Juice is not equivalent to fruit. In fact, juice is a far less healthy option than a real piece of fresh fruit. Despite the fact that freshly-squeezed juice has a health halo and is marketed as natural, nutritious and fat-free (thanks to the growing number of juice bars everywhere), juice is increasingly coming under fire for its significant content of fruit sugars and the fact that it’s so easy to over consume.
Yes, you can eat more fruit depending on your age and activity but there’s no need to overdo fruit if you’re not burning it off. Fruit has a different nutrition profile to vegetables, having more natural fructose sugar and kilojoules (calories) than vegetables but less fibre, fewer minerals and fewer natural protective phytochemicals too.
What’s the problem with fruit juice?
Fruit is changed when it gets blended or pulverised into juice. It’s no longer equivalent to whole fresh fruit and here are seven reasons why not:
1. Its intact whole cell structure has been broken down so no chewing is needed – you just swallow it down. It’s no longer a whole food.
2. The natural sugars in juice (mostly fructose with some sucrose) are absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream than those in whole fruit so it’s similar to a soft drink. See point 5.
3. There’s little fibre, which normally acts as a natural brake to overdoing it. Ponder this: you can drink a glass of apple juice in a minute but you can’t chomp your way through three or four whole apples which is what went into that glass.
If you’ve ever juiced your own, you know that it takes a lot of fruit to make a single glass of juice and you throw away a lot of fibre. I have a citrus press and when oranges are in season, we buy a case and use them to squeeze fresh juice (once a year is fine). I now know that I use three small or two large oranges to obtain ONE half glass of juice. So one orange yields around a quarter of a glass of juice, which is 70mL.
4. Drink juice and you won’t feel as full. Drinking just isn’t as satisfying as eating the same amount of kilojoules (calories) in food. It’s called ‘liquid calories’ and there’s mounting evidence4,5,6 to connect them to the obesity epidemic. Put simply, fluids pass into our bodies more rapidly than food.
A 2013 study reported that while some fruits were protective (apples and berries), drinking fruit (in the form of juice) actually increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
5. At anywhere from 6 to 14 per cent sugars, juice has as much sugar as classic fizzy drinks and cordials. Even those labelled “100% fruit juice” still have 11 per cent fructose (natural fruit sugar) and water. Think of them as drinks with all the sugar but none of the fibre. Vegetable-fruit combos have fewer sugars (e.g., orange juice with kale and spinach)
6. Many – but not all – juices are acidic (e.g., orange, grapefruit and pineapple juices – one reason why they’re so refreshing), so sipping one over the day can increase your risk of dental erosion.
7. Juices are not low kilojoule (calorie) drinks. One 250ml (8oz) glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice contains 365 kJ (87 calories) and is the equivalent of two oranges. However, it has a fraction of the fibre and twice the quantity of sugars.
A 250ml glass of orange juice has 20g of sugars and 365kJ VS 1 orange that will yield just 8g of sugar and 175kJ. The orange has 2.4g of lovely fibre against the juice at 0.5g.
Bottom line: Forget juice. Eat fruit
Think of juice as ‘liquid calories’ that don’t satiate, are all too easy to over-consume and don’t pack in the fibre of whole fruit. Yes it’s healthy (in small doses) and has a divine flavour but it’s still high in natural sugars and ranks on a par with soft drink. Sip with caution. And eat a piece of whole fruit with a glass of water. Or dilute your juice with water or ice.