This is the third of four parts on sugar. It covers the sugar-free diet, the comparison between the various types of sugars, and the link between sugar and diseases. You can catch up with the previous installments here.
We hear regularly from health organizations and experts that we should eat less sugar. But we’re also told we should eat more fruit.
Sugars from soft drinks and fruit will have the same number of calories. The health risks associated with sugar consumption are linked to the intake of too many “free” sugars in the diet and not the sugars found in fruit or milk.
Sugar in Food
Sugar is available in many forms. Sugar molecules can be classified into monosaccharides, which are single sugar molecules like glucose and fructose, and disaccharides, which have more complex structures, like sucrose and milk.
Fruits contain natural sugars that are a mixture of fructose, sucrose, and glucose. Sugar is a bad thing, so many people think this applies to fruit.
Read more: You don’t need to quit sugar to improve your health
But fructose is only harmful in excess amounts and not when it comes from fruit. It would be incredibly difficult to consume excessive amounts of fructose by eating whole fruits.
Foods and drinks that are “free of sugar” make it much easier to consume excessive sugar.
These same sugars are included in free sugars, but they have not been taken from their natural source. They can be found naturally in fruits, dairy, grains, vegetables, and other foods. Sugar added by food manufacturers, consumers, or cooks to foods and drinks is included.
The source is important. The head is important.
Sugars are the main cause of health problems, not fruits.
Evidence shows the health risks of sugars, such as tooth decay or unhealthy weight gain, are not caused by eating sugars naturally found in milk and fruits but rather from consuming too much sugar in your diet.
It is, therefore, recommended that you do not consume more than 10 percent of your daily calories from sugars. This is only a little more than 50g of sugar for the average adult. Australians are estimated to get 60 % (65g) of their sugar intake through free sugars.
Foods that contain free sugars, such as soft drinks, juices, biscuits, and lollipops, are usually high in calories and lack any nutritional value. They are often easier to consume than fresh fruit and may also replace other nutritious foods.
Imagine a bottle of fruit juice. You would need to eat 6 oranges in order to consume the same amount as the juice. Because the juice is of fruit, it counts toward your daily sugar limit.
The calories in drinks with sugar are often added to the food you eat, leading to weight gain.
If you’re trying to limit your sugar intake, it is not recommended that you eat large quantities of dried fruit. The nutrients in the dried fruit are concentrated when the water is removed. Dried apricots for example contain six times more sugar than fresh apricots (40g/100g).
Fruit is essential for our health
Fruits are packed with nutrients and are a great source of nutrition for a healthy diet.
Fruit is a great source of fiber. A banana provides 20-25% (6g), of the daily recommended fibre intake. It is crucial for preventing bowel cancer. Adults in many countries are not consuming the recommended amount of fiber each day. This is 25g for Australian women and 30g per Aussie man.
Fruits are rich in fiber, which can help you feel fuller, allowing you to eat less at meals. The exact reason for this is not known, but it could be due to the amount of food consumed (especially when compared with liquids) and the amount of chewing required.
Fruits are also rich in other nutrients, such as potassium, which can lower your blood pressure, and flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Studies are showing that eating fruits and vegetables in their whole form can reduce your risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
Despite this, about 50% of Australians consume at least two fruits per day.
The majority of national dietary guidelines recommend eating vegetables and fruits, with a particular emphasis on vegetables. Try to eat the recommended two pieces of fruit per day. A bit can be a banana or an orange or two smaller fruits such as plums, apricots, or grapes.