Fruit Juice: Good or Bad?

      Lately, I've been seeing a lot of commercials for a reduced calorie orange "juice". So let's look more at fruit juice and fruit drinks.

Fruit Juice Counts as a Serving of Fruit
MyPlate food guide recommends 1 ½ cup to 2 cups of fruit for most Americans. Because fruit and fruit juice have the same vitamins, one cup of 100% fruit juice counts as one cup of fruit. 
  
Health Benefits 
Drinking fruit juice is an easy way to get vitamin C. Most fruit juices provide 100% of the recommended amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C is used by the entire body for growth and repair. It may reduce the risk of heart disease, gum disease, and cancer. 
  
Some fruit juices also provide small amounts of the B vitamins. On a nutrition label, the B vitamins are often listed by a name other than “vitamin B”. The B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, and folic acid. The B vitamins are important for energy, blood health, and preventing birth defects.  

Additionally, some fruit juices provide specific health benefits. For example, cranberry juice may prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and grape juice may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

For the health concerns, continue reading...
 


Health Concerns: Fiber and Sugar
Fruit juice does not contain fiber. Remember to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to get  fiber each day.  

Example of 100% Orange Juice label
Fruit juice, whether freshly squeezed at a juice bar or bottled and made from concentrate, contain sugar--NATURAL sugars.  For comparison, one cup of fresh squeezed orange juice has about 20 grams of sugar and one orange has about 7 grams of sugar. Eating the whole orange will also provide fiber that the orange juice will not. 

Fruit drinks, which are not the same as 100% fruit juice, often contain added sugars. So, when shopping, make sure the bottle says "100% fruit juice."  If the label says "fruit juice drink," "juice beverage," or "juice cocktail," it has added sugar or sweeteners. 

If you are concerned about the natural sugars in fruit juice, it's easy to dilute juice yourself. You don't need to buy a light juice. 

Light Juices  
In response to concerns about sugar in fruit juice, several companies released watered down juice beverages. These have half the calories and sugar, but they contain additives not found in 100% juice. 

Minute Maid Light Orange Juice Beverage contains sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Tropicana Trop50 Orange Juice Beverage contains stevia and flavoring to make it taste more like real juice. (If you read my blog post on sugar substitutes, you know these sweeteners are considered safe by the FDA.)  

Should you buy light juice?
Example of fruit and vegetable juice blend label
No. It's better to buy 100% juice and dilute it yourself than to buy light juices with added sweeteners and flavoring.  

 In fact, this can be a great way to wean yourself off of juice and onto water if you don't like plain water. Start with 4 oz. juice and 4 oz. water. When you're used to that, reduce the juice to 2 oz. juice and 6 oz. water. Slowly continue to decrease the juice until it's just a splash in a glass of water. 

I rarely have a full 8 oz. glass of juice anymore. But if you prefer juice to water, just limit yourself to one 8 oz. portion a day and get the rest of your daily fruit from whole fruits. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than ¾ cup fruit juice for children under age 7.)

Another option, if you are concerned about the high natural sugar content of fruit juice is to look for fruit and vegetable juice blends. Vegetable juices generally have less sugar than fruit juices. 



Conclusion
Fruit juice should not be used to replace all fruit in your diet; however, an 8 oz. cup of 100% juice is a convenient way to add fruit to your day.  No need to cut or peel a fruit. Just open a bottle and drink. 








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