For decades, we have been led to believe that fruit juice is good for us. Orange juice in particular has been touted for its health benefits, including a high vitamin C content to boost your immune system. And many ‘official’ food guidelines have included fruit juices as part of a recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.
But do you know what’s really contained in that commercially prepared juice you’re drinking? Is it juice or junk?
The perils of juice cocktails
First, it’s important to separate juice “cocktails” from juice. So-called cocktails are often made with added sugar, and contain the juice of many different, less nutritious fruits, as well as other ingredients. These sugary drinks should come right out of your grocery cart.
Beware of commercially prepared juice
Next, there’s juice that is “100% juice,” “not from concentrate” and contains “no added sugar.” While this may sound like a healthier option, it really is not. Here are some of the reasons why:
* Commercially produced (and freshly squeezed) juice has the skin — which contains most of a fruit’s nutrients — removed and its fibre extracted.
* Most juice is also pasteurized, which removes both the bad and good bacteria, including beneficial digestive enzymes, as well as much of the antioxidant content.
* Industry insider reports also suggest that after the oranges are squeezed, commercial orange juice has its oxygen content removed so it will keep for months without spoiling. This effectively takes all the flavour out of the juice, which is then re-flavoured through a chemical process using “naturally derived” chemical and unlabeled ingredients.
Health hazards of fructose
Fruit juice also contains a high level of fructose, a form of sugar which, although naturally derived, acts in much the same way in the body as processed sugar and is absorbed very quickly. Ounce for ounce, fruit juice can contain almost as much sugar as soft drinks.
Excessive fructose consumption (particularly, but not exclusively, in the form of high fructose corn syrup added to processed foods and beverages) has been shown to:
* Increase blood sugar and blood pressure levels
* Increase triglycerides
* Raise insulin to chronically high levels over time and lead to insulin resistance, an underlying factor in Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers
* Increase acidity can contribute to inflammatory effects in the body, linked to many chronic diseases
* Metabolize into fat
* Generate uric acid, believed to be a major contributor to disease
How to enjoy juice
This is not to say that naturally occurring fructose from fruit juices should be avoided entirely, but that it should be consumed cautiously, particularly if maintaining a healthy weight is an issue for you and/or you have other risk factors for the conditions listed above.
Follow these tips to satisfy an occasional juice craving healthfully:
Enjoy veggies for their Vitamin C
Contrary to popular belief, citrus fruits are not the best source of Vitamin C. In fact, vegetables such as broccoli, kale and peppers have comparable levels of Vitamin C. (Your naturopathic doctor may also suggest a high quality Vitamin C supplement to optimize consumption of this important nutrient.)
Opt for the whole fruit as much as possible
Fruits are best eaten whole, as nature intended. Enjoy the skin of the fruit (if organic) where nutrients are found and to enable a more gradual release of sugar into the body increases time-release of the sugar.
Stick with only freshly squeezed, organic juice
Ditch the bottles, cartons and cans and make your own juice using a quality juicer and organic fruit. Dilute juice with water.
Combine fruit and vegetable juice
Better still, combine fresh vegetable juices with a smaller amount of fresh fruit juice to lower sugar content and increase nutritional value.
Consume in moderation
Aim to limit total sugar consumption from fruit, fruit juices and of course, processed sources, to 25 grams per day. As a guideline, a medium whole orange contains roughly 6 grams of fructose, while a 10-ounce glass of orange juice has as much as 35 grams (8 teaspoons) of sugar, at least 50% of which is fructose.
Enjoy lemon juice
Add a little lemon to your fresh juice. Start your day with real lemon juice mixed in water (cayenne pepper optional) to alkalinize the body, get your digestive system into healthy action, and optimize immune function.
Submitted by Jerry Ballice, Clinic Director at Nex Wellness.