A nutritional Trojan horse

It didn’t feel right to rail against sugar-sweetened beverages the other day and not say something about that sugary beverage in disguise…fruit juice. Fruit has natural sugars that come in a complete package with nutrients and fiber. Juice has the natural sugars and probably most of the nutrients, but it has no fiber. That’s an issue on a few levels.
  • One, when you eat a piece of fruit, the fiber helps slow the absorption of the sugars into your bloodstream, providing a steadier source of energy.
  • Two, we need fiber in our diets for a variety of health reasons, so why strip one source of them out of our food by drinking juice instead of eating whole fruit?
  • Three, fiber can help us feel fuller so, calorie for calorie, whole fruit will satisfy you more than fruit juice.
Fiber aside, there’s the little problem that accompanies all calorie-containing beverages, whether they be 100% pure fruit juice or a sugary soda: Our bodies don’t “register” calories from liquids the same way they register calories from foods we have to chew. So you can consume a lot of calories, very quickly, from juice, yet your body will still say, “Hey, I’m hungry.”
Yes, I know that juice has the appearance of health. You can thank expensive advertising and marketing campaigns for that. If you really enjoy juice, have a juice glass size serving with a meal, not a big tumbler full. Don’t drink it just because you’re thirsty (that’s why we have water), and don’t drink it thinking that you’re doing something wonderfully healthy for yourself.
I used to be a near-daily juice drinker, usually just with breakfast. These days, I have juice maybe once a month, and that’s from juice oranges we buy and squeeze ourselves (a little habit we brought home from our trip to Buenos Aires a few years ago). Funny thing is, since we’re not in the habit of drinking juice, when we do buy juice oranges, we forget to use them as intended. We bought some last week, and meant to have them with breakfast over the weekend. They’re still sitting in their bowl on the counter. Maybe this weekend…
And now I’m going to turn my attention to any parents of young children who may be reading this. Do you know what the current recommendations are for juice intake? The American Academy of Pediatrics says that:
  • Kids younger than 6 months shouldn’t have any fruit juice.
  • Kids ages 1 to 6 years shouldn’t have more than 4-6 ounces of juice each day, because whole fruits are healthier.
  • Kids ages 7 to 18 years shouldn’t have more than 8-12 ounces of juice each day.
We all know that there’s an obesity epidemic in this country, and excessive fruit juice consumption may contribute to that. Remember, even 100% fruit juice gives you a lot of quick, easy calories without filling you up. Even with the nutrients in real juice, that’s a bad combination.