Is Fruit Juice Good or Bad? The End to an Age-Old Debate

Fruit juice has gained popularity over the years. Juice bars continue to pop up and supermarkets shelves are occupied by an array of different juices from traditional OJ to cold-pressed, organic green juice! However, the question remains – is juice a healthy choice? It can’t be that bad right? Being pure fruit and all? Does this make it a ‘good’ choice for a snack on the run or your children’s breakfast? We have pulled together expert’s opinions to answer those questions!

Fruit Juice and Nutrition

A 100% fruit and/or vegetable juice does provide a source of nutrition including Vitamin C, antioxidants and Potassium. However, would you chow down 3-4 oranges? Probably not. Well, this is how many oranges it takes to make 250mL of pure OJ! Not only is juice typically considered a high sugar drink, but it also misses out on the fibre which whole fruit offers, due to loss during processing.

When it comes down to it, a piece of fruit is likely going to fill you up for longer due to higher fibre content and you will likely stop at one piece. However, when it comes to fruit juice, it can be easily consumed without the satisfaction you get from physically eating that fruit.

So, if you really want to enjoy juice, which is the best option?

Range of Fruit Juices and Drinks

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to fruit juice, however, not all are created equally. So, how do your favourites fare in terms of health?

100% Fruit Juice

If looking for a fruit juice to enjoy in moderation, your 100% varieties are your best choice. These have no added sugar and are pure fruit, so are likely higher in nutrients compared to those which have other additives. Better yet, look for one made from both fruit and vegetables. A juice containing some veg can be a lower sugar option and may be lower in energy (kilojoules). Some examples include Nudie 100% orange and 100% green juices.

Cold Pressed Fruit Juice

Is cold-pressed really any better? It’s superior price and touted health claims would indicate this, however, what does the research say? Well, the process involves fruit and/or vegetables being squeezed between two clamps to release the natural juices. Other juices are typically extracted using a fast-spinning blade. The fast pace of the blade can generate heat, which may negatively impact the nutrition content of the fruit and veg being produced, in particular compounds such as Vitamin C which are heat sensitive. In saying this, further research is needed to support these claims as there is little to no evidence supporting that cold-pressed is, in fact, superior, with currently available research identifying contradicting results. (Khaksar et al., 2019) In other words, save those extra dollars.

Additionally, it is important to consider how ‘fresh’ the cold-pressed juice is. The research demonstrated nutrient content as higher when consumed within the first 48 hours, followed by a decline at 7 days. The speed of decline is also accelerated when keeping juice at room temperature vs storing in the fridge. (Khaksar et al., 2019) The same principals may be applied to regular juice. So, when open, store in the fridge and the sooner you use it, the higher the nutrition content will be!

Fruit Drinks

Fruit drinks are the same as fruit juice, right? Well, another marketing ploy has got us! Fruit drinks only contain 5-25% of actual fruit juice. The rest generally consists of water and added sugars. Some companies alternatively use artificial sweeteners such as stevia.  Due to the low fruit content, this one is better missed.

What About Freshly Squeezed Juices?

Many juice bars have popped up over the year. However, as with regular fruit juice, they are something to have in moderation due to the sugar content and energy density. For example, the size of a large juice at a leading juice bar can pack up to 50g of sugars and 1200kJ of energy, equivalent to nearly one meal worth of energy! The smoothies can be even higher, containing up to 2300kJ per smoothie and nearly 90g of sugar. That amount of sugar is equivalent to the sugar contained in three standard mars bars!

The energy density and sugar content of juices clearly demonstrate why juices should be limited and consumed in small quantities. If on the run and craving a juice, go for the small size and select one containing some veg.

Bottom Line

Although delicious, fruit juice intake should be moderated and limited to ½ cup per serve, as per the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. It should not be considered an ‘every day’ beverage and avoid being served to children alongside meals. If looking for a fruit juice for an occasion, opt for a 100% fruit juice to avoid those added sugars. Better yet, look for a juice which contains vegetables to lower the sugar content further. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the whole fruit is the superior option!

If you are looking for more nutrition advice, head to our website to get in touch with one of our incredible dietitians today!

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