MyPlate Mondays: Fruits

What is a fruit?
Fruits are the sweet, seed-bearing parts of plants.

How much do I need?
Adults need 1.5-2 cups daily.

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

(Find out how many servings of vegetables you need. Use this chart to determine what a cup is.)

fruit salad

Like vegetables, fruits are loaded with vitamins and nutrients and should make up around 20% of your plate. Fruits include berries, melons, apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, and also 100% fruit juices. Fruits, along with vegetables, are naturally low-fat and low-calorie, and contain no cholesterol.

Fruits contain several nutrients that we often don’t get enough of, such as potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and folic acid. This review of 33 different studies found that eating more potassium—found in bananas, dried peaches and apricots, and melons—could lower blood pressure. Fruits also contain fiber, which helps with bowel function, reduces cholesterol, and lowers the risk of heart disease. Apples, bananas, berries, and dried fruits are all high in fiber (but remember that fruit juices contain zero fiber).

However, for all their health value, many fruits and fruit juices also contain high amounts of sugar. Children in particular shouldn’t have too much fruit juice. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that preschoolers who consumed more than 12 fluid ounces of juice a day were more likely to be obese and short for their age.

When buying packaged fruits, such as canned or dried, make sure they do not have any added sugar. Canned fruits should be canned only in 100% fruit juice or water. If you are watching your calories, beware because dried fruit can contain 2-3 times as many calories as fresh fruit. Dried fruits may also contain fewer nutrients, especially if they have been dried using heat (they still retain fiber and iron though). And remember that ½ a cup of dried fruit equals 1 cup of fruit.

Tips for eating more fruit:

  • keep fruit in sight, in a bowl on the table or in a clear container in the fridge
  • buy fruits in season and freeze the extra
  • substitute applesauce for sugar and eggs in baked goods
  • buy frozen fruits to throw into smoothies
  • add slices of fruits to your cereal
  • substitute a bowl of fruit for a healthy snack or dessert (yogurt makes a great topper)
  • and for children, have them experiment with the different textures of fruits (crunchy apples, juicy oranges, and creamy bananas)