Fruit juice certainly seems healthful, especially when you get a brand that has no added sugars and lots of health claims on the label. But is it actually good for you?
Research published in The Lancet indicates that fruit juice may be as bad as sugary drinks in terms of calorie content, sugar content, and even, to a lesser extent, nutrient profile. Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and one of the lead authors in the study, asserts, “Fruit juice has a similar energy density and sugar content to other sugary drinks, for example: 250 ml of apple juice typically contains 110 kcal and 26 g of sugar; and 250 ml of cola typically contains 105 kcal and 26.5 g of sugar.”
Of course, fruit does still contain sugar, but generally a piece of fruit has less sugar than a glass of juice. Whole fruit also contains fiber, which is mostly lost in the juicing process. According to Sattar, “One glass of fruit juice contains substantially more sugar than one piece of fruit; in addition, much of the goodness in fruit – [fiber], for example – is not found in fruit juice, or is there in far smaller amounts.”
The Grape Juice Trial, referenced both by this study as well as in Medical News Today, provides a good illustration of this point. In the trial, participants drank a little over 2 cups of grape juice per day for 3 months. At the end of the trial, overweight participants had larger waists and higher levels of insulin resistance.
The trouble is that most people don’t realize that fruit juice isn’t the health powerhouse that it’s marketed to be. The article in The Lancet laments, “Thus, contrary to the general perception of the public, and of many [healthcare] professionals, that drinking fruit juice is a positive health [behavior], their consumption might not be substantially different in health terms from consumption of [sugar-sweetened beverages].”
After coming to that conclusion, the study authors assert, “We [hypothesized] that public perception of the healthiness of fruit juices might be based on poor awareness of their sugar content.” In order to test this hypothesis, they surveyed over 2,000 people about their knowledge of a variety of beverages.
What did they find?
The people surveyed often significantly underestimated the sugar content of fruit juice and smoothies while slightly overestimating the sugar content of sugar-sweetened beverages.
So what can we conclude? Well, it seems that people don’t really know how sugar-dense, calorie-dense, and nutrient-light many fruit juices are. Fruit juices lack many of the nutrients and much of the fiber that you can get in whole fruit. Plus, whole fruit has less sugar than a glass of juice.
We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more research on the subject!
- Fruit Juice: Just Another Sugary Drink? from The Lancet
- Fruit Juice ‘As Bad’ As Sugary Drinks, Say Researchers from Medical News Today
Of course, there are tons of great educational resources about nutrition and drinks in the Nutrition Education Store. Here are some options that might be useful…