Think back to your breakfast this morning. What did you have to drink? Think back to the last time you had breakfast at a restaurant. Were you offered juice? Do you allow your kids to drink juice? Is there currently juice residing in your refrigerator?
Juice often has a reputation synonymous with health. Natural, fresh squeezed fruit juice. It falls under the health halo when it’s associated with fruit. Some juices can be healthful and others can be just sugar water hiding beneath a healthy name.
This post is a what I’m calling a “pre-post” before an event happening this coming week. I was approached by Tropicana to attend a two day “Grove to Glass” tour of their orange groves and orange juice processing plant in Bradenton Florida. After subbing out my 5 classes that I’ll be missing, I’ll be on a plane down to sunny Florida for two days of learning about how Tropicana’s orange juice is made and a “science based” discussion about the benefits of 100% juice. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get my toes in the sand and dip them into the Gulf of Mexico!
So let’s start first with me answering my own questions above. My breakfast this morning did not include juice. I had a glass of skim milk (I’m not a coffee drinker, never have been and probably never will). The last time I went out to breakfast, I did order a small orange juice and a water. Do I allow Corrine to have juice? Occasionally. And when I do, I dilute it by half. Joelle doesn’t get juice, she’s only 9 months! No, my refrigerator doesn’t have any juice in it at the moment. But I do buy it. I’ll talk more about my guidelines later.
Juices are everywhere and not limited to traditional orange, apple, and grape juice. Beverage companies come up with new juice (and juice/vegetable) blends that it’s hard to keep up. There’s usually a whole 1/2 or whole aisle dedicated to it in the grocery store and then some in the refrigerated section. So it’s understandable if you’re slightly confused on which juice to buy.
Here’s my stance on juice. It can be apart of a healthy balanced diet as long as you’re aware of how much it is regularly consumed. Often times, juices have added sugar and you have to read the nutrition label to determine if this is the case. If the juice is 100% juice, it’s likely proudly labeled as such on the front of the package. That doesn’t necessarily make it any more “healthier.” The sugars are from the fruit and/or fruit concentrate.
Taking orange juice as an example:
In 8 oz of juice, you will have consumed the juice from 2 – 4 medium sized oranges. The typical orange contains 10-20 grams of sugar depending on the size. So it makes sense that sugar content can be upwards to 40 grams of sugar per 8 oz of juice! And these are the naturally occurring sugars found in oranges: glucose and fructose. I would never sit down and eat 4 oranges at once, but you can easily drink their juice in 1 eight ounce glass.
The juicing process removes fiber and pulp of the fruit leaving the fruit sugars, water and water soluble vitamins. Without the fiber from the fruit, your body will produce a large blood glucose spike and insulin response to the sugars in the juice. This is why a diabetic is given orange juice during a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) event.
Why should you be concerned about large blood sugar spikes? If you’re overweight and trying to lose weight, consistent and regular massive swings in blood sugar can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity and possible development of type 2 diabetes. Even if you’re not overweight, large increases in blood sugar will ultimately lead to a crash leaving you feeling tired.
I’m not at all demonizing juice or labeling it as “bad for you.” I don’t like to label any foods that way. Read this post about “good” or “bad” foods and the use of the word “healthy.” I talk about how foods shouldn’t be considered good or bad for you because that sets you up for black and white thinking. “I ate a bad for me food now I must be a failure.” That can lead down a slippery slope towards orthorexia. Don’t know what that is? Check out this post to clue you in how eating healthy can be an obsession.
Juices typically are included under the “health halo” which means something disguised as healthy because of the ingredients. Insert sarcasm here = It’s made from fruit and has lots of vitamins and minerals so it must be healthy, right? Beverage companies will proudly display many claims on their labels to get you to buy their juice, 100% juice, all natural, made with vegetables. All which are true, but having the real fruit or vegetable will be better for your diet in the end.
An example of a health halo juice:
The label says 100% juice and 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables. Yet, the label reads reconstituted vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots tomatoes and beets) along with fruit juice concentrate. You are missing the fiber and phytonutrients that come with the intact fruit and vegetable. But it’s considered a serving of fruit/vegetable because because big beverage companies lobbied the FDA to include juice as a serving of fruit and in this case vegetable. It’s not a bad product, it may be an occasional drink but not a daily occurrence and certainly doesn’t fulfill a serving of fruit or vegetable in my opinion.
So how can you include juice in your diet? Here are my guidelines to choosing the right juice.
- Consider juice to be an occasional beverage. Select water most of the time and flavor it up with frozen fruits like grapes, strawberries and lemon. When you do chose juice, limit it to a small portion. Remember juices tend to be really concentrated, so be aware of the amount of sugar and calories within each serving.
- Look for 100% juice on the label. This will indicate the juice is derived from fruits and not artificial flavors, sugars and colors. But read the label carefully to look for these added items.
- Dilute the juice for little ones and/or limit to small serving sizes. Whatever juice I serve Corrine is diluted by half and she doesn’t seem to mind. It’s sweet enough.
- Organic isn’t necessarily better. Compare a traditional bottle of apple juice to an organic product. The nutrition facts will likely be very similar. If you buy organic fruits, more power to you to buy organic juice. For me, it’s not worth the extra money.
So there you have it. My professional opinion about juices as it stands now. I’ll check in after my event at the Tropicana groves and plant tour and let you know if my opinion has changed. I’m off to sunny Florida on Wednesday and couldn’t be more happy to see the beach and ocean.