ASK THE EXPERTS
Australia’s leading nutrition experts are here to answer all your niggling questions!
Australia’s leading nutrition experts answer your niggling food and health questions
Is fructose fattening? Only if you consume too much (like eating doughnuts by the dozen)
Q I’ve been seeing lowfructose products at the supermarket. Why should we avoid fructose?
Simone, Edgecli , NSW Accredited Practising Dietitian Glenn Cardwell says:
A Like virtually all primates, humans have been dining on sweet foods that contain fructose for millennia. Clearly, we are designed to eat fructose.
Throughout history, our most common and familiar sources of fructose have been honey and fruit. But in recent times, over the past 50 years in particular, cane sugar, or sucrose, has featured widely in our food supply. This sugar is 50 per cent fructose and 50 per cent glucose. You may have heard that fructose makes you fat. The source of this information is usually based in the States, partly because Americans sweeten their foods with high-fructose sugars. However, reviews of the scientific research show that fructose is fattening only if you eat it in excess.
For the past 30 years, Aussies’ consumption of both sugar and fructose has been on the decline, according to University of Sydney experts. We’re also choosing diet soft drinks over sugar-sweetened varieties. Despite this behaviour, we’ve been gaining weight, so the link between fructose and weight gain remains unconvincing.
That said, there are definitely a few folk whose health would benefit from eating less sugar. I’ve seen some people buy doughnuts by the dozen (and I bet they’re not going home to a family with 10 kids!). In small amounts, sugar is pretty harmless; I’m thinking marmalade on toast, the sugar we use in baking or an occasional chocolate bar.
But don’t think, for even a moment, of banning fruit from your diet just because it contains fructose. We dietitians want you to eat two serves a day, and if you’re fit and active, even a little more.
HUNGER OR HABIT?
Q I eat well in general, but I can’t resist my 3pm sugar craving. What can I do to fight this urge?
Jess, Brunswick, VIC Accredited Practising Dietitian Rebecca Lock says:
A Many office workers find that when 3pm rolls around, their concentration wanes, and their sugar and coffee cravings
kick in. This can be due to their seeking comfort or being bored, but sugar isn’t the answer.
We all have routines, so if yours involves heading to the tea room every afternoon for chocolate and a bit of a chat, your sugar ‘craving’ is probably more of a habit (and a welcome chance to escape your desk!). The best way to fend off cravings for sweet foods? Start your day well from the get-go.
A healthy, balanced breakfast is vital to help keep your energy firing throughout the day. Follow this with a wholesome lunch that includes some lean protein, such as tuna, chicken, tofu or egg. This will help you feel full and stabilise your blood sugar, minimising the afternoon munchies.
Having an afternoon snack is a great way to refuel for the rest of the day. So take that well-earned break to enjoy a nourishing bite that will give you the brainpower to work until quitting time. In fact, the best advice I can give you is to keep healthy foods on hand at all times, whether you spend the day at home or in an office.
Stash some of your favourite healthy snacks in your drawer or filing cabinet, and you’ll always be able to grab something that’s good for you at afternoon tea. Some tasty options include: • fresh or dried fruit (which
is naturally sweet) • unsalted nut and seed mixes • reduced-fat yoghurt • raisin toast spread with
cottage cheese or ricotta • grainy crackers topped with tomato and cottage cheese or sliced avocado, or • a wholegrain muesli bar.
Q My doctor has told me to take an iron supplement, but it gives me stomach cramps that take a week to subside. Do you have any advice?
Sandra, Padthaway, SA
HFG dietitian Brooke Longfield says: Unfortunately, certain iron supplements can cause uncomfortable side effects. Like you, some people suffer from stomach cramps, while others complain of nausea and vomiting or constipation. But before you abandon them altogether, talk to your doctor about the dose, type and timing of your particular iron supplement.
You may find a lower dose more tolerable, and taking the tablets over the course of the day (or on alternate days) can help as well. If constipation becomes a problem, increase your fibre and fluids.
To prevent stomach upset, you can take the tablets with meals, but some foods (especially dairy products) can slash iron absorption by up to 50 per cent. Tea, coffee and red wine can also inhibit iron absorption, so avoid these drinks one to two hours before and after taking your tablet (or eating iron-rich food). The best way to pump up your iron is through your diet. Your body absorbs the haem iron in meat more readily than it does the non-haem iron in plant foods, so enjoy a wide range of iron-rich foods, such as red meat, chicken, oysters, nuts, leafy green vegetables, and wholegrain breads and cereals.
Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so try eating citrus fruit with wholegrain cereal at breakfast, and add C-rich red capsicum and broccoli to your steak or chicken at dinner time.
Tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption, so avoid these drinks before and after taking your tablet
Glenn Cardwell Accredited Practising Dietitian and awardwinning educator in nutrition
Rebecca Lock Accredited Practising Dietitian at Nutrition Australia
Brooke Longfield Accredited Practising Dietitian at Healthy Food Guide magazine