Sugar is rapidly becoming the biggest diet sin of 2014 and now concerns are rife that we should start to consider how much can be found in healthy food options.
Earlier this year, academic Dr Aseem Malhotra from campaign group Action on Sugar, claimed that sugar is “worse” than tobacco and should be heavily taxed. His words sparked a huge global tirade against sugar, and now several new diets are promoting the benefits of sugar-free eating.
Evidence suggests that on average, each person consumes around 238 teaspoons of sugar a week, and worryingly a large amount of this intake could be coming from healthy options – particularly fruit.
So is it time to start limiting our fruit intake to avoid overloading our bodies with sugar? We explore some of the facts about sugar in fruit and how to go about managing our intake the healthy way:
Fruit sugars (fructose)
Some varieties of fruit can be very high in sugar, such as the banana, which contains 21g – the equivalent of five teaspoons. This fructose however is a natural sugar, which tends to be balanced out with a whole raft of vitamins, minerals and fibre that fruit also contains. These are essential for fighting disease and for helping us to feel and look good, so experts do not advise cutting fruit out altogether.
Fruit juice however tends to be a dark area in regard to its sugar content. Experts have argued that it should be taken off the 5-a-day list as it contains large quantities of sugar. Dr Susan Jebb, head of the diet and obesity research group at the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research unit in Cambridge, is particularly anit-fruit juice. However she did say:
“Five-a-day does not include ‘fruit drinks’ with added sugar. The fact that juice is only considered to be one portion is intended to signal that a small amount is fine but since it doesn’t have all the healthy components of intact fruit, it should be consumed in strict moderation.”
Moderation is key
Ultimately, despite many claims suggesting that the consumption of sugar is bad for our health, when consumed as part of a balanced diet it poses no danger. There is also no evidence to suggest it is linked to an increased risk of disease, although sugary processed foods are best kept to a minimum to avoid weight-related health problems.
Government guidelines recommend we have no more than 90g of sugar a day, but if you’re eating more than five portions of fruit a day, you could be getting close to this amount before you’ve eaten any other foods. Try swapping fruit snacks for vegetable options to ensure you are still getting your 5-a-day without overloading on sugar.