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Is Fruit Juice as Unhealthy as Sugary Soda?

To find out the answer to this very important question of is fruit juice a healthier option read on.

How often have we opted for a fruit juice instead of a can of soda and felt good about ourselves?

For many years mothers have packed a pack of juice for their kids along with a healthy sandwich, so that the kids won’t choose a soda can from the school cafeteria. Mothers no doubt believed that the fruit juice was a better choice than Coca-Cola or Pepsi. But have we been fooling ourselves all along?

Is fruit juice any better than a can of soda pop?

The Great Sugar Debate:

While we were led to believe that fruit juices are better than Coke or Pepsi, apparently they are not. Most fruit juices especially the packaged kind contain added sugars. While a fresh cup of fruit juice that you make at home contains only the sugar from the fruit itself, the ones sold in stores most certainly contain some amount of added sugar. Though some packaged fruit juices claim no added sugar or sugar free, they still contain sugar in other forms to help maintain the standard taste you expect from a certain brand.

Sifting through research and data published in various health publications, it was found that both soda and 100% fruit juice contain 110 calories and 20–26 grams of sugar per 240 ml(1 cup). The numbers are mind-boggling.

Daily limits for sugar is

  • 37 gm for men
  • 25 gm for women

Consuming just 1 cup of store bought 100% fruit juice will exhaust this daily limit for women.

They might not add sugar but some other sweetening agent. At the end of the day, it is sugar in some form. Certain sugars like the ones found naturally in our foods take a little longer for the body to process. The fully processed sugars on the other hand are instantly absorbed by the body causing insulin spikes. These insulin spikes cause damage to the body.

Health Risks Of Consuming Excess Sugar

All the recent research in medical journals points to the direct link between high sugar consumption and variety of illness – Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Diseases, High Blood Pressure, Cancer and more.

Despite being 100% fresh fruit juice, it still contains high amount of sugar equivalent to that of any soda drink. This means you need to avoid fruit juices to the same extent as sugary sodas.

While sugary sodas are bad whether consumed in high or low quantities. 100% juices consumed in small quantities provide health benefits. If you limit your 100% fruit juice intake to less than 150 ml/day, it lowers the risk of type diabetes and heart disease risk too. Consuming higher amounts is damaging to the body.

But, this health benefit does not in any way apply to sugar sweetened fruit juices. They apply only to 100% fruit juices.

Health Benefits Of 100% Fruit Juices:

The anti-oxidants in fresh juices help neutralize the free radicals which cause immense damage to the cells in the body. The very same reason whey consuming small amounts of fruit juices help in range of health benefits. They improve immunity, improve brain function, reduce inflammation in the body, stabilize blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Making Fruit Juice:

The only way to ensure that your juice is free of added sugar is to make your own juice or buy from trusted fresh juice bars. But again too much of fruit juice is also not good as fruit juice in itself contains high amounts of sugar. A whole fruit contains fiber, some carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. When you juice the fruit some nutrition and almost all fiber is lost. The juice alone is rich in nutrition, no doubt but it also contains sugar too. So, it is better to restrict your fruit juice intake.

Juicing Vegetables:

Add some vegetables like cucumbers, spinach and kale and one or two fruits to make healthier juices that are not too sweet. It is not just for the taste but for your health. Too much sugar as we said earlier is not good for your health. Juicing a combination of fruits and vegetables will reduce your sugar intake considerably.

Weight Gain Due To Fruit Juice Vs Sugar Drinks:

Consuming too many fruit juices as part of regular diet can lead to weight gain. The juices are high in sugar and if consuming only fruit juices you are likely to pile on the weight. It may sound surprising that fruit juices can be fattening unless consumed in moderation.

Drinking juices or sugary beverages causes weight gain because we drink them in addition to eating our regular calories in solids. We generally do not reduce our food intake to match the calories in beverages we consume. While this may not be a problem in small drink of 150 ml with miniscule sugar content, if you drink 300-400 ml tall glasses of soda or sweet juice you will be piling on the kilos quickly. In fact, a study proves that child obesity is linked to consuming too much fruit juice.

Nutrition In Fruit Juice:

Fruit juices freshly made at home and consumed within a short time are rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. Half cup of fruit juice is rich in most vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, as the same quantity of fresh fruit.

A few hours after juicing some or most of the goodness(nutrition) is lost depending on how well the juice was stored and also on how the juice was extracted. Slow juicers are better at retaining nutrients while fast juicers cause faster deterioration of the juices due to the excess air being incorporated in the juice. Juices made with slow juicer (masticating juicers) can stay fresh in fridge for up to 72 hours. Longer than that and they lose much of their goodness. Juices made with centrifugal juicers or fast juicers lose most of the nutritional value in few hours after juicing.

Packaged sweetened juices you buy in stores might contain added vitamins and some nutrition as it might be packed soon after juicing but still, the amount of nutrition is negligible compared to eating a whole fruit. On top of the lack of good nutrients it also, has added sugar which is not at all beneficial to good health.

100% fruit juices contain beneficial components like carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids also known as anti-oxidants which help neutralize free radicals and reduce your risk of disease like cancer.

Bottom line

As long as the sugar content of the fruit juices are low, they might not harm you even if they don’t help you much in terms of nutrition. Unless, of course you are drinking fresh juice which is chock-full of nutrition even with the sugar content in it. In short, consuming fresh fruits juices in moderation about 150 ml per day helps fight off diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more. But drinking too much of fruit juices results in weight and a variety of health problems.