Hi all, I have been meaning to write about this for a while as I often get asked about the benefits of fruit juice. There are so many points of view and different depictions in the media.
So this here is my point of view on fruit juice based upon my research and experiences over the years. Let’s get into it!
Fruit juice, we all love it right? It’s something we often drink and pick up as a substitute for soft drinks because it’s supposed to be good for you. I mean we are constantly told that we should eat plenty of fruits a day so fruit juice should be fine right?
Well like anything there is a time and place in your food habits for fruits juice. Fruit juice has been in the spotlight quite a bit recently with juice bars and such popping up everywhere. So the information on it is a bit cloudy but here is what I think:
Is fruit juice healthy?
Yes fruit juice just like fruit is incredibly healthy. I mean, fruits (and vegetables) are basically plants and natures gifts of nutrients to other living beings. It is a great source of food and loaded with vitamins, minerals and water (depending on the types of fruit).
BUT, and a big but here is that fruits are loaded with sugar. This is a natural plant based sugar known as fructose and fruits are loaded with it. Together with the sugar, whole fruits are also packed with fibre (due to the physical makeup of the fruit; the solid portion of the fruit).
So although fruits contain a high level of sugar, the tons of fibre actually slow down the digestion and release of the sugar so it is actually released into the bloodstream in a relatively steady manner.
But when you turn the fruits into a liquid form and make it into fruit juice you are stripping the fibre from the fruits. Most of the vitamins, minerals and sugars do remain (some are lost as they stay in the pulp) but a majority of the fibre is lost the more liquid it becomes. As such, the vitamins, minerals and sugars and now absorbed into your blood stream at an accelerated rate as there is no physical matter of the fruit to digest.
A quick note, a lot of the nutrients may also be lost due to the heat created through blending the fruit. This is why cold press slow juicers are becoming popular as it allows for more nutrients remain.
You may then ask, is this so bad? Don’t get me wrong, I think fruit juices are great, but, in my opinion it all comes down to when you consume the fruit juice.
When is a good time to have fruit juice?
Fruit juice is a great alternative to fruit and a solid meal as its much quicker to consume (just gulp it down!) but should really only be consumed when your body needs a quick intake and replacement of nutrients. This would be first thing in the morning when your body has been fasting during the night, or before or after intensive physical activity when your body needs instant energy for fuel or as a replacement for energy expended.
Having fruit juice at any other time would simply cause an unnecessary blood spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Its like having a soft drink. If you remember from this post here, insulin release tends to promote a driving of energy into the cells (which can either be used as a replacement of expended energy or simply gets stored as fat if there is nothing to replace).
So simply put, having fruit juice when you don’t need it is providing your body with huge amounts of unnecessary fast digesting nutrients. If your body doesn’t need it, it will usually store it as fat. Yes the vitamins and minerals may get used but the energy wont.
Any other time of the day, if you feel like having a fruit juice, pick up a whole fruit instead. You still get the vitamins and minerals but the energy is released more sustainably into your bloodstream.
Look back to this post here about the importance of matching your food intake with your body’s energy requirements.
What types of fruit juice should I have?
The best fruit juice is 100% fruit juice. No extra preservatives or flavouring. Making your own is always best as you can make it fresh. Even if it lies in your fridge for 2-3 days it is better than lying in a plastic container in the supermarket for 5-7 days.
If you can’t make your own find something that is as freshly squeezed as possible without any other additives. Look for something with more pulp if you want some added fibre.
Stay away from those fruit drinks which are usually just made with a small amount of fruit concentrates. Stay away from anything that says “made with x% fruit” as unless its 100% it’s not worth buying. Also stay away from any fruit juice that has added sugar. Fruit juice is already loaded with fructose; more sugar will just put you on the diabetes train.
To be perfectly honest with you, I am not a fan of these at all. They have gained incredible popularity in recent years due to people wanting healthier alternatives to the regular popular choices like coffee and soft drinks. They are all dressed up with bright colours and a welcoming atmosphere of music and young, attractive workers. Even the name of the juices sounds incredibly appetising and healthy.
It’s marketing. These kinds of places tend to prey on people that don’t realise that fruit juice is actually loaded with more sugar than most soft drinks. Don’t get me wrong, some people can handle fruit juice just fine. People with higher metabolisms such as younger people, people who are incredibly active or people with a large quantity of muscle mass can burn through the energy provided by fruit juice easily without storing much. But for the rest of us, fruit juice at the wrong time is an unnecessary energy intake.
Also be careful that they don’t add any extra sugar.
My recommendation would be to stay away from the juice bars or juice outlets unless you are looking for a treat. If you are having juice as a replacement for water or soft drinks then you are providing your body with additional energy that it doesn’t need Stick with water instead. As Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said:
“why give your body something it doesn’t need right now”
On a final note, if you still love having your juices any time of the day, an alternative to consider would be vegetable juices. Most vegetables tend not to contain as much sugar as fruits but still pack a nutritious punch.
So to recap I suggest saving the fruit juice for first thing in the morning and before or after workouts. Any other time of the day stick to water instead. Although loaded with vitamins and minerals, fruit juices are also loaded with sugar. And since they have lost the fibre from the whole fruit which would otherwise result in a slow digestion and absorption, fruit juice is digested quickly.
I hope you found this information useful and provide you with an idea and a broader perspective on fruit juice. Just remember, this is my opinion, and if you think differently feel free to let me know, would love to discuss!