The fruit juice industry is growing year over year, with billions of dollars in annual revenue. Orange juice and apple juice have been mainstays of the American diet for ages. And in recent years, fancier brands like Naked Juice and Odwalla have popped up. Even more trending are juice bars that serve freshly juiced fruit and veggie combos to hipsters forgoing a Starbucks fix. According to the USDA, 50% of Americans consume more than half of their fruit intake as juice!
Fruit juice has a health halo, forged not only by smart marketers, but also by our very own government. For years, the USDA has allowed fruit juice to be considered as a fruit serving. Millions of kids across the country meet fruit at lunchtime only in the form of apple juice.
In its 2010 dietary guidelines, the USDA got a bit smarter on the matter:
Increase fruit intake. Eat recommended amounts of fruits and choose a variety of fruits. Choose whole or cut-up fruits more often than fruit juice.
The USDA, which helps promote American agriculture cannot outright tell consumers to stop drinking fruit juice, or to severely limit consumption because it would hurt American growers. So the messages are a bit vague:
Beverage such as fat-free or low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice, provide a substantial amount of nutrients along with the calories they contain.
Monitor intake of 100% fruit juice for children and adolescents, especially those who are overweight or obese: For most children and adolescents, intake of 100% fruit juice is not associated with body weight. However, limited evidence suggests that increased intake of 100% juice has been associated with higher body weight in children and adolescents who are overweight or obese.
Now don’t get us wrong, there’s probably nothing tastier than a freshly squeezed glass of OJ every once in a while, but every day?
The problems with juice vs. real fruit:
1. Fruit juice, even 100% freshly squeezed, is a concentrated dose of sugar that is quickly ingested by our body, spiking blood glucose levels and straining our pancreas.
2. Juice loses one of the most important nutrients that whole fruit provides – fiber. The cell structure of the fruit keeps the sugars “under control”, and as a result there is no spike in blood glucose levels.
3. Juicing an entire fruit and consuming the juice without filtration may theoretically keep the fiber in your drink, but actually tears down these fiber linings and results in blood glucose spikes as well.
4. While whole pieces of fruit keep you busy and satiated, fruit juice makes you want to drink more. It takes 3-4 oranges to make a one-cup serving of orange juice. You can drink a cup of orange juice in 25 seconds and instantly ask for another glass. How long does it take to eat 3 oranges, even if they have been peeled and sectioned for you? After eating 3 oranges, will you eat 3 more?
In summary: drink water, eat fruit. Save juice for occasional treats.