The variety of fruit juices available on any supermarket shelf (and even in some tiny convenience stores) is staggering. In our parents’ day, orange juice (or occasionally apple juice, grapefruit juice, or tomato juice) was the only juice that appeared on most people’s breakfast tables. It is now common to get juices in all sorts of different combinations, including exotic tropical fruits such as mango, guava, goji berry and more. Some juices, such as pomegranate, advertise additional health benefits from the antioxidants present in the fruit. And although many of these juices do contain a healthy amount of vitamins and minerals, almost all of them also have an abundance of calories and sugar. So is drinking fruit juice a good idea or not? Following are few of the benefits and drawbacks of drinking fruit juice so you can decide for yourself.
The Benefits of Drinking Fruit Juice
A good source of vitamins and minerals – One glass of guava or orange juice can more than adequately provide your daily requirement of vitamin C. Most 100% fruit juices are also an excellent source of potassium (which is helpful in maintaining healthy blood pressure) and folic acid (which is recommended for all women of childbearing age as it prevents birth defects and is good for heart health).
An easy way to get your daily serving of fruit – Just a single 4-ounce glass of 100% fruit juice counts as one full serving of fruit, so if your busy schedule does not allow you to peel and eat an orange, you can grab a glass of juice. Although fruit juice does not contain the healthy fiber that whole fruits do, it is still better to drink some juice rather than get no fruit at all.
Enjoy the benefits of antioxidants and phytonutrients – Compounds such as lycopene, lutein, quercetin and resveratrol are important phytonutrients contained in many fruits that boost your immune system and protect against disease. The antioxidants that juice contains destroy the free radicals that contribute to the development of cancer and the aging of our skin and organs.
The Drawbacks of Drinking Fruit Juice
High in sugar – The high rate of sugar consumption in the typical Western diet has been implicated as one of the major contributors to the increasing rates of obesity plaguing the Western world. Children who are overweight drink 65 percent more sugary juices than children of normal weight, according to one study. Even sweetened soft drinks have less sugar than some fruit juices. For instance, grape juice contains 50 percent more sugar than Coca Cola.
Bad for your tooth enamel – One study found that drinking orange juice for only 5 days was enough to reduce the hardness of tooth enamel by as much as 84 percent. Scientists believe that other juices may be just as bad, as the acidity they contain is similar. Dentists are increasingly seeing cavities and tooth decay in children as young as two or three years old, and they blame the increased intake of fruit juice as a major cause. The combination of acid and sugar create the perfect conditions for tooth decay. Dentists advise that children drink fruit juice no more than once daily, and drink more milk or water. If your child must drink fruit juice, it should be watered down to dilute the concentration of acid.
High in calories – "Parents tend to think that because fruit juice is fat-free and comes from nature, it's OK," says Pam Birkenfeld, a pediatric nutritionist at New York’s Nassau University Medical Center. "But what they often don't realize is that it is a very concentrated source of calories that generally does not fill you up, just out." On average, there are approximately 140 calories in an 8-ounce glass of fruit juice. In contrast, an orange has only about 60 calories.
What to Look for in a Healthy Fruit Juice
Be sure that the juice you are buying is labeled as being "100% fruit juice." Many juices on the market contain only 10% fruit juice, the rest being composed of water and added sugar. There should be no sugar added to your juice, nor should the juice contain artificial sweeteners, which are even worse for your health than sugar.
Now that you have some idea of the benefits and drawbacks of drinking fruit juice, you can make an informed decision as to how much juice you and your family should drink for optimal health.