Should I avoid fruits as they contain too much sugar (too much carbs)

posted Jul 17, 2017, 6:41 PM by Rebecca Smith

Often I hear individuals say they try to avoid fruits (such as bananas) because they contain too much sugar (or too many carbs), but should the sugar in fruit really be the blame for our obesity epidemic?

Yes fruits contain sugar. The main sugar found in fruit (which you have probably heard of) is fructose. However, fruit is not made up entirely of fructose – it contains water, fibre and other beneficial vitamins and minerals that make it an optimal choice to include in a balanced and healthy eating regime.

Additionally, due to the presence of dietary fibre, fructose derived naturally from whole fruit has a different metabolic effect on the body when compared with fructose that is “added“ to foods. In fact, most fructose consumed in the diet is not from fruit, it is actually derived from sucrose, commonly known as ‘sugar’.

Sucrose is a double sugar comprising one glucose and one fructose molecule. Discretionary foods such as sweet biscuits, cakes, chocolate, lollies, fruit drinks, sport drinks and soft drinks contain large amounts of fructose, commonly referred to as “added sugar”. These are the foods that we need to monitor and there is a general agreement among health professionals that we should be consuming less of these discretionary foods as they are easy to overindulge in, generally provide no nutritional value, or essential nutrients.

Furthermore, weight loss is typically achieved by strategies that consistently result in a lower energy intake relative to the energy used so reducing energy-dense, processed and high sugar foods (such as those mentioned above) may assist with decreasing the high rates of obesity and other metabolic disorders affecting our nation.

The World Health Organization has recently dropped its sugar intake recommendations from 10 percent of your

daily calorie intake to 5 percent. For an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI), that works out to about 6 teaspoons (or 25 grams) of free or added sugar per day.

Please note these sugars are different from intrinsic sugars found in whole fresh fruits and vegetables. Many of us don’t realise much of the sugar we actually consume or how much sugar there is “hidden” in processed foods. To put this into perspective, we compared the total CHO and sugar content of 3 items (see below)

1 can of coca cola (375mL): • Total carbohydrates: 39.8 g • Sugar: 39.8g • Equivalent to 10 teaspoons of added sugar/fructose • Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Colour (150d), Food Acid (338), Flavour, Caffeine.

50g chocolate bar: • Total carbohydrates: 29.6g • Sugar: 28.7 g • Equivalent to 7 teaspoons of added sugar/fructose • Ingredients: Full Cream Milk, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Milk Solids, Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 476), Flavours. Milk Chocolate Contains Cocoa Solids 24%, Milk Solids Minimum 24%.

1 small banana: • Total carbohydrates: 16.8 g • Sugar 14.4.g (with 2.3g of that being dietary fibre) • Equivalent to 3 teaspoons of natural fructose

So what does this mean?

When looking at the can of coca cola and the 50g chocolate bar you can see that total sugar is much higher than that of the banana. Additionally, in both of these products, sugar is listed second highest on the ingredient list (ingredients are listed in descending order by weight) and as a rule of thumb, if the product has sugar in the top 3 ingredients it is too high. This is also an indication that the almost all of the total carbohydrates is derived from sugar that has been added to the product.

So in summary, what nutritional benefits would you get from this? Not many. The banana has 12.1g of sugar when deducting the fibre content. However, the bananas’ sugar comes with a quality nutrition package containing important nutrients such as vitamin C, B-6, potassium. In conclusion, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups. There is no discussion on avoiding sugar altogether, so cutting out foods such as fruit, dairy products and many wholegrain that do contain some sugar, along with other major nutrients, is unnecessary and unhealthy.

If you avoid bananas because of their sugar content, think again. You don’t need me to tell you that a banana is a healthier alternative to a can of coke or a bar of chocolate.

Dietitian, Kimberly