1 December 2018


Dietary guidelines since Day One back in the late 1970s have recommended that we eat fruit every day for our health and wellbeing. We have plenty of choice to meet that target – not only are there hundreds of different kinds of fruit but, in many cases, we can opt for fresh, frozen, canned or dried. But, in today’s “obesogenic world”, as the headlines put it, is fruit still a healthy choice, after all, it’s primarily comprised of carbohydrates – in particular (gasp!) sugars.

Fruit nutrition With the exception of fat-rich avocadoes and olives, carbohydrate is the primary source of energy in most fruit. An average piece (150g) of fresh fruit gives us 10–20g available carbohydrate, plus a little protein (less than 2g) and even less fat (under 1g). When it comes to fibre (soluble and insoluble), an average piece (150g) of unpeeled, fresh apple or pear or stone fruit provides between 2–4g of fibre. Citrus is similar when peeled. A small handful (30g) of dried fruit provides 1.5–3g fibre per serve, and melons only 0.5–1g per average slice (75 g). Most fruits are good sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals – in particular vitamin C, potassium and magnesium.

It’s the sugars in fruit that gets people’s knickers in a knot these days. Crusading diet books in recent years have tended to encourage the belief that fruit is full of fructose and that’s simply not the case. The average fructose content of fruit eaten in Australia and other Western nations is around 50% of the total carbohydrate content, with the balance coming from glucose. Pome fruits like apples and pears have more at around 65% of the total carbohydrate content; stone fruits like apricot, cherries and plums have much less at around 35%. It’s also worth keeping in mind that most fruits are mostly water (that’s why fruit is refreshing). The carbohydrate content is typically around 10% by weight.

The GI of most apples, pears, citrus and stone fruits is low (under 55). Melons tend to be medium to high GI (GI 68–78), but most will have a low GL because melons are mostly water and have very little carbohydrate. Canning fruits in sugary syrups typically raises their GI, but fruits canned in 100% fruit juice typically have a lower GI. Drying fruits doesn’t have much of an effect on the GI of the fruit.

Fruit and health Systematic reviews of the best available scientific evidence in humans have found that regular whole fruit consumption:

How much fruit should we be eating? Dietary guidelines currently recommend that adults consume at least 2 serves (2 cups in the USA) of fruit each day. A serve of fruit is:
  • 150g (1 piece) of medium-sized fruit e.g. apple, banana, orange, pear 
  • 150g (2 pieces) of small fruit e.g. apricots, kiwi fruit, plums 
  • 150g (1 cup) diced, cooked or canned fruit 
  • 125ml (½ cup) 100% fruit juice 
  • 30g dried fruit. e.g. 4 dried apricot halves, 1½ tablespoons of sultanas 
How much fruit are we eating? In most developed nations, most people do not eat the minimum recommended number of serves of fruit each day. In the USA, adolescents consumed an average of 0.51 cups and adults 0.61 cups of fruit per day. Australians do better according to Australia’s most recent national nutrition survey:
  • Australians two years and over, consumed on average around 1.5 serves of fruit (including fruit juice and dried fruit) with fresh or canned contributing around 1 serve, and fruit juice and dried fruit 0.5 serve. 
  • Children on average consumed slightly more serves of fruit than adults (1.7 compared with 1.5). 
The take home? Fruit is a healthy food. Up your intake and get those two serves a day for optimal health and wellbeing.

Dr Alan Barclay  
Alan Barclay, PhD is a consultant dietitian and chef (Cert III). He worked for Diabetes Australia (NSW) from 1998–2014 . He is author/co-author of more than 30 scientific publications, and author/co-author of  The good Carbs Cookbook (Murdoch Books), Reversing Diabetes (Murdoch Books), The Low GI Diet: Managing Type 2 Diabetes (Hachette Australia) and The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners (The Experiment, New York).

Contact: You can follow him on Twitter or check out his website.