An Apple A Day?

9th May 2014

There was a collective groan across the country last month, following a study by University College, London, that concluded that five portions of fruit and vegetables a day may not be enough, and instead we should be consuming seven, or even ten. But for those of us consciously trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, and parents concerned about their children’s health, the latest findings have been received with frustration, and a certain amount of bewilderment Grace Fuller investigates further…

The message is simple enough (really, what’s difficult about ‘eat more fruit and veggies’?) but there’s a dark side. It shared nutritional headlines with the news that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has now recommended that our daily sugar intake should be halved, to around 25 grams per day for women and 35 grams per day for men. WHO warns of the dangers of consuming too much sugar (an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases), but it’s not just refined sugar that we should be cautious about; fructose, the natural sweetener in fruits and some vegetables, is also a dietary enemy. It’s no surprise that we are a nation confused with what we should be putting on our tables – and in our mouths – and the obvious conclusion is this: if we’re to increase our vegetable and fruit consumption to seven to ten per day, will that not take us beyond our daily sugar allowance?

“Yes, it potentially could,” acknowledges Laurence Beeken, Food Information Executive at “It is all about finding a balance. Certain fruits and vegetables have very high sugar contents, and so you need to be mindful as to which you include in your daily diet.” For example, he goes on to explain, if you were to include an apple (sugar content 2.5tsp), orange (2.25tsp), red peppers (2.5tsp), carrots (.5tsp), tomatoes (.5tsp), sweetcorn (.5tsp) and cabbage (.5tsp), this would take your sugar consumption to over 9 teaspoons “[That’s] considerably more than recent WHO guidance, which states sugar intake should be roughly 25g (5tsp) per day for women or 35g (7tsp) for men. This includes naturally occurring sugars.”

So is there a contradiction in what we are being advised?

“Increasing our daily fruit and vegetable intake is not a carte blanche to eat as many fruits and vegetables as we want,” says Laurence. That’s a surprise. “If you are to go on the 5, 7 or even 10 a day plan, you should be selective in what you eat. So if you eat two sugary fruits such as apples and oranges, try to balance this out with vegetables that are low in sugar, such as asparagus (1.5g); spinach (1g) and celery (0.5g) – all less than 1⁄4 tsp.”

This corresponds with the Australian government guidelines: their ‘Go for 2+5’ campaign stipulates that daily intake should consist of two fruits and five vegetables, something that’s not clear in current UK guidelines.
Of course, as Laurence says, “Eating fruit is always better than eating anything processed or of no nutritional value. The worst offenders for sugar overload are the apparently ‘healthy’ food options which have been cleverly marketed to conceal their high sugar content. For example, a can of tomato soup can count as one of your five a day, yes; however it also comes with 2tsp of added sugar, whereas a medium tomato will also give you your one portion but only 1⁄2tsp of natural sugars. Clearly, this is preferable. As with everything we eat, we just need to be a little bit more conscious of the nutritional value of what we are putting in our bodies…”

For further advice on sugar content in fruits &
vegetables go to

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