Working as an oral health educator it’s a question that comes up time and time again….
“Is fruit bad for me? It’s full of sugar!”
I seem to have this put to me a lot more over the last few years, (notably in a period where low-carb and extreme weight loss diets are becoming increasingly popular) and it’s rare that a week goes by without me hearing about someone who has completely cut fruit from their diets under the notion that it will “damage my teeth” or “make me fat”.
The idea that fruit is somehow bad for us remains one of the most bizarre myths out there, though with the amount of mixed messages from varying sources, it’s easy to understand where the misconceptions have come from. The problem is that many people today consume an excess of sugar far too frequently, which over time can lead to a variety difficulties for our oral and overall health. And in addition to this, I fear many people have the rather odd idea that “sugar is sugar” and “if a biscuit is bad because of its sugars, then so must an apple”.
Needless to say, this is nonsense. Unlike foods with mostly simple carbohydrates and sugar, such as traditional sweets, cakes and biscuits, whole fruit contains fibre and added nutrients, which allow the body to feel fuller and absorb the sugar slowly over time, leaving you with lasting energy. Full of antioxidants and other phytochemicals, fresh fruit is a great source of sustainable energy and a vital part of our diet.
So, we know there’s a big difference between the nutritional value of a banana and brownie, and the healthy version would always be the former but what about its effect on our teeth?
As a charity promoting good oral health, we try and get the message out there that every time we eat or drink anything sugary our teeth are under attack from the plaque acids for up to one hour, as the sugar mixes with the bacteria in the plaque. If we consume sugars often, this constant plaque attack can cause the protective enamel to erode, causing pain and sensitivity, and canalso lead to decay.
But we cannot simply avoid sugars, especially if we’re looking to have a good balanced diet. The trick is to decrease the amount of “snack-attacks” on our teeth by keeping sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes. If we’re hungry between meals then we can choose foods or fruits that are kinder to our teeth.
When it comes to fruit, naturally, some contain more sugars than others. Since dried fruit and fruit juice contain higher-concentrated sugar content, whole fresh fruit isgenerally a much better bet while prioritising low-sugar fruit can help keep your overall sugar consumption in check.
So is it time to say “Cherry-Oh” to fruits? If you say “yes” then you’re a fruitcake!
Here’s a short list showing the varying sugar content of different fruits….
|Fruit||Total Sugars (per 100g)|
|Peaches (canned in syrup)||14.0g|
|Peaches (canned in juice)||9.7g|
|Pineapple (canned in juice)||12.2g|
|Rhubarb (stewed with sugar)||11.5g|