The UK’s scientific advisory committee on nutrition recently advised that sugar should account for no more than 5% of you daily calories consumed. But what about un-refined sugars found in fruit? This is an interesting question as there has been an awful lot of noise recently about the dangers of fructose. Fructose is the sugar found in fruits and berries and whilst there is no doubt that this very sweet compound can be harmful to your body, causing glycation and Oxidative stress, it’s not entirely clear that the consumption of fruit is a necessarily a bad thing.
The science around nutrition is extremely complicated and recent research only adds further to our understanding of these complexities. What’s more the powerful food industry often obscures much of the research and evidence that doesn’t fit with their own business objectives. A really simple fact is that it has been calculated that consumption of sugary drinks leads to 184,000 premature deaths per year. You don’t read that on the side of a coke can do you?
Recent nutritional studies have shown that the concept of simply counting calories does not tell the whole nutritional story. Recently the idea of empty calories has emerged. An empty calorie provides you with energy but little else. Your body does however require additional nutrients including antioxidants, electrolytes, amino acids and maybe some undiscovered life force only found in fresh fruit and vegetables. Maybe the research will one day tell us it does.
Whist fruit does contain high levels of fructose it is also very high in antioxidants, salvestols and polyphenols; all of which boost your immune system and are thought to reduce the risk of cancer. A recent published UCL study of 65,000 participants found that eating seven or more daily portions of fruit and vegetables compared to less than one portion a day lowers your risk of death at any point in time by 42%. Whilst this study found that vegetables were more beneficial than fruit, fruit was found to have a profoundly positive effect.
Were all familiar with the advice from the UK’s foods standards agency that recommends 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day, but intuitively this doesn’t make complete sense. The availability of fresh fruit throughout the year is a completely modern construct, the result of complex supply lines that reach around the world and modern farming under electrified light. Not so long ago fresh ripe fruit would have been an entirely seasonal treat. Experts now believe that Australia’s Go for 2 & 5 health campaign might be a better approach. This government campaign encourages Australians to eat on a daily basis 2 portion of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables.
Another thing to be mindful of whenever you consume fruit should be the concentration of fructose compared to the other beneficial compounds in your portion. Fruit juice for example should perhaps be avoided. It doesn’t contain the same levels of flesh and fibre that you would find in fresh fruit and as it wont satiate you in the same way, meaning you’ll probably consume far more portions of fruit and fructose than you could physically eat whole.
You should also be mindful that not all fruits are equal when it comes to their fructose content. As a rule tropical fruit like Mango’s and pineapple should be limited to no more than one or two time a week. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and apples are all considered to be relatively low fructose fruits. Another good approach is to make your own smoothies adding some vegetables and protein to the mix. Baby spinach makes a fantastic addition to any smoothie and is a great way to sneak some raw vegetable into the kids without them noticing.
There’s an old saying: the dose determines the poison. This is probably the best advice to consider when enjoying what was once only a seasonal treat. Fruit is without doubt hugely beneficial, but even too much oxygen can be toxic.