The hot story today is about research published in The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Heath suggesting that we should be eating seven or more portions of fresh fruit and veg a day. The British Dietetic Association phone lines have been jammed and as a BDA spokesperson, my day so far has been spent on the frozen and canned fruit story.
The study asked more than 65,000 middle-aged people in England about how much fruit and vegetables they ate over the last 24 hours and evaluated their risk of death from diseases like heart disease and cancer. There is enough scientific evidence to persuade me that eating more fruit and veg is protective against these non-communicable diseases, period. But I do have issues with lumping frozen fruit with tinned fruit,whether it’s in natural juice or syrup.
The amount of sugar you get in canned fruit depends on the type of fruit and whether the fruit was canned in light or heavy syrup, or fruit juice. The liquid in this case could be very high in sugar and account for up to a third of the weight of the portion. On the other hand, for example, if tinned apple has no sweetened liquid, it could be almost 100% apple. It seems that the research didn’t differentiate in this way; we can’t draw a conclusion about canned fruit unless we look at how much of the liquid was eaten.
Canned fruit, like vegetables, provides vitamins, minerals, fibres, and phytochemicals, which can help maintain good health. Frozen fruit was categorised in the same way as canned – but frozen fruit generally doesn’t have any added sugar and, and like frozen peas, it should be categorised along with fresh.
My bottom line:
- Frozen fruit and canned fruit in natural juice can make a valuable contribution towards your fruit and veg intake. Just avoid the syrups and have a variety.
- Vegetables are typically lower in sugar than fruits and it makes sense to enjoy more vegetables as part of your fruit and veg intake.
- Whether it’s 5-a-day, 7-a-day or 10-a-day, the message is to eat more! Perhaps the slogan should be “one more portion a day”.
Let’s keep it practical and simple. Eat one more than you are today, eat a variety of fruit and veg, and enjoy what you eat.
What’s in a portion?