Who told you it was? Sorry, more accurately, WHO told you it was. The World Health Organization recommended that 400g of fruit and vegetables be eaten every day to maintain health.
In the UK and quite a bit of Europe this has been translated to “5 pieces a day” – except in Denmark where it’s six. Or Ireland where it’s complicated. Americans seem to prefer around 9 a day, and Australians want 5 veg and 2 fruit. Or something.
Italy just says “eat more fruit and veg”.
There have been many studies published over the last 20 years or more trying to assign blame for why people put on weight, especially in regards to diet. The were initially two potential problems identified – sugar (carbohydrates generally) and fat. It is sensible (even if not correct) to think that eating fat MAKES you fat – and that’s the route we took. Obesity got worse.
Eating a diet of pure fat probably will make you fat – but carbs also seem to cause problems. The biggest problem is when they are eaten with fat – your body tends to use the carbs for energy and stores the fat for future use. By continually eating carbs, the stored fat doesn’t get used, hello obesity.
So if fruit is full of carbs, why eat it?
Fruit and vegetables (excluding the starchy stuff, like potato) are full of vitamins and so-called “natural goodness”. The health benefits from this can be great, and that’s the main reason for the recommendation. However, there’s another reason.
In a 100g bar of chocolate*, there’s a lot of calories and processed sugar. In 100g of apple, there’s some calories and some natural sugar. Your body can quite happily process and dispose of natural sugar – that’s what it is designed to do. Processed sugar can be difficult for your body to handle – and if you eat 100g of apple, you’ll probably be quite happy and feel satisfied. If you eat 100g of chocolate, you’ll probably want another 100g straight afterwards.
Some low carb diets advise staying away from fruit, and rightly so – if you are trying to avoid carbs, fruit is a good source of them. But if you need a snack, you’re better off getting some natural sugar from an orange than you are eating a Snickers. An orange may not fit in with the diet you are trying to stick to – but I’m fairly certain a Snickers doesn’t fit in either.
* I’m talking about Snickers, Hershey’s Kisses, that kind of thing – chocolate with greater than 70% cocoa solids can actually be quite good for you. But that’s for another time!