It’s time to learn how fruit juice fits into a healthy diet. You may be wondering: Is drinking fruit juice a good idea? Or is it really just like popping a can of soda? We help navigate food and drink choices, and we are really good at it! So you’ve come to the right place to get the lowdown on fruit juice.
Should You Be Drinking Orange Juice?
Here’s what we’ll cover to answer the question, “Is drinking fruit juice healthy? So let’s jump right in!
What Are the Benefits of Fruit Juice?
Fruit juice is mostly just sugar water. Mostly. But we can’t discount the nutrients contained in fruit juice.
Depending on the source, many of the vitamins and minerals in whole fruit can be found in its juice counterpart.
Notice I said “source.” Quality matters when it comes to fruit juice. There’s a big difference between orange juice you squeezed yourself and Hawaiian Punch.
Quality of juice aside, our recommendation would be to actually eat the entire fruit, because of the importance of fiber (covered next) All this to say: if you are going to drink a sugary beverage, nutrients are a good thing, so you can do worse than high-quality fruit juice. Just know that you are sending a bunch of sugar water straight into your stomach.
Is Fruit Juice Bad for you?
To understand the downside of drinking fruit juice, we need to think about what’s missing: fiber. Fruit juice, almost by definition, is the juice that’s been squeezed or processed out of fruit. With the exception of small amounts of pulp here and there, the juicing process completely removes the fiber from fruit. Without the fiber, all you’re left with is water, fructose (sugar), and some nutrients. The complete lack of fiber in fruit juice proves problematic for two reasons:
1. It takes time to chew a piece of fruit (lots of fibers to chew through), which slows down the absorption of fructose by the liver.
2. The fructose in fruit is mixed in with the fiber at a cellular level (within the cell walls of fruit), which also slows downs the digestion.
Your liver is the only organ that processes fructose. If it’s overloaded, like with lots of fructose at once, it can turn some of this fructose into fat. Overloading your liver with fructose is a bad idea. It’s one of the ways people end of with fatty liver disease (another is overconsuming alcohol, which also taxes the liver). Whole fruit is healthy for you because the fiber stops the fructose from hitting you all at once.
Fruit juice? Eh, not so much
It’s kind of like “Is Fruit Juice Just as Bad as Soda?”
How does drinking fruit juice compare to drinking soda?
Some numbers will help tell our story. Let’s look at the calories and sugar content of orange juice and a Coca-Cola. While there’s more sugar in Coca-Cola, there are actually fewer calories. Plus, Coca-Cola is carbonated and caffeinated.
And polar bears love it
I’m not trying to tell you to start drinking Coca-Cola, although if you go with diet soda, you’ll cut out almost all of the calories and sugar. I’m trying to make the point here that when it comes to calories and sugar, there isn’t that much of a difference between drinking soda and drinking fruit juice.
Is Drinking Fruit Juice Bad for Weight Loss?
If we’re gonna talk about drinking fruit juice for weight loss, we’re gonna need to talk about how to actually lose weight. In order to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume regularly.
Think of it this way: every day, our body needs a certain number of calories to carry out its daily functions. Making your heart beat, your brain function, and getting your body to move all require calories. This is called your total daily energy expenditure, and you can calculate your TDEE here. When you consume more calories than you burn, your body tends to store those extra calories as fat (weight gain).
When you burn more calories than you consume, your body will pull from fat stores for energy (weight loss).
The problem with drinking fruit juice is this: it’s a really easy way to bump up your total calorie intake.
12oz Minute Maid Apple Juice
A Plate of Sliced Up Apple (2 apples)
A 12-ounce glass of apple juice and a couple of apples would be roughly equivalent in their calorie and sugar content.
What they will NOT be equivalent in is their ability to keep you full. After eating one apple, consuming a second one might be tough. A third one could be a real challenge. Do you have any doubt you could drink that entire bottle of apple juice? Would you still be hungry after drinking it? Probably.
This is another danger of drinking your fruit: you’ll get all the calories, without satisfying your hunger.
That’s why one of our top recommendations in our Guide to Healthy Eating is to avoid liquid calories. When we assess our coaching clients, we find out how many calories they are currently drinking, and then create a plan to ease it back.
Are Fruit Smoothies Good for You?
Whether or not fruit smoothies are healthy is really going to depend on what’s in them.
On the one hand, because they are often blended instead of juiced, there is still the fruit’s fiber in the smoothies, however, Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School claims that the fiber has been “functionally destroyed” through the blender, so there are still issues on how fast the fructose from the fruit will hit your liver.
Plus, there are all the calories to worry about. Here are a couple of examples:
Green Machine Naked Juice (15.2 oz or 450 ml bottle): 270 calories, 53 g of sugar.
Smoothie King Banana Boat (20 oz or 591 ml smoothie): 450 calories, 70 g of sugar.
However, for those of us who supplement with extra protein, a smoothie is often the best way for delivery.
I drink a shake daily to meet my high-calorie, high-protein goals, and it includes some fruit in it.
Steve’s Powerbomb Shake
Ice cold water: 16 oz
Quaker Oats: 3 servings (120g)
Whey Protein: 2 servings (62 g)
Frozen Spinach: 1.5 servings (120g)
Frozen Berries: .8 servings (120g)
Here’s the macronutrient and caloric breakdown of that shake: 795 calories, 68g of protein, 106g of carbs, 13g of fat:
Yep, it’s a ton of calories. But I need them (and the protein) to help me reach my muscle-building goals.
While fruit smoothies and shakes will have more fiber than juice, it’s been blended so it’s less ideal than it’s whole fruit counterpart. Fruit smoothies can have LOTS of sugar and calories in them. A fruit smoothie can be a great way to consume a protein supplement, just be careful on what recipe you pick.
How Much Fruit Juice Should I Drink?
To answer the question of “how much fruit juice you should be drinking,” we need to factor in a crucial variable: how much fruit juice are you currently drinking?
Are you currently drinking a few glasses of fruit juice a day? Let’s try and reduce it by “1.”
Are you currently drinking a cup of OJ for breakfast? How about a few slices of an orange in the AM instead?
While there’s plenty of best practices, the advice we give is often based on what you’re doing today:
We’ve seen time and time again that small changes over time are the secret to long term success.
Instead of telling you to never drink fruit juice again and to always eat the whole fruit, I’d advise just to figure out where you are today and make a plan for a small change. Something you can track for long term compliance and adjust along the way. Healthy Eating is based on small incremental changes designed to be permanent. That wraps it up for today,if you enjoyed this post, why not check out these Smoothie recipes!
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