Fruit Juice: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, March 6, 2009

Do you start your day with a tall glass of orange juice? You’re not alone. Many people are downing hundreds of calories of fruit juice every day. Even if the label says “100% fruit juice,” it doesn’t mean this drink should be integral to your diet and here’s why.

Assessing Your Amount
Juice might be more high calorie than you expect. Go on, open your cupboard and see how tall your usual juice glass is: 6, 12, 16 ounces? Even many plastic “to go” juices at convenience stores are 14 ounces — that’s around 200 calories a bottle. Have a few of these containers a day and you’ve piled a few hundred unneeded calories onto your day.

When drinking juice, look for ones that have no more than 60 calories per 4 ounces and keep your daily serving at 8 ounces max. The most common nutrient found in juice is vitamin C. Problem is vitamin C (and other vitamins) are easily destroyed when processed from the fruit to the liquid. Juices are also pasteurized and heat treated to kill dangerous pathogens, which further destroys vitamins. You might see juice drinks that are vitamin C-fortified — meaning the manufacturers add it. Look at the list of ingredients for ascorbic acid — that’s added vitamin C.

Having vitamin C added to juice is not bad; it’s just that the only other significant nutrient found in fruit juice is sugar. Why not enjoy a fresh juicy orange or grapefruit? An orange contains around 60 calories and over 100% of your daily vitamin C needs.

Even more problematic is that, according to the CSPI, the brain’s satiety center does not register liquid calories — meaning, drinking juice will not release signals that make you feel full.

Freshly Squeezed?
You could juice your own fresh fruit, but you again have to deal with the calorie and sugar issue. It takes a few oranges (at 60 calories a fruit) to make a glass of juice. If you do the math, your glass of freshly squeezed juice could start adding up.

A Walk Down the Juice Aisle
Claims on juices can get confusing. Multivitamin fruit juice contains low doses of multivitamins and minerals that are harmless, but that does not mean you should down the entire container. Consuming large amounts of the juice or drinking it in addition to a multivitamin pill could potentially be toxic.

Other juices claim to help lower cholesterol by adding plant sterols, which are naturally found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and cereals. Studies have shown that 0.5 grams of plant sterols per day can help reduce the risk of cholesterol. A glass of Minute Maid Heart Wise juice has 1 gram, so you would be covered for the day.

What about “light” juices? They are diluted with water and the sugar is replaced with artificial sweeteners such as Splenda. My concern is that some of these “light” juices also add acesulfame potassium, which is a poorly tested sweetener and its safety is questionable. Stick to Mott’s Light Apple Juice and Sunsweet PlumSmart Light as they only use Splenda. If you really want some juice, make a spritzer with 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice mixed with seltzer — that’s my favorite!

The Bottom Line
If you’re a big juice drinker, cut it out! My cousin lost 5 pounds by removing all calorie beverages, including juice, from her diet. But if you just want to stick to the recommended 8 ounces of juice a day, make sure you choose a 100% juice without too many outlandish claims or additives.

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