No, I am not talking about snacking on fruit itself – this is a no-brainer. I am talking about all those processed fruit snacks that are so common on the supermaket shelves. You know the ones that claim to be 100% fruit (or close to it) but when you unroll it and peel it off the plastic separator you don’t know which is fruit and which is plastic. Examples are Fruit-Fix, Roll Ups, Fruit Bites, Fruit Buddies and a myriad of other names they usually go by.
I was visiting one of my friends recently and saw his wife feeding these things to their kids. I made a comment that she might as well give them lollies and got a reply that these are healthy snacks and to shove my opinion where it fits. (Well, I won’t make that mistake again.) My thinking was that after all, sugar (sucrose) is also made from a plant – either sugar cane, or beet. It is a disaccharide and is made up of about 50% fructose.
Most of these rolled fruit snack are so popular with kids and parents alike. Kids think they’re sweets and parents do not feel guilty about feeding this rubbish to their kids. After all, they’re made of fruit. So what could be so wrong with them?
Well, for a start these things used to be fruit once. However, after all the processing most of the water has been lost together with vitamins, enzymes and so on. To make things worse, the fructose levels have been concentrated a hundred fold. While fructose is a natural component of sugar, or the “natural sugar”, it is not so healthy in such high concentrations. A doctor told me that most of the population have fructose intolerance to some degree. It is usually very mild and people never notice it, even after eating fruit. But concentrate that fructose a hundred times and they will notice. Some even notice problems after drinking commercial fruit juice (again, made from concentrate). This, in my opinion, is even worse for children whose digestive systems are still developing and are more sensitive than adults’.
Furthermore, fructose is not the same as glucose and should be avoided as much as possible. While glucose can be used by every cell in the body, fructose is not. Fructose actually contributes to fatty liver, cholesterol and obesity.
So, have a snack, but make it healthy – the fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit. There is no substitute. The fruit contains all that nature intended and in correct proportions. Once human hand modifies it, it is not the same. And the same goes for juicing, even if it is freshly squeezed yourself. You are concentrating the fructose and removing the pulp which still contains a lot of vitamins, especially C, flavanoids and fibre.