Healthy Eating

Fruit juices aren't healthy. Eat a fruit instead


There’s an unexpected beneficiary of this winter’s merciless flu season — orange juice producers. U.S. sales of OJ increased for the first time in almost five years, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, analysts don’t expect the spike — 0.9 per cent to 38.66 million gallons in the four weeks ending January 20 — to outlive this year’s virus.

Orange juice’s health halo has been slipping, with good reason. With slogans like “Straight from the fruit” and “Really close to fruit,” you’d be forgiven for assuming juice is a reasonably “healthy” alternative to sugary soft drinks. But you’d be wrong.

A 12-ounce serving of orange juice has 10 teaspoons of sugar, the same as cola. And it’s more calorific, containing 170 calories to cola’s 150 (Harvard School of Public Health). In terms of carbohydrates, a small orange juice at McDonald’s has 34 grams. The same as a bag of M&M’s (MyFitnessPal).

“Juice is sugar water with vitamins. It has drop per drop the same amount of sugar as soda pop and, in some cases, more,” Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an Ottawa-based obesity specialist, writes on his blog Weighty Matters.

It was a breakfast table mainstay for decades, but awareness of OJ’s negligible nutritional value is steadily growing. Nielsen data reveals that the market in the U.S. has plummeted by roughly 50 per cent since 2001, and is expected to continue on its downward trajectory. Motivated by fear of fever, hacking and body aches during one of the worst flu seasons on record, though, people seemingly put faith in its health benefits once again. As a Kansas woman told the Journal: “Every time (my husband) feels like he is about to get sick, he gets a gallon of cheap orange juice and drinks the whole thing. None of us have had any symptoms of illness.”

There’s no scientific evidence to support this home remedy, the U.S. National Institutes of Health reportedly said. But apparently, imagining a link between orange juice and vitamin C-fuelled flu-fighting powers was enough to make people feel protected. Never mind the fact that chili peppers, cauliflower, kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts all have more vitamin C than oranges. You’d be better off just eating an orange. One of the chief issues with juices in general, nutrition experts say, is what they’re missing: dietary fibre.

“Liquid calories don’t satiate, and they don’t pack the fibre and phytonutrients of actual fruit,” Freedhoff explains in a post appropriately titled Juice is NOT a F@*#ing Fruit Part II.

Even one serving of juice per day can potentially have a negative impact on health. A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that while eating enough fruit is beneficial, the inverse is true for juice.

Researchers found a link between eating at least two servings of whole fruits per week — especially blueberries, apples and grapes — and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Drinking one or more servings of fruit juice per day, on the other hand, was associated with elevated risk. “It’s one thing to eat an apple. It’s quite another to drink the juice of three apples, which is easy to do with apple juice,” Marion Nestle, a New York University professor, told Vox in 2015. “Juices, like any other source of liquid sugars, are best consumed in small amounts.”

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