Should we still be drinking fruit juice?
Drinking a glass of fruit juice may seem like a healthy way to start the day. It’s better for your health than a sugary soft drink, right? That may be true, but drinking a lot of fruit juice can be bad for our health too.
Is fruit juice healthy?
Fruit juice does have some health benefits. Fruit juice contains vitamins, minerals and plant compounds that can help to protect you from disease. However, fruit juice is also a concentrated source of natural sugar. One small glass of juice (250ml) is equivalent to four pieces of fruit. And that’s not four slices of apple, that’s four whole apples.
That small glass of fruit juice contains the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar. So, if you reach for a glass of fruit juice any time you feel thirsty, you can see how quickly and easily your intake of sugar could skyrocket.
If you drink high quantities of fruit juice, you could be contributing to excess energy intake. This can increase your risk of obesity and other conditions like type 2 diabetes. Despite what the label on the juice bottle might say, or even if the juice is “freshly squeezed”, you can’t beat plain old water and tucking into a fresh apple or orange.
What’s wrong with fruit juice?
High in sugar and increases the risk of weight gain
One of the main problems with fruit juice is that it’s high in calories and sugar and low in fibre and very easy to drink. If you’re drinking it regularly, it can lead to weight gain by adding unnecessary energy to your day. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting fruit juice consumption to 125ml (as a single serve) and it should only contribute to one of your two fruit serves recommended every day.
How much is 125ml? Well, a regular size can of soft drink contains 375ml, so 125ml is one third of that.
Drinking a lot of sugary drinks has been linked to a number of lifestyle conditions.
The acid content of fruit juice can damage your teeth
As fruit juice is high in sugar, it can provide a food for the bacteria in dental plaque, resulting in an increase in dental decay. The other issue is that the acid content of many fruit juices can start to damage the enamel on your teeth and this can lead to a higher risk of tooth decay.
How does fruit juice compare to soft drinks?
It’s tempting to think that fruit juice is better for you than soft drinks, and that may be true in some ways. After all, fruit juice contains vitamins, minerals and plant compounds.
But soft drinks and fruit juice both contain high levels of sugar. There are around six teaspoons in a 250ml glass of fruit juice and nine teaspoons in a 375ml can of soft drink.
What do the Australian eating guidelines say?
According to the Guidelines for Healthy Eating, we should only occasionally drink a small amount of fruit juice with no added sugar. They caution that fruit juice is acidic and can increase the risk of dental erosion.
The guidelines also recommend we should be consuming two serves of fruit a day.
A standard serve of fruit is about 150g or:
- 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
- 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
- 1 cup of diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar)
Try this delicious alternative to fruit juice: treat yourself to a tropical smoothie
What’s the best fruit juice to drink?
If you must drink fruit juice, make sure you check the label and choose a product with no added sugar. Juice should not contain artificial sweeteners either.
Pour the juice into a small glass to make sure your serving size is a maximum of 125ml or less, and only enjoy as an occasional treat.
Is juicing your own fruit better?
Juicing your own fruit at home offers no real benefit over commercially produced fruit juice. You could lower the overall sugar content by adding vegetables into the mix, but the juicing process still removes the beneficial fibres.
What should we have instead of fruit juice?
If you’re looking to quench your thirst, water is always the healthiest option. It’s also free and readily available in Australia and causes no damage to your teeth. In fact, the fluoride that’s added to tap water helps to protect your teeth from decay.
If you’re looking for a bit more energy, whole fruit is a much healthier option than fruit juice. Whole fruit contains more fibre and is therefore more filling and leaves you less likely to overeat. For example, it’s much easier to drink the juice of seven apples than it is to eat seven apples in one sitting.
Homemade iced tea (not bottled iced tea which is high in sugar) is refreshing and can be made by brewing four teaspoons of loose-leaf herbal tea with one litre of freshly boiled water. You can add a few mint leaves, store in the fridge until chilled, and enjoy with a slice of lemon. There are also cold infusion tea-bags available with lots of flavours and no added sugars.
Fruit infused water
Fruit infused water is simply water with fruits such as strawberries, lemon, orange and watermelon added. Add a little mint for a special touch.
Read more about gut health: What’s your poo trying to tell you?
What about coconut water?
Coconut water is the water of a young, green coconut and because of the hydrating qualities and the electrolytes it contains, it’s been marketed as a low sugar alternative to water. The reality is that it’s only low in sugar when you compare it to fruit juice or soda drinks.
While it is high in potassium, it only has small amounts of other electrolytes like calcium, phosphorus and sodium. It also isn’t very high in vitamins.
Is coconut water bad for your teeth?
Coconut water isn’t as acidic as fruit juice, so that’s a plus, but coconut water is often high in natural sugars, and levels can vary quite dramatically. Many of the marketed forms of the drink also contain added sugar as well.
Overall, drinking coconut water is ok occasionally, but it’s better just to stick to plain old water.
Is eating fruit good for you?
Yes, most definitely! Fresh is best because it’s easy to eat too much dried fruit, and canned fruit is fine as long as there’s no added sugar. With the wide variety of fruit we grow in Australia, there’s always something in season.
Try some of our healthy recipes: Feed your body the food it really loves!
Ways to encourage children to eat fruit
Eat the rainbow
It’s important to try to eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit each day as they all contain different nutrients. Focusing on colour can be a good way to engage your kids.
Take some watermelon and rock melon 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!
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.
Start with a slice of watermelon and ask your toddler to pick some fruit toppings like passionfruit and blueberries.
You can find more ideas for getting your kids to eat fruit and vegetables at the Queensland Department of Health.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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