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Other Frequently Asked Questions about Fruits and Vegetables

Q.
Can I meet the recommendation for fruit by eating durian?
A:
Durian is a fruit. However, it should not be counted towards the 2 servings of fruit a day because of its high fat content. Unlike many other fruit which are naturally low in fat and energy, each 100 grams of durian contains approximately 147 kcal and 5.3 grams of fat.
Q.
Are there any other fruit that are rich in fat?
A:
Other than durian, avocado and coconut are also naturally high in fat content and should not be counted towards the "2 servings a day" recommendation. Each 100 grams of avocado has 160 kcal and 15 grams of fat while each 100 grams of coconut meat has 354 kcal and 33 grams of fat*.
Q.
I love eating desserts with fruit. Should I assume that I am eating enough fruits?
A:
Fruit are popular dessert ingredients. Although some fruit desserts such as fruit tarts and fruit puddings may be healthier choices than high-fat desserts such as chocolate cakes and cheese cakes, consuming fruit through fruit desserts should not be taken as a way to achieve healthy eating. This is because abundant amount of sugar or fat are often added to desserts, thus frequent consumption is not encouraged for good health. The same rule applies to any fruit juices or commercial products with added sugar such as concentrated fruit juices, fruit jam and fruit ice cream. So, choose fresh fruit whenever possible.
Q.
How should I wash fruit and vegetables?
A:
Fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly under running tap water before consumption. This applies for fruit and vegetables that are consumed with skin (such as apple, pear and tomato) as well as those consumed without skin (such as watermelon and orange).
Q.
Is potato a kind of vegetables?
A:
Potato is classified as a root vegetables, but it is not counted as part of the daily 3 or more servings of vegetables, as they are often eaten in replacement of grains and other carbohydrate-rich food during meals, especially in Western diet (e.g. baked potato, mashed potato and fries). Hence, it should not be counted as vegetables in general. Root vegetables that are not consumed as major starch sources (e.g. carrots and green radishes), however, can be counted towards our daily vegetables intake.
Q.
What about soy products?
A:
Although processed soy products (e.g. tofu, soy milk, soybean sheet) are plant food, they are classified as part of the "meat, fish, egg and alternatives" under the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid because of their high protein content but low content in vitamins and dietary fibre when compared with fruit and vegetables. They are not counted towards our daily vegetables intake.
Q.
What else are not counted towards the daily 3 servings of vegetables?
A:
Apart from the above, the following should not be counted as our daily vegetables intake:
  • Nuts and seeds (e.g. peanuts, sesame, lotus seed)
  • Vegetable oils
  • Preserved vegetables such as fermented Chinese cabbage, preserved mustard greens, kimchi, pickled vegetables
  • Commercial products with large amount of added salt such as ready-made tomato sauce and ketchup
Q.
Does the "2 plus 3" recommendation apply to people of all age groups?
A:
The "2 plus 3" recommendation can be applied to the teenagers, adults and the elderly populations. Infants and children may have slightly lower requirement for fruit and vegetables due to lower total energy requirement. Please look at our dietary recommendations for different age groups under the section of "Balanced Diet" for more details of specific nutritional needs.
Q.
Is it better to eat fruit before meals?
A:
So far, there is no strong scientific evidence indicating that nutrients in fruit are better absorbed if fruit is eaten before meals. It is mostly a matter of personal preference. Actually, eating fruit at different times of a day can have different effects – fruit between meals can serve as healthy snacks and replace unhealthy snacks, while vitamin C in fruit immediately eaten before / after meals can aid the iron absorption.
Q.
Can blueberries improve vision?
A:
Current scientific data is still inconclusive for the claim that anthocyanins in blueberries can prevent or combat illnesses. In any case, an adequate amount of fruit every day should be part of a healthy and balanced diet. The blueberry is one of the many fruit choices – just like apples, oranges, grapes, etc.
Q.
Does fruit have 'detox' effect?
A:
Fruit is rich in dietary fibre. Dietary fibre, particularly of the insoluble fibre, promotes bowel movement and aids the removal of carcinogens within bowels. A lot of research shows that an adequate amount of fruit intake prevents colon cancer.
Q.
It is well known that fruit contains fructose as well, so why can it still help control body weight?
A:
Although fruit contains fructose, its energy density (energy per unit volume) is relatively low when compared with other types of snack. Besides, an adequate amount of fruit usually promotes better satiety due to its dietary fibre content; fruit may therefore help the weight management by replacing unhealthy snacks which contain a higher energy content.
Q.
To maintain healthy blood sugar level, should people with diabetes avoid all fruit, or at least reduce the intake of those that taste sweet, such as mangoes, jackfruits and bananas?
A:
Just like healthy people, people with diabetes need a healthy and balanced diet which includes an adequate intake of fruit. In general, the meal plan for diabetes is modeled on the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid, which recommends at least two servings of fruit every day for adults (1 serving is equivalent to 1 medium-sized fruit). People with diabetes need not avoid any fruits simply because of their sweetness level; nevertheless, they should watch their amount of fruit intake
Q.
It is said that grapefruits, or its juice, help 'burn' fat and help weight management; is this true?
A:
So far, no research projects have produced any data that is convincing enough to support the claim that grapefruits aid fat metabolism (i.e. fat burning). People who have lost weight after eating grapefruits or drinking their juice may have succeeded so simply because grapefruits or their juice has replaced other food items with higher energy content; other fruit like apples, pears and grapes may have the same effect. But despite its low energy content, fruit should not replace the main meal as it will cause deficiency in certain nutrients such as protein and fat.
Q.
What is 'antioxidant'? What fruit provides more antioxidants than others?
A:
Antioxidants are substances that act as 'free-radical scavengers'; they are capable of limiting cellular damage brought about by free radicals. Free radicals are produced inevitably during metabolism. They can oxidise and destroy cells, causing illnesses like cancers and blood vessel diseases (such as atherosclerosis).

β-carotene, vitamin C and lycopene are the common nutrients or phytochemicals found in fruit, which have antioxidant properties.. These fruit include,

    • Fruit that are rich in β-carotene and lycopene are usually orange or yellow in colour. Examples are rock melons, mangoes and papayas.
    • Fruit that are rich in vitamin C include kiwifruits and strawberries.
    • Citrus fruit are also rich in vitamin C. Examples are oranges and pomelos.

Since different nutrients or pytochemicals can be found in different fruit, you are encouraged to eat a great variety of fresh fruits to obtain the optimal nutrients.

Q.
'2 Plus 3 A Day' – the slogan means that a person has to take two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables a day. Would it be all right to skip vegetables at all and have five servings of fruit instead?
A:
Despite the similarity in constituents like minerals, vitamins and dietary fibre, there is a major difference between fruit and vegetables. Although both fruit and vegetables are low in energy, when compared with vegetables, fruit has a higher energy content because it contains fructose, the type of sugar naturally found in fruit. If we replace all three servings of vegetables per day with fruit, we can get an extra 120 kcal or so per day – which takes 30 minutes of walking exercise to burn!
Q.
Can we replace fruit entirely with fruit juice?
A:
Compared with whole fruit, fruit juice contains less dietary fibre, but higher content of sugar. Drinking fruit juice in excess will give you excessive sugar and energy intake.

Take the orange and its juice as an example: Generally speaking, it takes two oranges to make a cup of orange juice (240 ml). The nutritional content of orange juice, orange and other beverages are compared below:

Orange (131 g) Orange juice (240 ml)
Energy 62 kcal 108 kcal
Sugar 12.3 g 20.2 g
Dietary fibre 3.1 g 0.5 g

Energy content of common beverages

Beverages (per 100 ml) Energy (kcal) Sugar (g)
Orange juice 45 8
Apple juice 46 10
Soft drinks 41 11
Water 0 0


Source: Nutrient Data Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture

The above data explains why we recommend whole fruit instead of juice. Nonetheless, when fruit juice is preferred, no more than one serving (i.e. 34 cup or 180 ml) per day is recommended.

Remark: 1 cup = 240 ml

Q.
Are there any fruit that we should not eat too much of?
A:
Most of the fruit are low in fat and energy and they are healthy options. However, the consumption of some fruit with high fat content, such as coconuts, durians and avocados, should be limited.

In fact, attention should be drawn to the use of coconut in food industry – although it does not contain cholesterol, its high saturated fat content may boost the body's production of cholesterol. Actually, we may not be aware that coconuts are frequently used to make various food items. A few examples are: coconut tarts, cocktail buns, desserts and puddings, sweet soups (containing coconut milk) and curry, Portuguese sauce prepared with coconut cream, etc.

For avocados, we know that it has monounsaturated fat, which is good for the heart. Nonetheless, you should limit its intake especially for those who need weight management.

Fat content of common fruit

Fruit Serving size Fat(g) Energy (kcal)
Orange 1medium size, 131 g 0.2 62
Kiwifruit 2 pcs, 152 g 0.8 93
Apple 1 medium size, 138 g 0.2 72
Coconut flesh 1 pc, 45 g 15.1 159
Durian 12 bowl, 122 g 6.5 179
Avocado 12 of a whole fruit, 100 g 14.7 161

1 bowl = 250 – 300 ml

Source: Nutrient Data Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture

Q.
How much fruit should we have each day for good health?
A:
Age group Amount
2-5 years old At least 1 serving
6-11 years old At least 2 servings
12-17 years old At least 2 servings
Adults At least 2 servings
Elderly At least 2 servings
Q.
What is 'one serving of fruit'?
A:
One serving of fruit is about:
  • 2 pieces of small-sized fruit
    (e.g. plums and kiwifruits)
  • 1 piece of medium-sized fruit
    (e.g. oranges and apples)
  • 12 piece of large-sized fruit
    (e.g. bananas, grapefruits and star fruits)
  • 12 bowl of mini-sized or fruit cuts
    (e.g. diced watermelon, diced honeydew melon, cherries, strawberries and grapes)
  • 1 tablespoon of dried fruit with no added sugar or salt
    (e.g. raisins and dried prunes)
  • 34 cup of fruit juice with no added sugar
    (e.g. orange juice and apple juice)

Remark: 1 cup = 240 ml
1 bowl = 250-300 ml

Q.
What nutritional values do fruit have?
A:
Fruit has
  • Dietary fibre
    An essential element to keep our gut healthy.
  • Vitamins
    Fruit are rich in β-carotene (helps maintain good eyesight) and vitamin C (promotes growth and repair of cells and aids wound healing).
  • Minerals
    Fruit are rich in potassium which helps stablise blood pressure.
  • Water
    Some fruit have a water content of up to 90% (e.g. watermelons) and they are excellent to quench thrist.
Q.
What are 'phytochemicals'?
A:
Plants produce 'phytochemicals' to protect them against micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi. Phytochemicals were found to have antioxidant effect; they are believed to improve health and reduce the risk of illnesses.
Q.
Gelatin and jelly mixtures with fresh pineapples inside don't set. Why?
A:
This is because fresh pineapple contains a proteolytic enzyme called 'bromelain' which stops gelatin from setting. This also explains why the meat becomes tender when it is prepared with pineapples. To make the gelatin and jelly mixtures with pineapples set, canned pineapple in juice can be used instead because bromelain is destroyed during the process of canning.
Q.
Why don't apple slices turn brown if lemon juice is applied on them?
A:
Apple flesh, coated with lemon juice, does not turn brown when coming into contact with oxygen in the air. This is because lemon juice has an abundant amount of vitamin C which serves as a powerful antioxidant that prevents apple flesh from oxidation.
Q.
What are the functions of potassium and magnesium in fruit?
A:
A major role of potassium and magnesium in the human body is to maintain healthy blood pressure. Research showed that the intake of potassium and magnesium is inversely correlated with blood pressure level (that is, people who have higher intake of potassium or magnesium have a relative lower blood pressure level). It is likely that potassium promotes the excretion of sodium and water and thus, reduces the risk of getting high blood pressure due to excessive sodium intake while magnesium decreases the contraction of muscle around blood vessels.

In addition, magnesium promotes bone health. Although its exact mechanisums in the bone system remain to be identified, it is known that over 50% of magnesium in the human body is stored in our bones. Having fruit every day constitutes an adequate intake of magnesium, and thus promotes bone health.