What’s So Bad About Juice?

What’s So Bad About Juice?

You are going to hate me for this – I hate me for this – but juice makes the bad list.  And I’m not just talking about Sunny D or that fluorescent red fruit punch crap either. Although sugary and brightly coloured drinks that masquerade as juice are among the worst offenders, there’s more to the problem of juice than just bad product options.  For the purpose of this post, I’m focusing on pure, no sugar added, 100% fruit juice.

And you know what? That 100% pure, no sugar added fruit juice isn’t all its cracked up to be. The biggest problem is the amount of sugar found in a glass of juice and how our bodies use that sugar.  Of course, I know my OJ has sugar in it, that’s why I drink it! And when the kids have been running like crazy, I hand them a juice box for a pick-me-up. Bad idea, according to  an article in Science Daily that breaks down the big picture of fruit juice consumption and links it with obesity, diabetes, and cavities. As it turns out, that glass of juice, even the “good stuff,” has as much sugar as pop and our bodies do the same thing with that sugar.  According to Richard Johnson MD., at the University of Florida College of Medicine, “…fructose does not signal the body to produce insulin, the hormone that turns sugar into energy and lets the brain know it’s time to stop eating. Fructose actually seems to do the opposite — causing resistance to insulin and blocking the “do not eat” order from making it to the brain.” A can of pop!  Sorry, but I would no sooner hand my child a can of pop than sprout wings, and here I have been doing just that… well sort of.

If not quite a can of pop, but juice certainly contains empty calories… a lot of them.  I spoke with Doug Cook a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator working at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and asked if it would be an over reaction to cut juice entirely from our lives (please God no!) “It is over reacting to say ‘never’ but it’s also important to keep in mind that sugar is sugar, and once it’s been absorbed, it doesn’t behave any differently nor does your body know if it came from table sugar, agave, honey, orange juice or a soft drink. There are more benefits if it’s a good quality 100% fruit juice than a soft drink, there are some vitamins and antioxidants, but you can get that by eating the fruit and the whole fruit will have fiber. Juice is a concentrated source of sugar calories and it’s easy to over consume them, especially the way they can be found on the shelves at 500ml plus.” No real news here:  as with everything, we need to watch the amount we consume and 100% fruit juice is no exception. Remember those tiny drinking glasses? We should be drinking out of those.

The bad news doesn’t end with the sugar. As Cook points out, when you eat a whole fruit, you consume fiber and other naturally occurring nutrients, all of which is stripped in the process of making juice. Emphasis on the word process.  In her book Squeezed Alissa Hamilton reveals just how processed that 100% pure juice is. I know I shouldn’t be shocked. How can I be shocked when I reach for a glass of orange juice in August and the Best Before date is sometime in December? And yet here I am shaking my head as I resist the awful truth about orange juice being sealed away in huge tanks, stripped of oxygen and therefore of all flavour and then having flavour packs and colour added so that it once again resembles juice from a fresh orange.

Juice – along with cereal and granola bars – will forevermore top my list of Big Fat Liars in the food industry. That said, I’m not going to give up on juice entirely.  But I will make sure it is freshly squeezed and, as far as the kids are concerned, it will have to be an occasional indulgence.

Click these links for Alissa Hamilton’s take on orange juice!

This is one if from Planet Earth. And this one is from a CBC interview.

What to do?

Quantity Control

Consider juice a treat, reduce the size of your glass and dilute it.

Make sure the servings are no more than 125ml.

Quality Control

Alissa Hamilton’s best measure for quality juice is the Best Before date. Drink freshly squeezed, not squeezed from fresh and select product that has a Best Before date of a few days, not months.

Skip the apple juice:

According to Doug Cook not all juices are created equal. For example one 250ml (8oz glass) of a typical apple juice provides 14-15 g of fructose or 28% of the apparent daily maximum, not taking other sources into account. Contrast this to say something like orange juice with about 8 g of fructose, pineapple with 9.5 g, grapefruit with 8 g all per 250ml (8oz).

Choose whole fruits and vegetables over juices.

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  1. Janet Nezon
    May 11, 09:15 Reply

    Bravo! I’ve met with awkward stares from family and friends for years when they open our fridge and find that there’s NO JUICE there! I have always offered water, milk or a selection of teas (hot or iced)to thirsty folk. I’ve also been heard to say “eat an orange” when my kids ask for orange juice.
    Thanks for a well-written, informative post – I couldn’t agree more!

  2. Kathryn
    May 12, 07:16 Reply

    I’ve never enjoyed juice from the store, as my mother has always said “it wasn’t worth the calories” but I’m wondering about juicing you do at home.

    What about juiced apples, carrots, kale, etc that you drink right after juicing? A few friends have juicers and swear by them and I was thinking of investing, now I’m not sure.

  3. Heidi Pyper
    May 12, 09:16 Reply

    Hi Kathryn,
    Thanks for reading! I am not a dietitian, but based on what I learned from Doug Cook, RD I would say keep juicing to a minimum. You consume far more calories in juice than in the whole foods they are made from. And really, you want the fiber. He even went so far as to suggest fruits are not “free” foods that you can eat as much as you want of – fructose – is sugar – and sugar is sugar. I think that if you are trying to manage weight this would be a bigger issue than for those at a healthy weight. Balance, moderation and more vegetables would be key.
    Here’s his website if you want to check out what else he thinks about juice. http://wellnessnutrition.ca/?p=2862

    All the best,

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