Despite what the label on the juice bottle might say, or even if the juice is freshly squeezed, you can’t beat tucking into a good fresh apple.
Although drinking a freshly squeezed juice is better than not consuming any fruit at all, juices tend to have a high kilojoule count, are easy to over-consume, and they don’t contain as much fibre as whole fruits. As with all foods, fruit juices should be consumed in moderation.
The structure of fruit changes once it’s been blended or pulverised and the health benefits are lessened. Blended fruit is:
- No longer a whole food – The structure of the fruit has been broken down so that no chewing is involved. Chewing can be an important part of the digestive process.
- Fast, absorbable sugar - The natural sugars in juice (mostly fructose with some sucrose) are absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream, similar to a soft drink.
- Hard to control - You wouldn’t eat three or four apples in two minutes, yet you do with a juice. Without the fibre of whole fruit, it’s hard to control how much you consume.
- Reduced fruit peel and pulp – The edible skin and pulp of fruit are great sources of fibre, flavonoids and carotenoids, and these are often removed or reduced during the juicing process. This reduces the nutritious value of the juice, compared to the whole fruit.
- Not as satisfying - Drinking juice won’t usually leave you feeling full, and you’re more likely to snack afterwards increasing your calorie intake unnecessarily
- Putting your teeth at risk - If you drink juice that contains orange, grapefruit or pineapple juice regularly, your teeth are more susceptible to erosion due to the acidity levels of these drinks. It should be noted, though, that bottled orange juice is usually less acidic, and therefore better for your teeth, than eating a whole orange. Most dentists recommend eating these foods in moderation and brushing and flossing regularly.
Who’s drinking juice?
For those who don’t enjoy tucking into whole fruits, juice is a good alternative. Containing several pieces of fruit in just half a glass, there’s no denying that fruit juice has nutritional benefits (especially compared to soft drinks). Given the levels of sugar they contain, however, it’s important to moderate your intake, and that of your children.
A worrying trend is that toddlers consume a large percentage of fruit juice. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 2 - 3 year olds have the highest intake of fruit juices in the nation Just one glass of apple juice can contain as much sugar as around three Krispy Kreme donuts, or a can of Coca-Cola. The World Health Organisation recommends no more than five teaspoons of refined sugar per day. Given that a popper of apple juice contains around this amount, young children are quite often reaching their recommended daily intake before lunch time. Too much sugar in a child’s diet can cause permanent damage to health, including weight gain and tooth decay, and in extreme cases, increased risk of heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
So what’s the alternative?
If you must put your fruits in a glass, many experts recommend smoothies over juices. As the fruits in smoothies are blended, rather than juiced, they can contain more fibre that straight juices. The fibre, although still broken apart, allows for a slower release of nutrients into the bloodstream, where sugars from juices are absorbed by the body much quicker (causing sudden and short spikes in energy levels). A smoothie will keep you fuller for longer, and can make for a quick and tasty way to start your day. Be mindful that, depending on their ingredients, smoothies can also contain high levels of fats and sugars.
If it’s a refreshing drink that you love and you’re not a fan of water, there are other healthier alternatives.
Drinks to try include:
- Ice tea - Homemade ice tea (not bottled Ice Tea, which have a lot of sugar) is hugely refreshing and can be made simply by brewing four teaspoons of loose-leaf herbal tea with one litre of freshly boiled water. Add a few mint leaves, store in the fridge until chilled, and enjoy with a slice of lemon.
- Fruit infused water - Fruit infused water is simply filtered or sparkling water with fruits such as strawberries, lemon, orange and watermelon added. Add a little mint for a special touch.
- Coconut water - Coconut water is the water of a young, green coconut, and, because of its hydrating qualities, is often dubbed ‘nature’s sports drink’. Be sure to buy only 100% plain coconut water with no added ingredients
Fun ways to encourage toddlers to eat fruit
Next time your toddler asks for a juice, offer them one of these fun ideas instead!
- Fruit blooms - Take some watermelon and rockmelon slices and, using a cookie cutter, create some beautiful flower fruit shapes. Add a popsicle stick for the stem, and watch your children giggle and gobble them down!
- Heart apples - Show your child some love in their lunchbox by adding a heart to their apple. Simply take a red and a green apple, cut them in half and remove the core from each side. Cut a heart shape out from a half of each colour using a cookie cutter, and then switch the pieces over.
- Fruit pizza - Start with a slice of watermelon, and ask your toddler to pick some fruit toppings like passionfruit and blueberries.