IS FRUIT GOOD FOR YOU?
‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away,’ is an old English proverb, intended to instill healthy eating habits. I don’t see how that would work. It does beg the question, ‘Are apples good for us?’ Followed by, ‘Is fruit good for you?’ Which leads me to ‘Which fruit is best for you?’ And why!
Let’s take a look at that.
Here’s another reason I found this topic interesting. When I was working out at the gym and mentioned to a friend that I love fruit and eat a lot of it, a trainer overheard. He said…
Maybe he meant that fruit has sugar?
Sugar stimulates the dopamine receptors in our brains, the same way addictive drugs do.
Yes, fruit has sugar. But these amounts are low, especially relative to candy.
EVEN WITH THE SUGAR IN FRUIT, IS FRUIT GOOD FOR YOU?
I started researching. One of our boys showed me a cool chart on Reddit. At least I thought so, initially.
Passion fruit was at the top of the chart for reasons I couldn’t fathom. I decided I could do better.
MY STRUGGLES WITH EXCEL
After 8 hours, I trashed all my charts.
Kudos to the guy who published his.
GOOD FOR YOU?
Let’s first define what ‘good for you’ means! For the purpose of a science blog, we won’t go with satisfying or what tastes best. (for more on why we like the foods we do, see this post on the science behind acquired taste!)
We’ll go with which specific fruits provide the most essential vitamins and minerals per serving.
After all of that dizzying data, I wanted specifics.
ESSENTIAL VITAMINS AND MINERALS
What is so essential about them, anyway?
DOES AN APPLE A DAY KEEP THE DOCTOR AWAY?
I decided to break this down by nutrient, and evaluate five fruits that most of us see in any local grocery store.
And because of that old adage, I was curious about how well apples would do in the nutrient race!
VITAMIN A OR RETINOL
Vitamin A is a term for a group of fat-soluble compounds highly important for human health.
Also, THINK RETIN-A! Anti-wrinkle cream!
SEVERAL BENEFITS OF VITAMIN A
VITAMIN A CONTENT CHART FOR COMMON FRUITS
Here is my easy-to-read chart. As promised, I graphed five accessible fruits: oranges, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and apples.
A medium sized orange has 408 mcg of vitamin A, which is over half of the 700 mcg requirement for an adult woman. (900 mcg for men)
Mangoes have over 100% the daily requirement. (I love mangos!) A cup of cantaloupe hits it way out of the park! (Apples didn’t fare well, with 67 mcg. they came in second last on this chart)
Cantaloupe helps answer the question ‘is fruit good for you’ with a yes.
B vitamins are too big a topic. I’m going to go over a few highlights. I’m not covering benefits so much as what can go wrong. This turns out, quite a bit, especially with B1 and B12.
A FEW BODY FUNCTIONS THAT GO OFF-KILTER WITH B VITAMINS
B VITAMIN CONTENT CHART FOR COMMON FRUITS
Bananas surprised me, beating out oranges, blueberries, and strawberries which are neck and neck. (We just watched the Kentucky Derby so I have horse analogies in my brain) Then I found…AVOCADO!
Avocados are fruit, and handily answer the question ‘is fruit good for you,’ with a yes. As I said, I’m not going to go into each B vitamin, but one avocado has about 25% of what you need in Bs.
The best news is that B vitamins are found in many foods, so with a balanced diet, it’s easy to check that box!
FOLATE AKA VITAMIN B9
I just broke my word about the Bs because here I am, talking about folate which has an alias. B9!
FOLIC ACID CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
Oranges made a nice showing here, beating out bananas. I was pleasantly surprised by pomegranates!
Most of us don’t get enough folate in our diets, unfortunately. Women need 400 mcg/day. Even the mighty avocado only has about 30%.
If you’re planning to get a supplement, add folic acid to your list.
VITAMIN C aka ASCORBIC ACID
I’m unsure why these vitamins need two names.
VITAMIN C CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
As expected, oranges made a sold showing. 90 mg is the recommended amount of vitamin C intake. (see my oh, so-easy-to-read chart below!) Strawberries surprised me a bit, coming in nose to nose with oranges.
But look at guava! Guava wins!
CALCIUM CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
You can probably tell by now that I like an underdog. And it’s fun eat more unique foods if possible!
Kiwi placed second but those darn oranges won. One orange provides about 7% of the daily allowance for an adult. Not a lot, but this is a fruit post. 7% wins this round.
Notice apples? I can continue my apple bashing.
IRON aka Fe
Iron (Fe symbol) is part of the hemoglobin molecule, a protein which carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies.
(I need a tutorial for using ‘preview’ too.)
You can see the Fe molecule is incorporated in the middle! Mega bonding.
IRON CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
Dried figs provide almost 20% of the minimum daily requirement for iron.
My family thinks figs are too ugly to eat.
Yes, dried fruit is higher in sugar but they’re great for an after-school snack, or to satisfy those sugar cravings.
A lot better than Swedish fish. (I tell myself that every time I decide I need just one more fig!)
MAGNESIUM aka Mg
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. It plays several important roles in the health of your body and brain.
MAGNESIUM CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
It’s difficult to obtain our daily requirement of magnesium from food. In this case, a magnesium supplement is a good idea.
Recommended daily dose is about 400 mg. One serving of dried figs gets to about 25%.
You can see that I couldn’t resist…I included a non-fruit. DARK CHOCOLATE!! It’s very rich in magnesium, 1-ounce (28-gram) has 16% of the recommended intake.
Eat 4 ounces and you’re halfway there! HA!
Potassium’s symbol is K but it’s not vitamin K.
Yes, this is leading to more confusion but the guy who gave potassium its name…Sir Humphry Davy in 1807 … didn’t know about vitamin K. We could blame the vitamin K people, if you want?
POTASSIUM CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
My mom always says, ‘take a bite of a banana for potassium.’ Well, Mom, this chart is for you!
All right, you can see that passion fruit did not beat bananas. Passion fruit is ahead of the other commoners.
Passion fruit has 20% of the recommended daily requirement of potassium! (A healthy adult should aim to consume 3,500–4,700 mg daily from foods.) Hurrah. Now if I could just find one to try it.
Have any of you eaten passion fruit? Quince won nothing in the vitamin war, alas.
And that’s a fresh apricot in the photo below but it was so pretty that I had to use it. The dried apricots are the real potassium winner. One serving has almost half of what most people need.
ZINC CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
Avocadoes tied with pomegranates in the zinc race, so yet again, if you’re looking for a lower sugar alternative, avocados are your man.
Avocados win the Triple Crown. If you click on that link you’ll see that this doesn’t happen very often.
I wanted to include other fruits! I can add one of my personal favorites, blackberries! Even at 7% of the recommended zinc requirements, blackberries come in second. Raspberries get an honorable mention here at third. (I like them, too. Hey, it’s my post!)
No, I did not forget to input the apple data. They have ZERO % zinc.
Let’s talk about one last thing. Antioxidants.
Here’s a general rule of thumb. The darker the berry, the most likely it will have antioxidants!
ANTIOXIDANT CONTENT CHART IN COMMON FRUITS
In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have included bilberries. They make all the other hard-working fruits look bad. Bilberries are wild shrubs, native to Europe, but apparently can be cultivated. (If you’re an interested gardener, read more here)
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FRUIT?
Our oldest is a fan of kiwi, pineapple, and blackberries. Our youngest says it’s mangos or peaches. Our middle guy is steadfast with his apple choice, even after I shamed the heck out of them!
Louie shares our middle guy’s love for apples. (One guess as to who introduced Louie to apples!)
Fiber is included at the bequest of one of my yoga instructors. She was defending apples. That’s cool, but I was NOT about to make another excel spreadsheet. Here’s a chart from the University of Michigan:
Apples did not even win with our common fruit race, coming in after blueberries, which won for our common fruits. Surprisingly, raspberries won overall for fiber in fruit, even topping prunes!
For completeness, The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 30 grams a day of fiber from food, not supplements.
WHICH FRUIT IS BEST FOR YOU?
Which fruit is best for you? That depends on what you’re looking for in your diet.
I think we have answered the question; ‘is fruit good for you’ along with, ‘which specific fruits have the most vitamins and minerals,’ to maximize your choices.
That said, experts recommend filling half your plate with fruits and veggies. That’s 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day.
Vegetables, you say? We’ll save that for another post!
MODERATION AND COMMON SENSE!
Quick disclosure statement! This post isn’t meant as dietary advice. Eating forty figs to get to that 100% daily Mg number is plain silly. I wanted to share the vitamin and mineral content in fruits with you, so you can make smart choices.
Please consult with a dietitian if you have specific needs or underlying health conditions!
I’m curious! What is your favorite fruit?