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Putting the Squeeze on Fruit Juice: Nutritious Treat or just Calories in Disguise?

Submitted By Rebecca O’Reilly

Edited By Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

Is there anything more refreshing than a glass of cold fruit juice? Even better, juice is good for your health, right? In some ways, fruit juice is as good as eating a piece of fruit.  It is jam packed with vitamins and potassium.  In other ways, fruit juice falls short of the real thing.  Mostly because it doesn’t provide the same amount of fiber as whole fruit.  A medium apple with peel offers 4.4 grams of fiber while a ½ cup serving of apple juice offers only a single gram.1  Because juice lacks fiber, it doesn’t fill us up.  Therefore, we tend to drink too much and the calories add up quickly.  So, what should we do? How can we include juice and enjoy its benefits without falling into the trap of consuming too many calories?

Americans consume only half of the recommended servings of fruit per day.2  While a ½ cup serving of juice can count toward the recommended servings of fruit,  it is important to be sure that what you are drinking is actually 100% fruit juice.  The sugar found in 100% fruit juice is natural sugar and is similar to the sugar found in a piece of whole fruit.  Unfortunately, juice companies often add table sugar to beverages.  The result is a sugary drink that appears much like fruit juice, but is actually closer to soda.  Federal regulations require that any beverage containing less than 100% fruit juice be labeled as a juice “drink” or “beverage” or “cocktail”.2  Read the label to make sure  the bottle contains 100% juice and no added sugar. This is key to reaping the benefits of juice.

The good news is that drinking 100% fruit juice is not necessarily associated with obesity.2  However, in order to control calories, it is important for everyone, regardless of age, to limit the amount of fruit juice to one ½ cup serving  (four ounces) per day. Fruit juice should never be offered to infants under six months old.3

Go ahead. Enjoy fruit juice as part of a healthy eating pattern.  To help make sure that you maximize the benefits without consuming too much sugar, follow these basic guidelines:

  • Read the label.  Be sure to choose 100% fruit juice
  • Limit the amount of juice that you drink to one serving per day (one serving of fruit)
  • Remember to include whole fruit in your diet every day for maximum nutritional benefit
  • Consider diluting fruit juice with water for a satisfying beverage that is lower in calories

References:

  1.  Apples or Apple Juice. Acad Nutr Diet. 2013. www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/apples-or-apple-juice. Accessed April 10, 2016.
  2.  Clemens R, Drewnowski A, Ferruzzi MG, Toner CD, Welland D. Squeezing Fact from Fiction about 100% Fruit Juice. Adv Nutr. 2015;6(2):236S – 43S. doi:10.3945/an.114.007328.
  3.  Committee on Nutrition. The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics. Pediatrics. Vol 107(5).; 2001.

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