I thought losing weight this summer would be an easy task — like many people, I tend to eat more fruits and vegetables when it’s hot outside, rather than cold-weather carbs. But when I was at the market the other day, filling my basket with tropical fruits, I wondered if the sugar content in fruit could be preventing me from reaching my weight loss goals — after all, diet experts usually recommend limiting sugar intake. So I contacted nutritionist Joy McCarthy at Joyous Health, who offered her thoughts on the subject:
Q: Can eating too much fruit keep someone from losing weight? And is there a maximum number of fruit servings that we can eat per day?
A: Yes, but this is a tricky question because often people will completely banish fruit if they think it will make them gain weight. If a person ate more than five servings of fruit per day, and didn’t eat lean protein and good fats, then that would hinder their weight loss goals. But too much of any macronutrient can lead to weight gain (even protein, in excess, can convert to fat).
Knowing the glycemic index of fruits is a good strategy to keep in mind — it’s the rate at which sugar is absorbed from a food into the blood stream. The higher the blood sugar, the more likely the excess can be stored as fat if not utilized for energy. So no matter the source, if the sugar is not used, it can be problematic.
I would suggest eating four to five servings of fruit per day and as many vegetables as you like.
Q: Which low-sugar fruits would you recommend eating?
A: The best fruits to eat that are low in the glycemic index are blueberries, pears, apples, strawberries, plums, peaches, grapefruits and cherries. Keep in mind dried fruit is not the same thing though, since the drying process makes the sugars more concentrated. Also, juice from any fruit is higher on the glyemic index because the fibre has been removed. If you’re trying to lose weight, avoiding fruit juice is a much better strategy than avoiding whole fruit.
Q: Which high-sugar fruits should someone avoid if trying to lose weight?
A: I don’t think anyone should avoid any specific fruits. Fruit juice, yes — unless it’s made from your own juicer. Now, if you are going to eat a high-sugar fruit such as melons, kiwi, watermelon and pineapple, I suggest you do so in moderation and combine them with lower glycemic fruits as well. As with any fruit, try to eat them when they’re in season, so that they are fresher, tastier and contain more nutrients — and of course, more affordable!