Some people believe fruit juice is bad for your health because it is high in a natural sugar called fructose. Many of those beliefs were drawn from reports about the danger of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sweetener made from processed corn starch that is linked to insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Though fruit juice and HFCS both contain fructose, fruit juice is an entirely different creature with more benefits to your health than risks. Moreover, fruit juice isn’t like the sugary soft drinks that have no nutritional value. It contains the same nutrients found in whole fruit but without the fiber.
It is this lack of fiber that gets a lot of people in trouble. Without the fiber to build bulk and make you feel full, you can easily consume more calories and fructose than you realize. By doing so, you can potentially affect your blood sugar and trigger weight gain.
Most American don’t consume enough fruits, so drinking fruit juice can provide a healthy dose as long as you choose 100-percent fruit juice. So-called “fruit drinks” typically contain a small amount of juice and lots of added sugar, including HFCS.
A six-ounce (3/4 cup) serving of 100-percent juice counts as one serving of fruit. Most of us should eat one to two cups of fruit per day (along with about two to three cups of vegetables).
While fruit juice can satisfy those nutritional needs, it should not be your only source of fruit. The soluble and insoluble fiber in whole fruit aids in digestion but offers other health benefits as well.
Soluble fiber, for example, draws water from the intestines to ease bowel movements but also binds to fat and sugar to slow their absorption into the bloodstream. Insoluble fiber provides bulk to stools, normalizing bowel movements and preventing hemorrhoids. Fruit juice alone does not do this.
Although some people will tell you that drinking fruit juice will raise your blood sugar more than whole fruit, this is related more to the amount you consume than anything else.
As with any type of fruit, whole or juiced, you need to limit your intake if you have diabetes. Speak with your doctor if you are unsure how much fruit you can consume without affecting your blood sugar.
While drinking fruit juice in moderation can be beneficial to your health, certain citrus fruits can affect the way that pharmaceutical drugs work. Grapefruit juice is the type that is of greatest concern, affecting no fewer than 50 drugs used to treat everything from allergies to HIV.
Grapefruit contains a compound known as furanocoumarins that inhibits an enzyme called CYP3A4 which the body uses to break down certain medications. By inhibiting the metabolism of these drugs, grapefruit can cause drug concentrations to rise to potentially toxic levels.
Other citrus juices, like tangelos and Seville oranges, also contain concerning amounts of furanocoumarins. Oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes pose minimal risk.
While rich in vitamin C, citrus juices are also acidic and may need to be avoided if you have gastritis, peptic ulcer, or other stomach problems. The same applies to tomato juice.
When shopping for fruit juice, only buy products marked “100-percent fruit juice” with no added sugar. Even then, be sure read the label since some juices are blended without you even knowing it. For example, many exotic fruit juices, like pomegranate or acai, are blended with apple or grape juice to cut costs.
Avoid pasteurized juices that are super-heated to extend their shelf life. This not only affects their flavor, but it also can alter the nutritional value.
Even if juice is labeled “not from concentrate,” don’t assume that it is fresh. Many such products are stored for up to a year in oxygen-depleted tanks. By the time they are finally bottled, sedimentation and age will invariably affect their flavor and quality.
As a general rule, if a fruit juice has a long sell-by date, it has probably undergone some sort of processing even if the label reads “100-percent pure.”
For the freshest and healthiest juice, buy a high-speed blender and make it at home. High-speed blenders pulverize the fruit so you keep the fiber that is traditionally lost in store-bought brands.