Fancy a Fruit Juice?

 
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People don’t usually set limits on their consumption of juice, as it’s considered nutritious. But health experts are increasingly questioning whether fruit juice should lose its wholesome image.

For thousands of years, humans drank mostly water and ate whole fruit. Juice on tap is a relatively modern phenomenon. Following years of concerted marketing efforts, we’ve come to view fruit juice with a halo. So what’s the squeeze on fruit juice?

Pros

  • Drinking some juice can assist you to meet your requirement for servings of fruit, which can be helpful if you don’t get enough fruit.
  • Fruit juice is a good source of vitamin C, folate (folic acid) and potassium, and it provides a range of other micronutrients.
  • Fruit juice is a better choice than soft or sport drinks, because juices can also deliver many types of disease-fighting phytonutrients like anthocyanins, catechins and phenols.

However, there’s some bad news along with the good.

Cons

  • Fruit juice is high in sugar and kilojoules, and it may contribute to weight gain, especially in children. How many pieces of fruit does it take to make a glass of juice that you can gulp down in five seconds?
  • The acids in fruit juice can dissolve the enamel on your teeth. In fact, some juices are even more damaging than soft drinks. 
  • The high concentration of fructose can cause diarrhoea, flatulence and bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
  • High intakes of fruit juice can raise the level of triglyceride fats in your blood—a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Most commercially prepared juices lack dietary fibre.

What should you do?

The best health drink is still water. It’s smarter to eat your fruit whole rather than taking the lazy juice option. If you make your own juice, you should add back the fibre or blend it with the juice into a smoothie. Limit regular fruit juice intake to one glass per day, especially if you are or your child is overweight, and drink it with a meal.

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Sue Radd is one of Australia's leading nutritionists and health communicators. She also advises law firms, providing expert nutrition reports for use in court cases.