Americans are eating more fruit than ever. In 1970, Americans consumed 34.7 pounds of fresh fruit per person. In 2010, that number had jumped to 46.5 pounds per person, an increase of over 30 percent. This is proof that many of us are taking healthy eating seriously.
When it comes to fresh fruit, bananas and apples are at the top of America’s most popular fresh fruit list. On average, we each consumed 10.4 pounds of bananas in 2010 and we each ate 9.5 pounds of fresh apples. Other popular whole fruits in the country are watermelons, grapes, oranges, strawberries, and pears.
When you combine fresh and processed fruits, the numbers jump significantly. In 2013, Americans consumed an average of 117.2 pounds of processed and fresh fruits. Not only that, but when processed and fresh fruit are combined, oranges then replace bananas at the top of the list in total consumption. This is due to the large amount of orange juice we consume, at 31.3 pounds each (3.6 gallons).
Fruit and the Food Pyramid
Fruit is an important part of the food pyramid. The food pyramid consists of the dietary information that the FDA has compiled, and put into a simple to read pyramid of food groupings. They then offer the suggested amount of servings a person should have on a daily basis. Remember, this food pyramid is just a guideline. In the fruit group, it suggests people receive 2 to 4 servings daily to receive all the vitamins and minerals this group offers.
You may consider fruit juice as an easy option in getting your daily intake of fruit nutrients, but it may not be the best way. While packaged fruit juice can be convenient and refreshing, on a nutritional basis, there is no comparison between whole fruit and fruit juice. Let’s take a closer look at whole fruit vs. fruit juice:
Fresh fruit has long been determined as an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C. Fresh fruit also contains beneficial natural sugars. Fruits are the source of multiple nutrients like potassium, fiber, and folate.
Studies indicate potassium in fruit can reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, and even decrease bone loss. Fiber has been shown to improve the digestive system and can help consumers feel full longer. Folate is helpful in the production of red blood cells.
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits are rich in vitamin C. They too, are a good source of folate. Citrus is a good source of thiamin, which is important to a healthy metabolism.
Fresh blueberries are gaining in popularity as a fresh fruit due to their powerful antioxidants. Blueberries are said to help prevent cardiovascular disease and even improve memory. There is no question that fresh fruit plays a critical role in a healthy diet. In fact, in one study conducted by the National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, it was found that if people would consume more whole fruit like blueberries, oranges, apples, and others, they could see a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
There are some minimal challenges involved with fresh fruit. They first, are perishable. Fresh fruit is also seasonal and availability and prices can change widely through the year. Fruit should be washed thoroughly before consumption. Other than these very minor issues, it is hard to debate the value of fresh fruit in a diet.
While juice may seem like an easier and more practical way to get your share of fruit servings in the food pyramid, it also can be loaded with sugars, chemicals, and preservatives. You can see for yourself by looking at the nutritional facts label.
Keep in mind that in spite of claims like “fresh” or “all natural” packaged fruit juices are processed foods. Most of the processed foods we eat add calories and sugar with little nutritional value. Food manufacturers frequently add chemically produced sugar, often high-fructose corn syrup to beverages including fruit juice. Added sugar in fruit juice, as opposed to the natural sugars in fresh fruit, can actually promote type 2 diabetes.
Pre-packaged fruit juices, even though they say 100 percent fruit juice, still have preservatives, artificial color and flavorings. Fruit juices also don’t have the fiber that whole fruit has.
The Verdict: Whole Fruit vs. Fruit Juice
Fruit juice manufacturers have taken strides in making their products healthier. For the most part many are certainly a better option than sugary sodas as a beverage. But when you compare the nutritional value of fruit juice vs. whole fruit, you should choose the fresh fruit option.