Fruit for a Healthy Vegan Diet
Fruit is a staple food group for a healthy vegan diet. Sometimes the health benefits of fruit are up for discussion. Messages about the sugar content of fruit and the need to limit fruit in the diet are sometimes debated. Learn how to include a healthy amount of fruit in a vegan diet.
This page reviews:
- What is Fruit?
- Health Benefits of Fruit
- Nutrition Content of Fruit
- Why It’s Important to Eat Fruit as a Vegan
- List of Fruits to Include on a Vegan Diet
- How to Include More Fruit into your Vegan Diet
- Recipes that Include Fruit from Lettuce Veg Out
Confused about what nutrients are essential for adult vegans? Grab my free, 3 page vegan nutrition cheat sheet that outlines 9 essential nutrients!
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What is Fruit?
When talking about fruit as a food group, it’s understood to mean a plant that is often sweet and usually fleshy, edible for humans. The botanical definition of fruit is a seed-bearing structure of a plant 1. Whereas vegetables are any other part of a plant that don’t contain the seed (ex. stems, roots etc.) 1.
We never use the botanical definition of fruit in the culinary or nutrition world because it includes any plant that humans eat, which has seeds in it. So technically, tomatoes, squash, pumpkin, bell peppers and many other vegetables are botanically fruits. Grains are also seeds, as are legumes. So while all these foods could be classified as fruits, we keep food separated based on nutritional value and use in culinary applications rather than the true botanical meaning of the word.
For the purpose of defining a food group, it’s often aimed at grouping together nutritionally similar foods. This is the use of the word fruit that this article (and everything else written on this site) uses.
Health Benefits of Fruits
There’s plenty quality evidence that suggests fruit is a healthy and beneficial part of balanced diets.
Research suggests that eating a variety of fruit is beneficial for preventing disease. This is thought to be due to a range of antioxidants, polyphenols and phytochemicals present in different types of fruit.
Eating fruit has been linked to decreased risk of many diseases including heart disease 2, 3, 4, 5, stroke 6, 7, some types of cancer (prostate cancer 8, breast cancer 9, 10, 11, lung cancer in smokers 12 and colon cancer 13), type 2 diabetes 14, 15, 16, inflammation 17, erectile dysfunction 18, dementia 19, 20, mental health disorders 21, metabolic syndrome 22 and all-cause mortality 2.
All nutrition research has limitations, so it can’t be definitively said that eating fruit prevents these diseases. However, research shows a lower risk of these diseases with increasing fruit consumption. Research on fruit and disease is strongest for heart disease. When it comes to cancer, the research is quite mixed between showing fruit as beneficial vs fruit being neutral (not harmful, but not beneficial).
Therefore, research clearly suggests that fruit can be included as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
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 colour of fruit, so eating a range of colourful 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.
The Health Benefits of Fruit vs The Sugar Content
Fruit contains varying amounts naturally occurring sugar. For this reason, many people demonize fruit as being unhealthy or separate fruit into high vs low sugar lists, with the intention of avoiding high sugar fruits. However, the health benefits of fruit outweigh the sugar content, even for the fruits that are higher in sugar.
Fruit is so much more than just sugar. The other nutrients present are important for human health and are often lacking in standard Western diets (which typically lack fruit and vegetable intake).
Cutting out fruit for fear of sugar means you may not meet intake requirements for the nutrients above. It also limits the variety of antioxidants found in fruit from your diet. Antioxidants are important for fighting diseases and are found in whole plant foods, especially colourful fruits and vegetables.
Don’t fear fruit.
Why It’s Important to Eat Fruit as a Vegan
Most vegans I know don’t struggle to consume enough fruit; however some do. Getting in a variety of fruit increases the variety of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds in the diet. This could be beneficial for health since it’s not really known which specific plant compounds are working to keep us healthy.
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.
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 are great to add to meals to enhance flavour and make for a great starting point for a tasty dessert.
List of Fruits to Include on a Vegan Diet
People often ask for a list of foods to include in their diet. The reality is that any food can be included in an overall balanced diet. When it comes to selecting fruit, the only rule is that you need to enjoy the taste!
Any and all fruits can fit into a healthy diet. Choose what you like and aim for variety if you can. Some favourites 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 fruit into your vegan diet is hopefully 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, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices!
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 this can be a huge barrier for people. Buying frozen fruit provides about the same nutritional benefit so stock up when there is a sale! 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 fantastic, 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. Try baking apples, mashing up strawberries, making avocado pudding or a fruit crisp! Fruit salad is another choice.
- Add fruit to salads and soups: Fruit can be a great way to add a bit of sweetness to a soup or salad recipe. While that may sound weird, the sweetness can actually round out the flavours of other ingredients and make for a tastier dish.
Recipes that Include Fruit from Lettuce Veg Out
Most of the recipes I post are main meals however I do have a few dessert recipes, many of which include fruit. There are also a couple savoury options with fruit as well!
Some of my favourites are:
- Raspberry peach crisp
- Blueberry lemon muffins
- Avocado chocolate pudding
- Raspberry cheesecake
- Banana bread
- Apple cranberry quinoa salad
- Radicchio cups with quinoa, walnuts and pear
- Pulled jackfruit sandwiches with creamy slaw
If you’re looking for dessert ideas, there are two other main desserts I love to eat (apart from what’s listed above).
Firstly, baked apples. For this I just slice up a ton of apples and cook them with a bit of cinnamon in a crock pot/ slow cooker. Cook until the apples are soft and serve warm. This freezes well and is fantastic to make when apples are in season (and inexpensive).
Second, mashed strawberries. This may sound weird but I love to eat a bowl of mashed strawberries with a splash of soy milk in it. Think along the lines of strawberry shortcake with whipped cream but without the biscuit (or include a biscuit!). They soy milk makes it creamy instead of whipped cream (or use whipped cream and/ or a vegan yogurt alternative if you like).
Summary: Fruit for a Healthy Vegan Diet
Fruit is a great addition to a healthy vegan diet. Despite being higher in sugar, the health benefits of fruit consumption are pretty clear. The nutrients fruit provide can be lacking in a diet that is low in plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables. There are many tasty ways to add fruit to a diet.
Confident you're meeting nutrient needs as an adult vegan? If not, grab my free, 3 page vegan nutrition cheat sheet that outlines 9 essential nutrients for adult vegans!
Learn more about the Vegan Nutrition Cheat Sheet!
- What’s the Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable?
- Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies
- Fruit and vegetable intake and mortality from ischaemic heart disease: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Heart study
- Quantity and variety in fruit and vegetable intake and risk of coronary heart disease
- Raw and Processed Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and 10-Year Coronary Heart Disease Incidence in a Population-Based Cohort Study in the Netherlands
- Total and specific fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of stroke: A prospective study
- Raw and processed fruit and vegetable consumption and 10-year stroke incidence in a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands
- Fruit and vegetable intake and prostate cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)
- Fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer incidence: Repeated measures over 30 years of follow-up
- Citrus Fruit Intake and Breast Cancer Risk: A Quantitative Systematic Review
- Greater Survival After Breast Cancer in Physically Active Women With High Vegetable-Fruit Intake Regardless of Obesity
- Variety in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and the Risk of Lung Cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition
- Fruit and Vegetable Intakes Are Associated with Lower Risk of Colorectal Adenomas
- A Prospective Study of the Association Between Quantity and Variety of Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Incident Type 2 Diabetes
- Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies
- Fresh fruit consumption in relation to incident diabetes and diabetic vascular complications: A 7-y prospective study of 0.5 million Chinese adults
- Greater variety in fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower inflammation in Puerto Rican adults
- Erectile Dysfunction and Fruit/Vegetable Consumption Among Diabetic Canadian Men
- Increased Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables Is Related to a Reduced Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia: Meta-Analysis
- Fruit and Vegetable Juices and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Kame Project
- The association between fruit and vegetable consumption and mental health disorders: Evidence from five waves of a national survey of Canadians
- Key Elements of Plant-Based Diets Associated with Reduced Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Please note that this is a curated list of references for the topics above and is not intended to be comprehensive.
Disclaimer: it is always advised for you to speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet; please read our full website disclaimer.