Are fruit and vegetable juices an ideal antidote against the summer heat?
By Janice Wade-Miller
A cool glass of good-for-you juice with sweetness and bright color can hit the spot for you and your grandkids while you enjoy your summer activities. Have you noticed bottles of juice covering greater and greater shelf space, almost an entire isle? Fruit and vegetable juices all claim a long list of health benefits, but can you trust their claims of preventing cancer and providing an energy boost? Can you now remove whole fruits and vegetables from your diet and just drink them instead?
Fruit and vegetable juices count toward your 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day recommended by the USDA, and many people choose juices as an easier way to consume that amount. The bad news for you and your grandchildren is that some experts say the worst of these juices are little improved over candy in liquid form. So, which do you choose: whole or juiced fruits and vegetables?
Here are two reasons to eat whole fruits and vegetables rather than drinking juices: fiber and sugar.
By drinking the juice only, we are denying ourselves a key nutrient: fiber. The American Dietetic Association recommends that all adults consume 25-38 grams of fiber daily, but almost all fruits and juices contain no fiber. Fiber helps keep our bowel functions regular and assists with weight control by slowing digestion, thus keeping us feeling full longer between meals. Although many commercial products will say “pulp added” on their labels, the pulp that is added may not even be the original pulp found in the whole fruit, and it’s unlikely to be added back in the amount removed. For example, a cup of chopped raw carrots gives us and our grandkids 4 grams of fiber, but carrot juice gives little or no fiber. Also for example, my bottle of Simply Juice Orange Juice states “High Pulp” on the front of the bottle. This pulp has been added back to the juice after processing. But the nutrition label states, “Not a significant source of dietary fiber.”
By law, the term “fruit juice” may be used only if the juice is 100 percent fruit juice. A blend of fruit juice(s) with other ingredients, such as high-fructose corn syrup, is called a “juice cocktail” or “juice drink.”These added sugars, not originally present in the juice upon squeezing, contribute many calories that are not needed and will cause weight gain. “No added sugar” is commonly printed on labels, but the products may contain large amounts of naturally occurring sugars. Fructose is the common name for the naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables. Sugar isn’t necessary to make it even sweeter. Look for some of these words in the ingredient list on the bottle to see the added sugar the manufacturer has included to make the juice even sweeter.
Here is a list of some of the possible code words for “sugar” that may appear on a label. Hint: The words “syrup,” “sweetener,” and any word ending in “ose” can usually be assumed to be “sugar.” If the label says “no added sugars,” it should not contain any of the following, although the food could contain naturally occurring sugars (such as lactose in milk):
• corn sweetener
• corn syrup
• corn syrup solids
• juice concentrate
• high-fructose corn syrup
• invert sugar
Remember, your body doesn’t care what the label says — it’s all just “sugar”!
Links for more ideas:
“Fruit and Vegetable Juice Drinks: Are They Nutritious?” [Fitday.com]
“Raw Produce: Selecting and Serving It Safely” [FDA]
“Juice Wars Slideshow: The Best and Worst for Your Health” [Web MD]
Janice Wade-Miller is a nutrition educator in Tallahassee, Florida. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Food and Nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens, in learning about good nutrition, health and food safety. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.