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The not-so-skinny on sugar

Posted by Sunsweet - Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sugar. It's something that we should all be attempting to cut back on. But does that mean that we have to cut back on fruit, too – like prunes – that make a sweet and tasty contribution towards our 5-a-day? What does the science say, are all sugars created equal?

The introduction of a sugar tax

World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines recommend that we eat around 25 grams of sugar each day - about 6 teaspoons. But consumption in most countries exceeds this. Currently, Western European adults consume an average of 101 grams of sugar per day ….. that’s about 25 teaspoons!

In a Euromonitor study, Germany was ranked the second-most sugar-loving nation in the world with people eating 103 grams on average. In Ireland, which ranks fourth on the list, sugar intake falls just short of 97 grams, the UK comes in seventh at 93 grams and the Italians consume 57 grams per day.

With rising obesity levels on a European and global level being blamed on an over-reliance on energy-dense foods, several countries have called for the introduction of measures to help curb the intake of sugary foods; health warnings, sales taxes, banning junk foods in schools, restrictions on advertising to children and reduced portion sizes among others.

Variations on a sugar tax have already been introduced in Denmark, France, Finland, Hungary, Mexico and India. As recently as March 2016, the British Chancellor, George Osborne, made the decision to introduce a tax on sugary drinks. Moves like these have been welcomed by those with a keen professional interest in the topic. Chris Askew, for example, chief executive of Diabetes UK said: “We have been campaigning for this... as we are all consuming too much sugar."

But what's so bad about sugar?

Sugary foods and drink products that are high in refined sugars may be calorie-rich, nutrient-poor and contribute towards health issues like tooth decay and weight gain. According to advice from WHO, being overweight can lead to:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis)

So what about the naturally-occurring sugars in fruit, like prunes?

Well, prunes are simply dried plums. One plum becomes one prune, just with the water removed, so that the calorie content remains the same. They contain the same natural fructose, glucose and minimal sucrose sugar content as their fresh counterparts. Having only low levels of sucrose is a bonus because sucrose is the fruit sugar that bacteria utilise to produce harmful acids and dental plaque. Additionally, you often see sorbitol as an active anti-plaque ingredient in chewing gum. But, of course, the sorbitol that prunes contain occurs naturally!

Prunes are whole fruit so can contribute towards achieving your 5-a-day, as well as boosting your daily fibre intake. They can make a really useful addition to a healthy, balanced diet. And recent research indicates that prunes do not negatively effect weight. Because, as with all fruit, prunes appear to help with satiety - feelings of fullness - which is an important factor in controlling overeating and making healthy choices.

Common Perceptions: True or False

  • Prunes are full of sugar: False 
  • Prunes contain no added sugar. During the plum-prune drying process, sucrose is hydrolysed to glucose and fructose so prunes contain minimal sucrose: True
  • Prunes are harmful to teeth because dried fruit sticks to the teeth and increases the risk of caries (tooth decay): False 
  • Prunes contain significant sorbitol which is non cariogenic: True

Sugar-Free Month

So, what do you think, could you take the challenge to limit your intake to just naturally occurring sugars for a month? We'd love to hear how you get on. Good luck!

And why not take a moment to discover more of the nutritional facts about Sunsweet prunes, here?

Please Note: Prunes are good for digestion and help keep you regular, when 100g are eaten as part of a varied and balanced diet and an active lifestyle. Always consult a GP if you have any health concerns.