Many people have grown up believing that fruit juices, such as orange or apple juice, are a staple of a healthy diet. After all, there was a time when you were unlikely to see a breakfast commercial that didn’t have a glass of juice as part of the “nutritious breakfast.”
Although fruit juice does contain vitamins and minerals, these drinks have a number of drawbacks that have been hidden under the mask of a health halo, writes Livestrong.com.
This does not mean that you need to eliminate it from your diet completely: 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar can be part of a healthy diet, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, drinking fruit juice does not provide all the benefits that eating fruit does.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers 1 cup of fruit juice to be equivalent to 1 cup of fruit as a daily recommended intake, it notes that fruit in all its forms provides more benefits, including being packed with dietary fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Here’s what really happens when you drink fruit juice every day and how to fit it into a healthy diet.
Your blood sugar may spike
Expect to experience a sugar rush and crash when you drink too much fruit juice.
“Every time you drink juice, the sugar naturally occurring in the juice in addition to any additional added sugars is quickly absorbed into your body,” says Alexandra Salcedo, Ph.D., a nutritionist at the University of California. “This rapid absorption of energy leads to an increase in blood sugar.”
According to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that is constantly released into the bloodstream. Insulin’s job is to move sugar out of the bloodstream and into muscle, fat, and liver cells, which can be stored for later use. Your body carefully calibrates the levels of insulin in your bloodstream, and when you have low insulin levels, sugar is released back into the bloodstream.
Type 2 diabetes is thought to represent a progression from normal blood sugar levels to prediabetes and ultimately a diagnosis of overt diabetes, according to UCSF. Each of these stages is determined by blood sugar levels. Prediabetes and diabetes occur when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar.
“Patients who have diabetes or have trouble controlling their blood sugar will see an increase in blood sugar with fruit juice,” says Salcedo. “High consumption of fruit juice can negatively affect blood sugar control in people with diabetes or patients taking steroid medications.”
It’s high on the glycemic indexAccording to Harvard Health Publishing, foods are assigned a glycemic index number depending on how slowly or quickly they raise blood glucose levels.
People with prediabetes or diabetes need to focus on foods with a low glycemic index; people with type 1 diabetes cannot produce enough insulin, and people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin. In both types of diabetes, foods with a high glycemic index can lead to spikes in blood sugar.
Apple juice has a glycemic index of 44 and orange juice has a glycemic index of 50, which is only slightly lower than sodas, which have a glycemic index of 63, according to the University of Oregon. For comparison, the glycemic index of honey is 61.
For comparison, a whole raw apple has a glycemic index of only 39, and a whole plain orange has a glycemic index of only 40.
“People with diabetes or pre-diabetes should avoid drinking juice because it causes a spike in blood sugar, which can lead to insulin resistance,” Salcedo says. “I would highly recommend eating the whole fruit rather than drinking it in juice form.”
You can add more vitamins and minerals to your diet
Juice has traditionally been touted for its benefits, and they still exist despite its effects on blood sugar.
“Fruit juice can provide health benefits, including many vitamins and minerals,” says nutritionist Shana Jaramillo, RD. “Juices such as orange and apple juice contain vitamin C, which helps absorb iron, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the immune system. Some juices are also enriched with calcium and iron, which improve blood circulation and bone mineral density.”
Let’s look at the nutritional profile of orange and apple juice:
- Orange juice (per 1 serving)
- Calories: 112
- Total fat: 0,5 г
- Carbohydrates: 25,8 г
- Total sugars: 20,8 г
- Proteins: 1,7 г
- Vitamin C: 124 mg (138% of the daily value)
- Potassium: 496 mg (11% CH)
- Iron: 0.5 mg (3% CH)
- Calcium: 27.3 mg (2% CH)
- Apple juice (per 1 cup)
- Calories: 114
- Total fat: 0,3 г
- Carbohydrates: 28 г
- Total sugars: 23,9 г
- Proteins: 0,2 г
- Potassium: 250.5 mg (5% of the daily value)
- Vitamin C: 2.2 mg (2% of the daily value)
- Calcium: 19.8 mg (2% CH)
- Iron: 0.3 mg (2% CH)
However, these nutrients are not unique to fruit juice – meaning you can get them and other benefits like fiber from eating whole fruits and other foods.
“While we can get some micronutrients from juice, we can probably get them from other sources in the diet. and so easily,” says Jaramillo.
You will lack fiber
If you drink fruit juice instead of whole fruit, you’ll miss out on the fiber in the fruit, which is one of the nutrients that make foods so healthy.
“I like to drink fruit juice, like orange juice, like sit down with four or five oranges, squeeze out all the juice, and throw out the fiber,” says Jaramillo. While a cup of orange juice contains only 0.5 grams of fiber, a whole large orange contains 4.4 grams of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Likewise, a cup of apple juice contains 0.5 grams of fiber, but a large apple contains 5.4 grams of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Fiber plays an important role in an overall healthy diet: it lowers cholesterol, normalizes bowel movements and supports bowel health, helps maintain a healthy weight, and helps control blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to the Mayo Clinic, whole fruits such as apples and oranges contain a type of fiber called soluble fiber, which can lower blood cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber can also reduce gas and bloating.
Insoluble fiber, which is found in foods including fruits with edible skin (such as apples), vegetables, and whole grains (such as cereals and brown rice), helps move materials through the digestive system.
Eating these types of whole fruits (especially apples, grapes, and blueberries) was significantly associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while drinking more fruit juice was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a study in the August 2013 British Medical Journal. The authors of the study tracked the diets of more than 187,000 people and noted that fiber may be one of the components responsible for the positive effect.
Most Americans do not get enough fiber: daily fiber intake averages about 15 grams per day, which is less than the recommended total dietary allowance of 25-30 grams of fiber per day per UCSF.