We’re all aware of the Government’s health initiative encouraging us to consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to improve our health. Fruit and vegetables contain many substances that are of massive benefit to our health including an array of vitamins, minerals, and very potent antioxidants. However, as a result of our increasing awareness of the amount of sugar in our foods, there is now an air of confusion surrounding fruit, particularly sweeter fruits enjoyed by children such as strawberries. Should we be encouraging them or steering away? Here, Nutritionist Sarah Coulson, sheds some light on this confusing issue.
As parents, we’re always trying to do the best for our children by feeding them healthy fruits and vegetables. However, the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits can be just as dangerous to their teeth as the ‘free sugars’ found in processed foods and drinks. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid giving your children fruit or vegetables altogether – far from it!
So, which fruits and vegetables are best?
It’s essential to encourage our children to have a varied and healthy diet – so always choose a healthy piece of fruit, whatever that fruit may be, over a piece of chocolate, a biscuit or other savoury snacks. Simply be mindful that sweeter fruits and root vegetables can cause tooth decay, however they are associated with a low risk, as opposed to consuming a diet that is high in ‘free sugars.’ Therefore, encourage your little ones to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables not just the super sweet ones, and remember that the less you chew, the less saliva is produced, so don’t just provide soft fruits but also those that need to be bitten and chewed such as apples, carrots, and pears to get their saliva flowing!
What about juiced fruits?
When you read the nutritional information on the side of a bottle of fresh fruit juice, you’ll notice that the sugar content can appear quite high. Fruit juices that are widely available to children are made from fruits containing a particularly high fructose content. This is not an issue if the fruit is being consumed as a whole because the mechanical action of chewing causes the mouth to produce saliva, helping to protect the teeth – though this isn’t the case for juice drinks which coat the teeth.
Further to this, the fruit sugars in juices have been ‘released’ from the cells of the fruit and are essentially now a ‘free sugar,’ such as those added to processed high-sugar drinks. Therefore, always choose an actual piece of fruit over a fresh fruit drink, and limit these drinks to meal times when your child’s mouth will be producing more saliva.
By being mindful of the types of fruits and vegetables you’re giving to your children, you can ensure that they get the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy, whilst also protecting their pearly whites from tooth decay in the future.