Fruit juice seems to be a growing fad popular with everyone. People frequently consider drinking fruit juice as a healthy habit! We see juice bars cropping up at every corner and we see them crowded-full, teeming with people from all walks of life enjoying a beverage. This is a worrying symptom of a larger problem. It is easy to over-consume sugar-rich and calorie-laden juice. And if we don’t watch out, soon we’ll all suffer from diabetes, heart conditions, and eventually obesity too.
Let me reiterate – Fruit Juice is not the same as fruit. Not even close.
Fruit juice packs a significant number of fruit sugars, and unlike whole fruit, it doesn’t have the same fibrous or nutritional content. We may have to look closely, through the sheen of the marketing slogans that declare fruit juice to be beyond reproach – healthy and nutritious! And we may have to do our research. But once we have uncovered how poorly fruit juice truly compares to whole fruit, there should be no going back!
What makes fruit juice less effective?
When whole fruit is pounded, blended and strained into juice, its nutrition profile changes. Consider the following ways in which fruit juice is less effective on our health:
- Whole fruit is a whole package that contains a bit of everything. When we juice the fruit, we rid it of essential fibre and roughage. Fibre adds to the bulk, improves digestion and keeps us feeling full and satiated. Without the fibre, we are only consuming the sugar-rich juice.
- Whole fruits contain powerful molecules called flavonoids that boost immunity and promote health. These molecules are found in the skin and pulp of the fruit. Some of these molecules are lost when the fruit is juiced.
- Whole fruits also contain trace minerals and vitamins. 10% of these minerals and vitamins are lost when the fruit is processed into juice.
- In the case of fruit juice, the sugars (fructose and sucrose) are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This causes an instant spike in the blood sugar levels, similar to that caused by soft drinks and colas.
- 100% natural fruit juice contains about 10-11% sugar (natural fruit sugar). This is a high amount of sugar packed in a glassful of juice.
- Fruit juice can impact your health adversely, especially if you are trying to control your weight, manage diabetes or beat obesity.
- Fruit juices available in the market may contain additives, preservatives, taste enhancers, chemicals and added sugars. Even the more expensive juices are stored in oxygen-depleted tanks for over a year before they are packaged. The loss of taste from the oxygen depletion process is compensated for by adding ‘flavour packs’ to the juice. Compare that with a piece of fresh fruit. Even though the fruit may not be organically grown, it still contains fewer harmful substances than processed and packaged juice.
What are Australians choosing: whole fruit or fruit juice?
The question demands our attention! Studies show that while 60% of Australians eat some fruit, only 54% eat enough to meet the recommended limit of two serves a day. The statistic changes drastically when we consider fruit juice:
- Over 83% of people drink fruit juice at least once a week.
- Around 34% of consumers are concerned about the amount of sugar in fruit juices, but a striking 76% believe juice is healthy.
When is juice good?
Convenience in terms of packaging and year-round availability make juice a good option sometimes. Especially during hot summer months, when juice may help beat the heat with rapid rehydration. Juice is also effective during specific circumstances, when you are sick and recovering, when you are suffering from certain deficiencies and when it is advised and recommended by a healthcare professional. People often get a variety in their fruit intake through juices than they would otherwise get by eating those many whole fruits!
Also, vegetable and fruit combination juices and smoothies are a whole lot healthier than plain fruit juice. And fresh fruit juice that is squeezed at home is definitely better than a packaged juice box from the store.
It is all too easy to give in to the divine flavours of fruit juices, and over-consume. But it is wise to remember, that they won’t satiate, don’t pack the same nutrition and are calorie-rich. The natural sugars in fruit juices make their effect on the human body comparable to that of soft fizzy drinks. So, at best sip with caution. And if you can, swap it instead – with a piece of fruit and peace of mind!