This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
Most whole foods are better than processed foods for weight loss, including fruit. But how does fruit compare to other whole foods?
In botanical terms, a fruit is the structure of a flowering plant that bears the seeds formed from the ovary after flowering. This definition leads to counterintuitive fruits like for example avocados.
Other categories of whole foods are grains, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts and fungi (mushrooms). How does fruit compare to these when talking about weight loss?
Benefits of fruit for weight loss
The first thing you need to be aware of is that not all foods within a category have the exact same nutrient profile. If you want to know what fruits are good for weight loss check out this list.
That being said, there are general trends you can find within food categories. Of course there are always outliers.
Fruit is generally low in calories / 100 grams. This is helpful for losing weight because you can eat more from it than other foods without adding too many calories to your diet.
This can help with sticking to your weight loss habits.
Fiber is the name for the part of plants your body doesn’t absorb. Chemically they count as carbs but they are not like other carbohydrates.
This group of substances helps in multiple ways with weight loss.
First of all, it helps you feel fuller without adding calories to your diet. Hunger and cravings are a common reason why people fail to stick to their weight loss journey. This makes fiber a welcome help.
Secondly fiber feeds the microbes that live in your intestines, your microbiome. These organisms help convert your food into usable nutrients. A healthier microbiome is linked to many health improvements including lower weight.
Fiber can also make it so your blood sugar spikes less high from the food you eat. High spikes in blood sugar are linked to multiple negative health consequences.
For most people increasing fiber intake is the message.
Most fruits contain a nice amount of water.
Water helps your body do all kinds of things like lubricating joints, improving skin health, regulating temperature,…
On top of that it can also help you feel fuller without adding calories to your diet. The water in fruit does come with calories so it’s not as good as drinking a glass of water. However, fruit would be a lot worse without the water in it.
Other key components of whole foods are micronutrients, things like vitamins and minerals.
Micronutrients help you survive and thrive. Their direct link to weight loss is not entirely clear but it’s hard to imagine that they don’t help at all.
Fruits do contain some micronutrients, more than a processed cookie for example, but all in all they lack a little in this aspect. They mostly have vitamin C and other oxidants and vitamin A.
There are a few fruits that also have nice amounts of other vitamins and minerals but they are more the exception than the rule.
Disadvantages of fruit for weight loss
Fruits do also come with disadvantages for weight loss and health in general.
These disadvantages are mostly when you compare fruit to other whole foods. It’s important to make this comparison too, just because fruit is better than most processed snacks doesn’t mean there isn’t a better option.
A lot of the calories in most fruits come from sugar.
The calories from sugar are worse for your health and weight loss than more complex sources of carbohydrates and certain kinds of fats.
The amount of sugar from a cookie will be worse than the same amount from fruit because of things like fiber but sugar still has properties that make it one of the worst calories to consume.
This is one of the reasons why you should stay away from fruit juices when you’re trying to lose weight. Fruit juice is basically water with sugar and some vitamins. In fluid form this makes it easy to overconsume calories.
You may notice that water was part of the advantages too. The amount of water in fruit can also be unfavourable.
Water is processed relatively quickly by your body. So let’s say you have 2 foods, food A and B, both with 100 calories/100 grams. The difference is that food A is 50% water and food B is 10% water.
You will feel hungry faster after consuming food A than food B. This makes it easier to eat too many calories from food A.
Comparison with other whole food groups
If you have the choice between a processed snack with lots of added sugar and a piece of fruit the fruit will most likely be better;
But what if you have the choice between fruit and other whole food groups?
Whole grains tend to be higher in calorie content but also higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
So if you still need some nutrients and calories for the day, whole grains can be a better choice than fruits.
Fruits tend to be higher in calories than vegetables and also lower in vitamins and minerals. Fiber is very dependent on individual comparisons but in general you could say that the differences are not big.
The main advantage fruit has over vegetables is taste. It might be a lot easier for you to swap cookies with a piece of fruit compared to a handful of spinach.
Legumes are the fruits and seeds from the plants in the Fabaceae family. More concrete examples are beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts,…
Compared to fruit legumes tend to be slightly higher in calories but also higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
In most cases legumes are better than fruit. Except in sweetness. Peanuts are also part of the legumes but they are quite high in calories, a possible exception worth noting.
Nuts are many times higher in calories / 100 grams than fruit but they are also higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
This makes nuts better in some situations, fuit better in others. Both make for a great healthy snack.
Mushrooms, which are fungi, tend to be lower in calories and slightly higher in different vitamins and minerals.
Fruit or mushrooms is basically a choice of what micronutrients and taste sensation are you looking for.
There is a place and time
Fruits have their place and time but it’s important to remember that you can’t forget the other food groups.
Extreme fruit only diets are not the way to go. You will have a lot of vitamins and mineral deficiencies if you go on such a diet.
Fruit also doesn’t provide you with enough protein. Again an essential nutrient for both short and long term health.
Which fruits should be avoided for weight loss?
While there are individual differences there is no real weight loss stopping fruit. It’s more about making sure that you eat enough of the other whole food groups. Theseprovide you with a range of important vitamins and minerals which fruits can lack.
It’s okay to eat a few pieces of fruit a day when trying to lose weight. Vegetables would be even better.
The differences between individual fruits are not that big. However, the way you consume them can make a big difference when it comes to how weight loss friendly fruit is.
First of all, fruit juice is not helpful when trying to lose weight. Because you remove all/most of the fiber all that’s left is water with sugar and some vitamin A, vitamin C, and other antioxidants.
A similar, but less impactful, transformation happens by drying fruit. Removing water from fruit leaves you with a food that contains more vitamins, minerals, fiber, but also calories per 100 grams.
Consuming enough water is generally helpful when trying to lose weight. If you can choose between whole fruit and dried fruit, whole fruit is more often than not better for weight loss.
That being said, like all foods, you can likely have some of these two kinds of fruit transformations and still lose weight if you do enough other things right.