If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: Eat more fruits and vegetables. Often, though, the fruit part of that edict isn't taken as seriously.
Maybe it's because we perceive vegetables as being healthier. Or perhaps it feels like cheating to opt for the sweeter option.
But there's no reason to feel guilty.
"Fruits and vegetables both come packaged with innumerable health benefits we have only begun to define," says Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., R.D., senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
"But you can actually get higher quantities of some nutrients per fruit than in the same amount of vegetables."
The ideal daily goal is 1½ to 2 cups of fruit (along with 2 to 3½ cups of veggies). That's easy to do this time of year, when a variety of sweet produce is in season. But if you're still concerned that summer-ripe berries can't possibly be as healthy as kale, let the experts dispel your fears.
Here, five reasons to eat more fruit, and how to get its health benefits.
Fruit Won't Make You Fat
Because fruit contains natural sugars, many widely followed diet plans recommend avoiding it or at least severely limiting it. But the sugars in cantaloupe or peaches, say, don't have the same negative effects on the body as high-fructose corn syrup of other types of sugars added to foods.
"Although the natural sugar in fruit is chemically similar to table sugar, our bodies process whole fruit differently because of the fiber, phytochemicals, and micronutrients," says Hannah Meier, R.D., research associate at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. "Fiber slows the rate that the natural sugars are released into the bloodstream, preventing the spikes and crashes that might otherwise be experienced after eating a sugary treat."