Sarah Wilson’s divisive I Quit Sugar (IQS) program has caused a new wave of controversy this week, promoting their ‘fruit pyramid,’ that divides fruit into ‘eat most,’ ‘eat less,’ and ‘eat sparingly’ categories, based on their fructose content.
Fructose is the main carbohydrate, or sugar found naturally in fruit, much like lactose is the main sugar in dairy foods like cow’s milk. Fructose is also the sugar IQS demonise as the cause of all ills, reasoning that it is added to myriad foods – everything from condensed soups and stir-fry sauces to soft drinks and other confectionary. While it’s true that we, as a nation guzzle down far too many sugary drinks and sweet treats, rating fruit by its fructose content is simplistic and unhelpful. Here’s why you should completely ignore the IQS fruit pyramid:
- There are bigger issues than the amount of fructose in fruit:
The team at IQS are concerned about Australians health – and they’re right to be. Results from the most recent Australian Health Survey did not paint a healthy picture of our fair nation. Two thirds of us are overweight or obese, less than seven percent of us eat the recommended serves of veggies, and one in two are missing out on our targets for fruit each day. We’re also eating too much sugar. It’s true that half of all Australians aged two years and over exceed the World Health Organisation target of less than 10 percent energy from sugar – but 80 percent of this is from ‘discretionary’ foods and drinks. This should come as no surprise, since we already know that an average of 35 percent of total energy in our diets comes from discretionary foods – things like soft drink, chips, cakes, high-energy take away foods, chocolate, lollies and ice cream. So while sugar is clearly an issue in Australia – there are other foodie factors to address before worrying about how much sugar is in the fruit we’re eating. (Particularly since half of us aren’t eating enough in the first place)!
- Let’s think about the cost…
Put simply, the majority of fruits in the ‘eat most’ category are more expensive than the ‘eat sparingly’ category. I’m talking blueberries, raspberries, and avocado, compared to apples and bananas. I often have debates with myself in the supermarket or fruit shop, weighing up whether spending $5 on a single avocado or $6 for a punnet of raspberries is worthwhile… On one hand, my rational side will argue it’s too expensive, and I should just wait a few days until they’re cheaper. The other side reasons that good food that I enjoy is worth spending a little more on, and, well “treat yo self.” For me, being on a secure income and having only myself to worry about, this is no problem. For families under financial strain, there wouldn’t be a question about avocados or raspberries – it’s unlikely they would fit into the budget. More than five percent of Australians experience food insecurity, and 13 percent live below the poverty line. For these people, and also for those who are on a strict budget (such as students, single parent families, those in rural or remote areas, and unemployed people), sticking to the IQS fruit pyramid is ridiculous.
- What about seasons?
Buying your fresh produce based on what is in season is smart for a number of reasons. It’s generally cheaper, environmentally sustainable as food travels fewer ‘food miles’ to reach your local shops, and it’s likely to taste better. But the IQS fruit pyramid doesn’t take seasons into account at all, and simplistically focuses on one thing – sugar.
- Heard of personal preferences?
While I’m all about variety, many people I know are fussy fruit eaters, and only enjoy a select few kinds. If my apple-munching, berry-hating boyfriend were to eat according to the IQS fruit pyramid, it’s likely he wouldn’t eat fruit at all, given the ‘eat sparingly’ title given to apples gives the illusion that they’re a naughty indulgence to be kept for special occasions. We’re all unique, and have different likes and dislikes – another factor the IQS fruit pyramid fails to take into account.
- It’s confusing!
IQS acknowledge that fresh fruit is ‘entirely different’ from the sugar the World Health Organisation refer to, and that it has a bevy of health benefits like “fibre, vitamins, minerals and enzymes.” Based on this statement, it’s confusing that they then go on to list certain fruits as healthier than others.
So in summary, yes: Australians eat too many sugary foods. But rather than worrying about whether you eat too much of a certain fruit compared to another, focus on eating mainly from the five core food groups, and minimise the amounts of discretionary foods you eat each day. By doing this, it’s likely you’ll be on your way to reducing your sugar intake – without having to sacrifice apples or bananas!