Monday, June 10, 2013

Juice: What's the big deal?


Juice: is it a healthful drink providing vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals? A sugar bomb threatening your child's teeth and health? Depending on who you ask, you may get startlingly different opinions. 

Let's consider the facts. 

As a registered dietitian, juice, means a drink that is 100% from fruit. However, in practice that isn't the same jargon used by everyone. Plenty of parents, and by proxy their children, use "juice" to mean anything from actual fruit juice, so any sort of flavored, sugared watery drink. While it is simple to slap the same name on both, kool-aid and orange juice aren't the same. 

We can agree that whole fruit is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. When you squeeze fruit to make juice, it is almost as good, but you tend to loose the fiber. Fiber helps us to prevent heart diseases, manage our appetite and weight and keeps our GI tract moving smoothly. Without fiber, our brain doesn't register the calories as well. 

The other important consideration with juice is the portion. At my house we have some glasses that we inherited from my grandmother and are quite tiny, they're about 4 ounces. I used to scoff at their single-slurp portion and reach for something much larger. Turns out grandma was right: 4 ounces is actually all we should have at once, especially for children. 

How much juice is in a single orange? Not a whole heck of a lot. When I squeezed one orange with all of my might, I only got 1/3 cup. Consider that the next time you slurp down 16 ounces of juice - that may be the same number of calories as eating six whole oranges. Better than six cokes or six cookies, absolutely, but still leaves room for balance. 

Does it matter if the juice is from concentrate? Not really. Concentrating simply removes some of the water so that there is less product to package and ship. When you add the water according to the package directions, the amount of sugar doesn't change.
8 oz orange juice
  • 110 kcal
  • 21 g sugar
  • 0.5g fiber
Not from Concentrate Ingredients: Ingredients: Pasteurized Orange Juice. Concentrate ingredientsConcentrated Orange Juice. No added sweeteners or preservatives.

1 navel orange
  • 70 calories
  • 12 g sugar
  • 3 g fiber
8 oz "juice" Sunny Delight
  • 63 calories
  • 14 g sugar
  • 0g fiber
Ingredients: Water, High Fructose, Corn Syrup and 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Concentrated Juices (Orange, Tangerine, Apple, Lime, Grapefruit). Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Beta-Carotene, Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Natural Flavors, Food Starch-Modified, Canola Oil, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sodium Benzoate To Protect Flavor, Yellow #5, Yellow #6

What about that sugar? Most of us are consuming too much sugar. However, fruit is a package deal with lots of other vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. We don't want to rule out fruit. 

Take away note: enjoy juice that is 100% from fruit, in small portions. Focus on whole fruit and water the rest of the day

Thanks for the question, Alice!

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