one of the first things I advise as a fat loss nutrition coach. We will increase other foods to make up for it and monitor results for 7-10 days. Reducing carbs by even 20 or 30 grams a day (along with increasing protein and fiber) can be enough to kickstart fat loss. It depends entirely on that individual and how their body responds.

How do you know if FRUIT is the culprit in your diet? Can fruit make you fat? Can it slow – or even STOP – fat loss?

Yes, fruit can play a huge role in fat loss, both stopping it AND aiding it.

Here are 3 important factors when it comes to fruit and fat loss:

1. A Healthy Diet is not a Fat Loss Diet

Eating a bowl of low-fat yogurt with granola and fresh fruit is healthy, but the sugar content is simply too high. As much as you may love it, this healthy breakfast will not turn on fat-burning hormones like glucagon.

I’m not arguing that fruit isn’t a healthy food. Of course it is. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. It’s all-natural and unprocessed. You can pick it right off a tree or vine and eat it for heaven’s sakes! It’s high in fiber and water. Fruit is considered a carbohydrate (not a source of protein or fat) and as such, can be a valuable food to provide energy and aid in muscle building.

However, when it comes to fat loss, the unfortunate truth is that some people are more sensitive to carbohydrates than others, and that includes fruit. Fruit is healthy, but can also slow or stop fat loss if eaten too much, too often.

Some fruit can be part of a fat loss diet, but the amount and type have to be taken into consideration.

The best fruits for fat loss are those that are naturally lower in sugar and less sweet. This includes fruits like:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries

Make these low-sugar fruits a “side dish” to your meals, not the main focus. Use them as sweet treats after meals to nip your sweet tooth in the bud, or make them the centerpiece of seasonal fat loss-friendly desserts.

Minimize high-sugar fruits in your diet. These are not idea for fat loss and should be consumed rarely, on occasion. The exception: if you are someone who has difficulty keeping muscle on your body and you need more carbohydrates in your diet to stay lean. (Yes, these people exist!)

These very sweet fruits include:

  • Grapes
  • Pineapples
  • Watermelon
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Nectarines
  • Bananas

These high-sugar fruits have plenty of wonderful qualities, but they are also very high in fructose, the natural sugar found in fruit.

Note: I didn’t say “don’t eat them ever.” Just eat less of them, less often, and eat more of the low-sugar fruits more often.

SOLUTION: At breakfast, ditch the low-fat yogurt and granola with fruit for 1-2 whole eggs with 3-4 extra egg whites scrambled and mixed with loads of onions, peppers, mushrooms, and cheese. Have berries on the side. Now you have a meal that is both healthy AND fat loss-friendly.

2. Eat More Vegetables Than Fruit

Many of the arguments made for why we should eat fruit – it’s high in fiber, minerals, vitamins, etc. – can be said for vegetables as well.

Vegetables are almost always a better choice than fruit when it comes to fat loss eating due to their lower sugar content. Non-starchy vegetables – spinach, lettuces, collards, asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, onions, cauliflower, broccoli – will give you more bang for your nutrition buck at meal time due to their low calories, high fiber and high water content.

Compare 2 cups of cauliflower to 2 cups of grapes:

Cauliflower – 2 cups, raw

54 calories
0.6 grams fat
10.6 g carbs (4.3 g from fiber, 4.1 g from sugar)
4 g protein

Grapes – 2 cups, raw

123 calories
.6 g fat
32 g carbs (1.7 from fiber, 14.9 g sugar)
1.2 g protein

As you can see by comparing the carb/sugar content, the cauliflower is a far better choice for fat loss!

SOLUTION: Ramp up your intake of non-starchy vegetables and notice the changes in your energy level. I’m willing to bet it skyrockets! And you will likely be less hungry and have fewer cravings for more starch/sugar at your next meal.

3. Choose Whole Fruit Over Fruit Juice

Drinking cold-pressed juice is becoming something of a status symbol. Have you noticed? Juice bars are exploding in big cities and Whole Foods seems to be devoting more and more space to little bottles of very expensive juice.

Juice is delicious and healthy, but if you are trying to lose fat, chugging a glass of OJ or sipping a cold-pressed fruit juice after yoga class isn’t doing you any favors because fruit juice is essentially sugar water with vitamins and minerals in it.  (The Juice Detoxers are sharpening their pitchforks, I’m sure…)

All-natural sugar sources like fruit are still sugar as far as your body is concerned.

Simmer down, angry juice villagers:

If you are already lean and fit and have a healthy metabolism, you may be able to drink the occasional cold-pressed juice and be unfazed. Just know that for many women who are struggling to lose weight, their unique metabolism simply does not allow them the same juice-sipping fortune.

SOLUTION: To the juice advocates who insist on drinking their calories instead of eating them, make your juices as low sugar as possible by prioritizing vegetable juice over fruit juice. However, if you need to add half a pineapple to make your morning Kale Celery Beet juice drinkable, again, you are drinking mostly sugar vitamin water. Try EATING your kale and celery and beets, which is generally quite doable without adding sugar.  [:)]

(And the pitchfork sharpening intensifies…)

Does this surprise you? Do you think you’re overdoing it on fruit?  Let me know in the comments below!