Fruit Juice: Fact and Fiction
Kate Kozak, RD, LDN
There are many reasons why our country struggles with obesity. Over time, consuming too many calories causes unwanted weight gain that can be difficult to control. One possible reason is said to be sugar.
Sugar, which can be found in the form of table sugar or naturally in foods, is now suspected to be behind the weight problem. Sugar is naturally found in many healthy foods such as dairy products, vegetables and fruit. The problem with sugar is that it is being added to our foods during processing or by us at meals.
Sweetened beverages, such as sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened “fruit drinks”, make up about half of the total added sugar Americans consume in their diets. Fruit juice, including 100% natural fruit juice, can contain the same amount of sugar you would find in soda. Even with the sugar content, juices can provide vitamins and minerals that sodas lack. Products such as orange juice contain vitamin C, potassium and fiber when the pulp is present.
So what can be said about fruit juices if they can have high amounts of sugar yet still have healthy benefits? Current recommendations for fruit consumption, in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are 1 to 2 ½ cups of fruit per day. Of this amount, no more than half should come from fruit juice. Healthy diets can contain fruit juice, but consuming calories in the form of liquids has drawbacks. Liquid calories, compared to solid foods, don’t keep you as full and are easier to over consume.
When thinking about fruit, try choosing whole fruits. Whole fruit provides fiber which helps with the feeling of fullness, digestion and preventing blood sugar levels from spiking. If you want to go for fruit juice, try blending whole fruits with vegetables. Blended fruits and vegetables will give you juice while still providing the health benefits of eating them whole. By striving to consume natural whole fruits, you can avoid high calorie juices that may lead to unwanted weight gain.