Is juice bad for you? As the New York Times reported last week, the juice craze is in full gear, with juice bars popping up all over the country. You may be hearing talk about this cold pressed juice -- full of vitamins, minerals, and veggies that you would never dream of eating, but taste pretty amazing in juice form.
But there's also talk of a more sinister side to juice. Nutritionists are claiming juice has all the sugar of soda, with none of soda's bad reputation, and that it is contributing to America's obesity epidemic.
So which of the two is it? Superhighway of vitamins or liquid sugar?
Before we dive into that question, let's quickly define juice.
By juice we mean 100% juice with no added sugar. "Fruit Punch" beverages like the one on the left have absolutely nothing in common with fruit, and their health effects do not even deserve to be debated.
So, is juice bad for you?
How does it harm you? Let us count the ways: 1. obesity, 2. brain damage, 3. heart disease 4. skin aging and more. The sugar you get from juice includes fructose and sucrose -- the big villains in those health issues. Sugar doesn't become good for you just because it's squeezed from a fruit.
A cup of Coca-Cola Classic has 30 grams of sugar in it, while a cup of orange juice has 21. Researchers are now suggesting that people exercise the same moderation around juice as they do around soda.
Then should I avoid fruit?
If juice is so bad for you, then do we have any business eating fruit? Yes -- you should still eat fruit in moderation. Fruit is full of sugar, but it's also full of good stuff including fiber, which has a tricky way of keeping that sugar in check. It helps to slow the body's intake of sugar, preventing insulin spikes, and also gives a feeling of fullness.
Photo credit: You as a Machine on Flickr
The best illustration of the importance of fiber in fruit that I've read is a simple experiment by Travis Saunders on the number of oranges it takes to make a glass of orange juice.
After exhausting orange-squeezing, he found that it took six oranges to make the equivalent of one small bottle of OJ.
So, back to the topic of avoiding the sugar in fruit, don't go out and eat six oranges in one sitting, because that would be too much sugar. But you know what? You probably won't be tempted to, because by the time you get to orange number three, the fiber will be telling your brain that you need to stop eating the oranges right now.
No such signal will occur in the case of orange juice, and you could easily consume the sugar of twelve oranges by drinking two tall glasses of orange juice before your body made you quit. Twelve. That is a lot of sugar.
Bottom line? Keep eating fruit in moderation, but treat juice as you would soda. It's fine for an occasional treat -- but don't consider it part of a healthy breakfast regimen.
At Green America, we've become very interested in sugar lately, and have been writing about it from a number of angles.
Andrew (our online editor) looked at fair trade sugar.
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