The Scoop on Juice
Is juice a health food or just the latest fad?
I get a lot questions from clients, friends and family on juice. There is a lot of hype right now on the topic juice. If you have browsed the aisles of your local health food store recently you may have noticed that they are lined with many different types of juices, fruit juice, veggie juices, juice smoothies, exotic herbal juice blends, cold pressed juices, organic, non organic and all different price points.
But what about all this juice craze? Is juice really healthy for you? Is juice a simple beverage or a meal replacement or both? Is juice cleansing? What is the difference between a cold pressed juice and a boxed juice you get from a traditional supermarket? Is drinking juice daily health promoting or just the latest fad? Getting a better understanding of what juice is (and isn’t) and learning about the different types of juice out on the market today can help you better navigate the juice question. My goal with this article is to help you make healthier choices for you and your family.
Is all the juice the same?
The simple answer is no, not all juice is the same, and quite frankly not all juice is healthy for you. Let’s start by looking at the your standard grocery store orange juice in a box. Like all things in life, there is an upside and a down side, and this goes for juice too. It is important to look at these differences when creating a clear picture on whether juice is good for you.
On the good side, traditional store bought orange juice comes from fruit and fruit is loaded with many amazing vitamins and minerals that are essential for our body. The problem is that most store bought juice is pasteurized, meaning it goes through an intense heating process to remove any potential pathogens that may have lingered in the juicing process. The process of pasteurization results in the removal of many of the nutrients.
In fact, so many nutrients are removed, that juice companies add nutrients back in to make it a “health” oriented drink. This is unfortunately done with many foods that we consume regularly including flour products, rice, dairy and even some non-dairy beverages. Companies may also add in other nutrients, that are not naturally found in the original fruit (or at least in very low quantities) to boost its nutrient value.
And then there’s the sugar...
Fruit is rich in natural sugars called fructose. Their natural sweetness is why we call it nature’s dessert. Fructose in small quantities can be well tolerated by most, but juice contains a high concentration of fructose that comes at a cost. When you eat an orange, you are consuming the whole fruit, in its natural form. You are getting the sweet natural juice, all the lovely vitamins and minerals and all the wonderful fiber that helps to stabilize blood sugar, support our intestines and gently filter toxins out of the body. When we consume a glass of orange juice, we are not eating a whole piece of fruit. Instead, it takes many oranges to make 1 glass of juice. What is left is lots of fructose, lots of vitamins and minerals and no fiber. This is not an ideal combination.
Let’s put it into perspective. There is about 26 grams of sugar in a 12 oz glass of Tropicana Orange juice. That translates to about six and half teaspoons of sugar in glass of OJ. That is a lot of sugar! No one would knowingly eat six teaspoonful of white sugar but that is exactly what we are doing when we drink a glass of juice.
To make matters worse, juice sugar is in the form of fructose, a very potent form of sugar that rapidly enters in the bloodstream and filters into the liver. When we eat fructose in an actual piece of fruit it is paired with its natural fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream creating better balance in the body. Juice alone is a pure sugar hit. Yes it has vitamins, but your better off getting your vitamins from actual food that has the natural fiber component built in for the best overall health.
Kids and Juice
This is particularly important when it comes to children. As a mother of a young child I know exactly how picky children can be about food. It can be very challenging for kids to eat veggies and therefore difficult for them to get the vitamins and minerals they need for optimal health. Many parents utilize juice as healthy alternative to food for their kids, but most are not aware of how much sugar is in the juice their children are consuming.
I have mentioned boxed orange juice, but what about the amazing organic juice varieties found at the local health food store? Is organic juice better? Is it a better option for children than traditional boxed juice? I am sorry to say that they are filled with sugar too. They may not all be pasteurized, and they may have less sugar, but they are still a sugary drink.
Then there’s the calories to consider. One glass of juice is about 125 calories. If you have 1 or 2 per day you can unintentionally boost up your total calorie load, and because it is pure fructose, there’s a greater chance for those calories to get stored as fat. Many kids will drink juice with a meal, which is naturally filling, then they will have no room for actual food. My best advice, don’t give children juice with meals, and better yet give juice as a treat (ie-something that happens occasionally) and do not give children juice on a daily basis.
Cold Pressed Juice
But what about those fancy cold pressed juices? They do have benefits over traditional pasteurized juice. Because they are cold pressed, they hold onto their nutrient value better, meaning more nutrients for your body. But is cold pressed better? In my opinion, no. They are extremely expensive, most average around $10 per bottle and although they have more nutrients than traditional juices, they still lack all of that important fiber that is needed to balance blood sugar.
And what about cold pressed veggie juice? That must be better than the fruit juice varieties? Cold pressed veggies juices are extremely nutrient dense, and perhaps even mildly detoxifying, in a good way. You can definitely taste the intense rush of nutrients into the body with even a small sip. For someone who does not eat veggies with regularity, then an occasional cold pressed juice may be a good way to meet your nutrient needs. But once again, that amazing $10 cold pressed juice is lacking fiber, one of the most important reasons to eat veggies. Most of us are getting drastically less fiber than we need, even the healthiest of eaters. Why sell ourselves short on our fiber intake with an over priced juice?
I know some people swear by cold pressed juices, especially the veggie variety. They are frequently used in detox programs and I have heard many reports of how they have dramatically improved people's health. I don’t want to negate anyone's positive experience with cold pressed juice, they are clearly a nutrient dense beverage. But the the takeaway is that it is a beverage, not a food, and not a replacement for eating whole fruits and vegetables in your diet.
So here is some take away points on the juice topic that you may find helpful:
Juice, whether fruit or veggies, is a caloric beverage. I do not recommend consuming caloric beverages with meals or even on a regular basis, especially if you are trying to control your weight.
Cold pressed juice is a better option than traditional pasteurized juice.If purchasing juice, look for varieties with no added sugar.
Vegetable juices are much lower in sugar than fruit juices and may be a better juice option. Beware of excess consumption of excess carrot and beet juice which has a naturally high sugar content.
Juice is best consumed as a treat, not as a daily beverage. Shoot for small servings, around 4-6 ounces (and maybe less for children) for an ideal serving size.
Children are especially susceptible to the high fructose levels in fruit juice. A few ounces on occasion can be be healthy choice, but I do not recommend that children consume juice daily and it is best not to provide juice with a meal. Drinking water with a meal is an ideal choice for both adults and children.
Want more information on the best foods and beverages for your body? Contact me to set up a private consultation. Get an individualized approach to better health for you and your family.