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Cooking Teacher

Is Fruit Juice Healthy?

It’s that time of year. We may have over-indulged through the holidays and now we want to get back on track. Is juice the answer? Maybe; maybe not.

The average American drinks about 30 quarts of fruit juice every year. It’s a healthy way to start your day or a seriously convenient method of increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables, right?  Not so fast. Even though 100% juice has some benefits, it also has drawbacks you just might want to consider before pouring your next glass.

Juice labeled "100%" is made purely from the juice of natural fruits, with no additives, sweeteners or preservatives added, according to nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic. The vitamin and mineral content is far higher in 100% juice than it is in sweetened juice or fruit juice drinks. That’s a good thing.

A rich intake of fruits and vegetables is essential for great health. We all know this. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a minimum of 1-2 cups of fruit per day for women and 2 cups for men. A cup of 100% fruit juice can count as one of your fruit servings. Juice can also be a great source of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C. Great news, right?

Juice may be a convenient way to get sufficient and even extra vitamins and minerals, but it can also be packed with sugar. More nutritionists recommend eliminating fruit juice from your diet entirely because of its high sugar content and because it has none of the fiber that whole fruit contains. A cup of apple juice, for instance, has 0.2 gram of fiber, while a whole apple contains 3.3 grams. That’s a huge difference.

I would have to say that the most important aspect to consider when thinking about adding fruit juice to your diet is whether it fits into your recommended calorie intake. A half-cup of grape juice contains 80 calories; the same serving of apple juice has 60 calories, as does orange juice. That’s not a lot of juice, so it’s easy to over-consume and take in more calories than you need because juice is so yummy.

In the end, is fruit juice the worst thing you could consume? Not by a long shot. I would disagree with experts who say it’s just like drinking soda. 100% juice has no chemicals or preservatives. But it’s important to consider the sugar, lack of fiber and calories it brings to your diet. It’s also important to consider that the sugar in juice is fructose which can (in larger quantities) mess with the way your liver metabolizes and contribute to weight gain.

Should you skip fruit juice? Nope, but you should consider how much you drink and how it figures into your healthy eating plan. And you might consider vegetable juice…or a combination of fruit and vegetable juice in its place.

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