“These days many people are eating date-based snack bars as they are perceived to be healthier than some other snacks. I love them and eat one every day after I was advised by a nutritionist to eat one instead of dessert. My concern is the effect the fructose may have on us, including our microbiota.”
The question about snack bars sweetened with dates has come up before. As I’ve written previously, “Because dates are a fruit, products sweetened with dates and date puree can legitimately claim to have zero added sugars. But, frankly, dates are about as close as you can get to pure sugar and still call yourself a fruit.”
I agree with your nutritionist that if a LARABAR satisfies the urge for candy or baked goods, that’s a pretty good upgrade. But the fact that snack bars are sweetened only with fruit doesn’t mean that they can be eaten in unlimited quantities.
How much fruit is too much?
I usually suggest that people limit their added sugar intake (which does not include sugar from fruit) to 25 grams per day. But I also suggest limiting fruit to 2-4 servings a day, which provides another 30-60 grams of naturally occurring sugar.
A LARABAR contains about 23 grams of sugar from dates. That’s darned close to the recommended limit for added sugars. As far as I’m concerned, you can count that as your added sugars for the day OR as 1 1/2 servings of fruit. If you choose to count it as your added sugars, you’ve really taken the high road, nutritionally!
How does fructose affect gut bacteria?
But your question about the effect of fructose on gut bacteria is one that I haven’t addressed before. There have been concerns about the effect of fructose on gut bacteria but –as with other fructose fears–it’s all about the quantity and context.
When sugars constitute 25-35% of calories in a diet that’s also low in fiber and nutrient-dense foods (which, sadly, describes the typical American diet), various negative effects–on insulin sensitivity, inflammation, liver fats, and gut bacteria–start to accrue. When sugars constitute 5-10% of calories in a diet that’s high in fiber and nutrient-dense foods, we have little to fear from fructose or from sugar in general.