Fruit juice sounds like a healthy drink. After all, it contains fruit. The fruit is rich in fiber and antioxidants. All good things, right? Yet, drinking a cup of fruit juice isn’t the same as eating a piece of the whole fruit. Let’s look at some of the reasons you should pass on sipping your fruit and enjoy it whole instead.
Fruit Juice is Low in Fiber
Fiber is the component in fruit that helps tame the rise in blood sugar you get when you consume the natural sugar in fruit juice. Yes, fruit juice contains natural fructose and glucose, even if it contains no added sugar, as some do. Glucose and fructose are a natural component of the fruit. When you consume these sugars in isolation, they cause blood sugar spikes. Plus, when you drink fruit juice, you’re getting the juice of lots of fruit, unlike when you eat a single piece of fruit in isolation.
In fact, a large study called the Nurse’s Health Study looked at the impact of fruits and vegetables, including fruit juice, have on the risk of type 2 diabetes. The study included 71,346 nurses. In the study, subjects who consumed more fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, drinking fruit juice was associated with a higher risk. The link held even when the researchers controlled for other factors that impact type 2 diabetes risk. Fruit juice isn’t blood-sugar friendly.
Fruit Juice Isn’t Always What It Seems
Have you seen those cartons of orange juice that say, “not from concentrate?” It looks all yummy and natural, but there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Most orange juice labeled as “100% orange juice” sits around in big storage kegs for 12 or more months before it’s loaded on a big truck and hauled to the supermarket. During storage, it naturally loses its flavor. To restore its “fresh-squeezed” taste, manufacturers add a flavoring packet. You are not drinking freshly squeezed orange juice if it comes in a carton at the supermarket.
You Won’t Feel Full
When you bite into a piece of whole fruit, the fiber fills you up quickly and keeps you satisfied longer. Fruit juice does not. In fact, studies show liquid calories aren’t as filling as whole food. Plus, we don’t tend to compensate for liquid calories by eating less food. So, you end up drinking fruit and still feel hungry. Those extra calories add up.
Fruit Juice May Contain Heavy Metals
If the sugar in fruit juice doesn’t scare you, the heavy metals in juice should. Recently, Consumer Reports tested 24 varieties of fruit juice from apple juice to grape juice. Upon testing, they discovered heavy metals in a number of specimens, including arsenic and cadmium. Any type of heavy metal is concerning, but cadmium is of particular concern, as it takes many years for the body to eliminate it. In the meantime, it can harm the kidneys and likely increases the risk of cancer. If you continue to drink fruit juice, don’t consume it if you’re pregnant and don’t give it to children.
It’s Linked with Weight Gain
We already mentioned that fruit juice doesn’t curb appetite. But, does drinking it really lead to weight gain? According to a study in Preventive Medicine, it does. This study looked at the eating and drinking habits of 49,000 post-menopausal women. It showed that drinking even one serving daily of 100% fruit juice was linked with modest weight gain over a 3-year period. Two earlier studies corroborated these findings.
It is observed that the fructose in fruit juice leads to weight gain but what is often not stressed is the type of weight gain. Excess juice consumption increases the amount of visceral fat in the body. Too much of this type of fat increases the risk for diabetes, cholesterol, and other metabolic syndromes. This is not the type of fat you want a lot of. If you’re watching your weight or your blood sugar, stick to whole fruit.
The Bottom Line
Get your fruit in the whole form. That’s the best way! The fruit is a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and compounds with anti-inflammatory activity. Plus, you eat fruit raw, so it’s a better source of vitamin C than cooked veggies. Vitamin C is a heat-sensitive vitamin. Berries are the fruit with the lowest natural sugar content, so they’re always a good choice. Some of the fruits are higher in sugar, like bananas, watermelon, and figs, so eat them in moderation.