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Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

Dear Lucy: If I eat only certain kinds of fruits every day, is that considered healthy or not? For example, if I eat only oranges, kiwis, and pomegranates daily is that okay, or do I need a greater variety? —Fruit Loopy

Dear Loopy: This is a great question. While Lucy’s tastes in fruits and veggies is fairly wide ranging—durian, anyone?—she knows that many people stick with a much narrower selection. But how important is variety, anyway?

“The short answer is that I—and the rest of the nutrition community—just don’t know,” MIT Medical Nutritionist Anna Jasonides tells Lucy. “We’ve traditionally told people to eat a ‘variety’ of fruits and vegetables, so you have a better chance of getting all of the 40-plus nutrients we need. But we don’t have a good definition for ‘variety,’ and my best guess is that it may not matter all that much, because fruits have a lot of overlap in vitamins and other important nutrients. For example, potassium is ubiquitous—every fruit has potassium! Vitamin C is also present in most fruits.” 

In addition, Jasonides notes, there is a lot of nutrient overlap between fruits and vegetables, so eating a wider variety of vegetables can make up for eating fewer fruits. Or vice versa.

While there’s not a lot of evidence-based advice about how to eat fruits and vegetables—other than the recommendation to consume up to nine servings a day and mix up the colors as much as possible in a week—Jasonides does have some “common wisdom” tips:

  • Eat whole fruit. Juice makes it too easy to consume excess calories and leaves out the fiber. 
  • Eat the skin. It contains both fiber and other nutrients.
  • Eat in season. Fresh fruit tastes better, and locally grown fruit is often more affordable.
  • But don’t shun frozen and canned fruit. It still has nutrients. Look for canned fruit packed in water. 
  • Avoid extremes. Eating one kind of fruit every day for the rest of your life is not reasonable; but neither is eating six different fruits every day.  
  • Don’t get hung up on a single nutrient or food. That’s not going to make you healthy. Instead, aim for a balanced and healthy dietary pattern. 

She cites a number of studies that connect fruit consumption to better health outcomes, including fewer heart attacks and strokes and decreased blood pressure and blood glucose levels. “There is no bad fruit!” Jasonides emphasizes. “Each fruit has something good to offer.” 

Lucy thanks our indefatigable nutritionist for yet another common-sense answer and encourages you and all of her other readers to keep eating those fruits and veggies! —Lucy 

Back to Ask Lucy Information contained in Ask Lucy is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended as professional medical advice related to individual situations. Always obtain the advice of a qualified healthcare professional if you need medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Never disregard medical advice you have received, nor delay getting such advice, because of something you read in this column.