Fruit contains many vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, as well as being a great source of fibre. But, does fruit cause digestive symptoms? And, is fruit too high in sugar for those with polycystic ovary syndrome?
In this article, I explore how fruit is digested in your body and whether there are any negative affects on your health.
Fruit contains 2 types of sugar – fructose and glucose.
Fructose is absorbed into the body with help from the glucose. Some fruits have much higher amounts of fructose than glucose. In those with a fructose intolerance, eating fruits which contain high amounts of fructose to glucose will cause them to have digestive symptoms.
High Fructose Foods (1)
Fructose is one type of FODMAP, but there are also many other types of FODMAPs found in fruit. For those with IBS, these may cause digestive symptoms. You can find out more about the low FODMAP diet here.
Fruit contains fibre, which is great as we need this for a healthy digestive system. It is currently recommended that we need 30g of fibre per day and so fruit can help to contribute towards this (2).
A piece of fruit can provide around 2-6g of fibre.
Some fruits contain natural prebiotics. Prebiotics are food for ‘good gut bacteria.’ Therefore, having a variety of prebiotic foods in your diet may help your gut bacteria thrive. To find out more about prebiotics, click here.
How Much Fruit Can Those With IBS Eat?
For those with IBS, it is recommended that you have no more than 3 x 80g portions per day (please note that 1 dried fruit portion is 30g) (3, 4). These portions need to be spread out throughout the day, rather than having in one sitting e.g. avoid a large fruit bowl or smoothie.
It is useful to weigh out your fruit as many supermarket varieties of apples, pears and bananas are almost 2 portions.
BUT, if you have a fructose intolerance then you will need to undergo a low FODMAP diet process in order to find out if you have an intolerance AND, if so, what is your ‘tolerance’ level.
Is Fruit Too High In Sugar For PCOS?
Those with PCOS need to follow a low GI diet. This is because those individuals have something called insulin resistance, which you can read more about here.
How Sugar In Fruit Affects You Compared To Free Sugars
Fruit does contain sugar, but it doesn’t affect your body in the same way as ‘free sugars’ in foods like fizzy drinks, chocolate and sweets.
Sugar in fruit is cased in a plant cell which your body needs to break down before it can use the sugar. So, when you eat fruit, the sugar goes into your body at such a low rate that is easily managed by your body.
This is different to ‘free sugars’ which get released into your body in one big ‘dump’ – causing your blood sugars to rise quickly. In those with PCOS, this means that a lot of insulin is produced, leading to PCOS symptoms.
How Does Fruit Compare To Sugary Foods?
Foods such as chocolate, sweats, biscuits and cake contain up to around 50g of sugar per portion compared to fruit which is about 10 – 20g per portion. Fruit also contains micronutrients, antioxidants and fibre which are useful for fighting against inflammatory conditions that PCOS individuals are more at risk of.
Those With PCOS Should Avoid Fruit Juice
Unfortunately, when fruit is made into a juice, the plant cell is destroyed. This turns the fruit into being a high GI food. I therefore advise my clients to stick to whole fruits rather than juices and smoothies.
There are no current UK guidelines for a limit on fruit in PCOS. But, from my own clinical experience, I would advise the following;
- Limit fruit to 2 x 80g portions per day.
- Eat your fruit as a snack and not as part of a meal. This helps to keep the overall GI load of the meal down.
- Avoid smoothies and fruit juices.
- Avoid dried fruit.
What Else Can I Snack On?
Having fruit in your diet is a healthy habit to get into. But, if you are struggling with alternative ideas – here are some;
- roasted chickpeas.
- 30g cheese (1 per day max).
- boiled eggs.
- vegetable sticks.
- glass of milk.
- peanut butter (added sugar free).
- edamame beans.
- Eating fruit daily is a great way to boost your prebiotic, fibre, vitamin and antioxidant intake.
- The sugar in fruit does not affect your blood sugar in the same way as that found in chocolate, sweets and biscuits etc.
- Those with a fructose intolerance will need to choose low fructose fruit.
- Limitations do need to be put on fruit intake for both those with PCOS and IBS.
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