Fruit Juice or Whole Fruit?

Years ago, I was doing a corporate lunch & learn session on nutrition and I mentioned that dieters should consider limiting fruit juice because it’s high in calories and sugar and low in fiber. A woman in the audience shot her hand up and stated in an angry tone that my juice statement was completely false and that juice was an excellent health drink packed with vitamins.

Looking back, I think her anger at my juice statement probably came from the fact that she had been drinking juice for years in hopes of a health benefit and didn’t want all of those efforts to be for nothing. She may not want to believe it, but fruit juice can have more calories and sugar than soda.

Let’s check the numbers for orange juice and apple juice. One cup (8 ounces) of orange juice has about 120 calories and 22-25 grams of sugar. A cup of apple juice (a favorite with kids) has 28 grams of sugar. The same amount of regular soda (cola) has about 93 calories and 26 grams of sugar.

I know what you’re saying, “But juice has vitamins and minerals?” Yes, but so does whole fruit! And many juices have synthetic vitamins and minerals added to them during processing. That’s why some juices contain high amounts of calcium and iron, nutrients not typically in fruit. You could add those same nutrients to sport drinks, soda, or energy drinks. Would you consider those “healthy” beverages?

Bottom Line. Cutting juice out of your diet is an easy way to slash calories and sugar. But that doesn’t mean you should cut fruit out of your diet. Whole fruit has fiber, which helps fight hunger and slows sugar digestion, preventing spikes in insulin levels. If you have kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to serve kids whole fruit rather than juice. And if you do give kids juice, the AAP says to limit it to no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) per day.

If you do drink fruit juice, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Choose 100% fruit juice
  • Keep portions small. Some “single-serve” bottled juices have 250-300 calories/bottle.
  • Read labels since some juices contain additives, such as artificial colors, flavors or thickeners
  • Be aware that low calorie juices are often made with artificial sweeteners

Want more juice information? Here is a good story from CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest)

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