Fruit is one of the six food groups in a balanced vegan diet. While most people view fruit and vegetables as a food group together, I prefer to think of them separately.
Due to higher sugar content, questions sometimes arise about the health benefits of fruit. Some people advocate to limit or even avoid fruit.
This article reviews the health benefits of fruits, explains their significance in vegan diets and offers tips on how to include more fruits in your balanced diet.
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What is Fruit?
A botanical definition of fruit is rarely used in the culinary or nutrition world because it includes all plants with seeds in them that are typically referred to as vegetables. Foods like tomatoes, squash, pumpkin, bell peppers and many other vegetables, are botanically fruits.
Despite technically being fruits, foods are grouped by their culinary and nutritional value, not the botanical definition.
Health Benefits of Fruits
There’s lots of quality evidence to suggest fruit is a nutritious and beneficial part of balanced diets.
Research suggests that eating a variety of fruit is beneficial for preventing disease. This is likely due to antioxidants, polyphenols and phytochemicals present in fruit.
Eating fruit has been linked to decreased risk of many diseases including:
- Heart disease 2, 3, 4, 5
- Stroke 6, 7
- Prostate cancer 8
- Breast cancer 9, 10, 11
- Lung cancer 12, 13
- Colon cancer 14
- Type 2 Diabetes 15, 16
- Inflammation 17
- Dementia 18, 19
- Mental health disorders 20
Research on the relationship between fruit intake and heart disease is particularly strong. When it comes to cancer, the research is mixed between showing fruit as beneficial vs fruit being neutral (not harmful, but not beneficial).
All research has limitations. Most nutrition research is observational, meaning it establishes correlations. This type of research cannot prove causation, so it’s incorrect to say that eating fruit prevents disease.
However, research consistently correlates fruit consumption with lower disease risk. This strongly suggests fruits can (and should) be included as part of a balanced diet.
A balanced diet also needs other food groups to provide a full range of nutrition. These include protein foods like legumes, carbohydrate foods like grains, healthy fats like nuts and seeds as well as vegetables and flavoring from herbs and spices.
Nutrition Content of Fruit
Fruit provides many essential nutrients including:
Each type of fruit provides varying levels of these nutrients. Different antioxidants are also present in each variety and color of fruit, so eating a range of colorful fruits likely provides the greatest nutritional benefit.
Many people do not get enough of these nutrients in their daily diet and would benefit from more whole fruits to boost intake.
Health Benefits of Fruit vs Sugar Content
Fruit contains varying amounts of naturally occurring sugar. Some people believe this makes fruit unhealthy and something to avoid.
In the nutrition world, many people need something to “blame” for the current health of the population. Some people blame carbohydrates and sugars; however, a balanced diet can contain carbohydrates and sugars.
The fiber, along with antioxidants and other nutrients, makes fruit a great snack or addition to a meal. Adding protein to the meal/ snack can further help with satiation and minimizing blood sugar spikes 24, 25.
Why It’s Important to Eat Fruit as a Vegan
Most vegans don’t struggle to consume enough fruit; however, some do.
Eating a diverse range of fruit increases variety of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds in the diet. Specific plant compounds responsible for health benefits of fruits and vegetables aren’t fully understood (beyond antioxidants and essential nutrients).
This underscores the importance of incorporating a variety of fruits (and vegetables) into your eating routine.
Much of the nutrients found in fruit are also found in vegetables. That’s why, traditionally, fruits and vegetables are grouped together into one food group. However, by separating them we can put focus on the importance of getting both fruit and vegetables into a balanced diet.
Since many people are more inclined to eat fruit, separating these food groups can help emphasize that veggies are important to include in your diet too.
It’s generally recommended to eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, or half you plate at each meal 26. Balancing this intake between vegetables and fruit can be a great goal.
The other reason to include fruits in a balanced vegan diet is for taste! Fruits are sweet and palatable which makes them easy to enjoy. They’re great to add to meals to enhance flavor and can also create tasty desserts.
List of Fruits to Include on a Vegan Diet
When it comes to selecting fruit, the only rule is to enjoy the taste! Some favorites include:
- Apples, pears and grapes
- Citrus (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, pomelo, mandarins etc.)
- Stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries)
- Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, currants etc.)
- Tropical (bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapple, coconut, kiwi, passion fruit, guava, lychees, rambutan, star fruit, pitaya (aka dragon fruit), jackfruit etc.)
- Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew etc.)
How to Include More Fruit into your Vegan Diet
Adding more fruit to your vegan diet should be a fun goal. If you already eat a couple of servings per day, you may not need to add any more.
It’s important to not focus too much on any one food group and aim to get in a balance of vegetables, fruits, protein, carbohydrates, fats and flavor!
If you struggle to include fruit in your vegan diet, here are my top tips:
- Buy frozen: Fresh fruit can be expensive (especially in the winter) and may go bad before you can eat it. Frozen fruit offers similar nutritional and is great in oatmeal, smoothies or as a cold snack.
- Get snacking: A piece of whole fruit can be a quick, easy and convenient snack! Add nuts and/ or seeds to make it more filling.
- Try a new fruit each month: Since variety is key, broaden your horizons and try a new fruit every month. There are tons of options at most grocery stores, farmers markets and Asian/ International grocery stores!
- Have dessert: Fruit on its own can be a great dessert option but fruit is also a fantastic starting ingredient for making an even tastier dessert.
- Add fruit to salads and soups: Fruit can be a great way to add sweetness to a soup or salad recipe. The sweetness can balance out other ingredients and make for a tastier dish.
Vegan Recipes Using Fruit
- Avocado oatmeal smoothie
- Peanut butter banana avocado smoothie
- Cranberry orange muffins
- Cranberry sauce with apples
- Raspberry cheesecake
- Apple pie baked oats
- Kale salad with orange tahini dressing (and oranges)
- Strawberry chia seed jam
- Avocado chocolate pudding
- Blueberry muffins and/or blueberry lemon muffins
- Cranberry apple quinoa salad
- Waldorf salad (with apples and grapes)
Summary: Fruit for Vegans
Fruit is a great addition to a balanced vegan diet. Despite being higher in sugar, the health benefits of fruit consumption are clear.
The essential nutrients and antioxidants fruit provides make it a great choice, so add more fruit to your plant-based diet!
Always speak with a doctor before changing your diet or taking new supplements. Please read our full website disclaimer.
About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.