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Fruit is not the enemy

12 January 2017 Blog
Nutrition and dietetics
St John of God Subiaco Hospital Dietetics Manager Charlene Grosse explains how there is a bit of a sugar phobia going around, with some people associating fruit with high rates of sugar and therefore weight gain.


With sugar being a ‘buzz word’ at the moment, it’s important to distinguish between the two different kinds – added sugars and naturally occurring sugars.

  • Added sugars are the ‘empty calorie’ kind – like cakes, soft drink, lollies, biscuits and chocolate – that are full of sugar and nothing much else
  • Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods that are also packed with good nutrients that we need (such as fruit and dairy foods).

Foods which contain some natural sugar, are also really nutritious and need to be a part of our diet every day.

Diet

The benefits of boosting your fruit intake seem endless. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals that protect our bodies, fibre for healthy digestion, and relatively low in energy, so they fill us up without the risk of gaining weight. Fruit (and vegetable) intake has been linked with a protective effect against a number of chronic diseases, particularly for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Boosting the fruit in your day is one of the simplest steps you can take to feel your best, but sadly, very few of us meet the targets for fruit intake.

As a population, Australians do not eat enough fruit or vegetables of any variety. Figures show only seven per cent of Australian adults meet their recommended serves of vegetables each day, and less than half meet their recommended serves of fruit.

So rather than being concerned about the sugar in fruit, the biggest priority is to get more people eating more fruit and vegetables The recommended serves for each food group are outlined in the Australian Dietary Guidelines. For adults, the target for fruit is two serves each day. This is the minimum amount most of us need to reap the nutritional benefits.

While there is no problem with occasionally having more than this, it’s not recommended to go overboard with fruit, as their natural sugars can add up the kilojoules.
So aim to enjoy two serves of fruit on most days.

What is a serve of fruit? 

A standard serve of fruit is 150 grams of fresh fruit or:

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar) Or only occasionally
  • ½ cup (125mL) 100% fruit juice no added sugar
  • 30g dried fruit (for example, 4 dried apricot halves or 1½ tablespoons of sultanas)

The best fruit to eat is whichever kind you enjoy the most, and what is in season.However, it is best to stick to fresh fruit, rather than dried or juiced fruit. Dried fruit and juice are concentrated, so we tend to eat more of these than we would in fresh, whole form. That means they are higher in sugar, so aren’t great for our teeth, and also energy-dense, so can add up to extra kilojoules.

Juice also has less fibre, as the fibrous portion of the fruit is usually left behind, so it doesn’t keep us satisfied for as long as fresh fruit. All fruit is nutritious, so to get the greatest benefits, enjoy a variety. 

Fruit is not the enemy. Excessive intake of refined sugars plays a significant role in the epidemics of obesity and related disease. 

Sugar in its natural form (whole fruit) is not associated with adverse effects when consumed in the recommended amounts of two serves per day.

St John of God Health Care Charlene Grosse
Charlene Grosse - Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian

Charlene is an advanced accredited practising dietitian (AdvAPD), Manager of Allied Health at St John of God Subiaco Hospital and media spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.

St John of God Health Care Charlene Grosse
Charlene Grosse Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian