Juice is not equivalent to fruit. In fact, juice is a far less healthy option than a real piece of fresh fruit. Despite the fact that freshly-squeezed juice has a health halo and is marketed as natural, nutritious and fat-free (thanks to the growing number of juice bars everywhere), juice is increasingly coming under fire for its significant content of fruit sugars and the fact that it’s so easy to over consume.
Australia's official Eat for Health Guide formally recognizes just half a glass of juice (a small 125mL or 4 oz) as ONE serve of fruit. This counts as one of the TWO serves of fruit a day that’s recommended for older children, teens and adults.
Yes you can eat more fruit depending on your age and activity but there’s no need to overdo fruit if you’re not burning it off. Fruit has a different nutrition profile to vegetables, having more natural fructose sugar and kilojoules (calories) than vegetables but less fibre, fewer minerals and fewer natural protective phytochemicals too.
However, the Guide is quite stern - with good sense, I do admit – when it adds this qualifier to fruit juice:
“Only to be used occasionally as a substitute for other foods in the group”.
So you can swap a small glass (125mL) of 100% juice with no added sugar every now and then for:
- 1 piece (150g) medium sized apple, orange, pear or other fruit OR
- 2 pieces (150g) of apricots, plums, peaches, kiwi fruit or other small fruit
- 1 cup (150g) diced, cooked or canned fruit.
But clearly you can’t guzzle a 600ml huge container of fruit juice from a juice bar each and every day. Nor pop a 250mL popper in your child’s lunch box either.
What’s the problem with fruit juice?
Fruit is changed when it gets blended or pulverised into juice. It’s no longer equivalent to whole fresh fruit and here are 7 reasons why not:
1. Its intact whole cell structure has been broken down so no chewing is needed – you just swallow it down. It’s no longer a whole food.
2. The natural sugars in juice (mostly fructose with some sucrose) are absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream than those in whole fruit so it’s similar to a soft drink. See No 5
3. There’s little fibre which normally acts as a natural brake to overdoing it. Ponder this: you can drink a glass of apple juice in a minute but you can’t chomp your way through 3 or 4 whole apples which is what went into that glass.
If you've ever juiced your own, you know that it takes a lot of fruit to make a single glass of juice and you throw away a lot of fibre. I have a citrus press and when oranges are in season, we buy a case and use them to squeeze fresh juice (once a year is fine). I now know that I use 3 small or 2 large oranges to obtain ONE half glass of juice. So one orange yields around a quarter of a glass of juice which is 70mL.
4. Drink juice and you won't feel as full. Drinking just isn’t as satisfying as eating the same amount of kilojoules (calories) in food. It’s called ‘liquid calories’ and there’s mounting evidence to connect them to the obesity epidemic. Put simply, fluids pass into our bodies more rapidly than food. A 2013 study reported that while some fruits were protective (apples and berries), drinking fruit (in the form of juice) actually increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
5. At anywhere from 6 to 14 per cent sugars, juice has as much sugar as classic fizzy drinks and cordials. Even 100% fruit juices still have 11 per cent fructose (natural fruit sugar) and water. Think of them as drinks with all the sugar but none of the fibre. Vegetable-fruit combos have fewer sugars e.g. orange juice with kale and spinach.
|Fruit drink 35% orange juice||10.8|
|Fruit drink 35% apple juice||11.7|
|Fruit drink 35% pineapple juice||11.7|
|Fruit drink, 25% tropical||9.4|
|Fruit juice blend (orange, apple, pineapple, grape)||8.4|
|Orange juice (home-squeezed)||7.7|
|Cola soft drink (for comparison)||10.9|
Source: NUTTAB 2010 online at
6. Many – but not all - juices are acidic e.g. orange, grapefruit and pineapple juices (one reason why they’re so refreshing) so sipping one over the day can increase your risk of dental erosion.
7. Juices are not low kilojoule (calorie) drinks. One 250ml (8oz) glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice contains 365 kJ / 87 Calories and is the equivalent of two oranges. However it has a fraction of the fibre and twice the quantity of sugars. See below:
|250ml glass orange juice||20g carbs (sugars)||365kJ||0.5g fibre|
|1 orange||8g carbs (sugars)||175kJ||2.4g fibre|
You’ll get all of the vitamins (notably vitamin C), minerals (notably potassium), beneficial plant chemicals (phytochemicals) and sugars that are extracted from the whole fruit. You won’t get much of the fibre, and depending on the fruit, you may not get any of it. For example, orange juice contains no fibre (even if it has pulp) because most of the fibre is found in the membranes, which are lost during the process of juicing.
So are Australians drinking too much juice?
Yes indeed. The 2014 Australian Health Survey reports that while 60 per cent of us eat some fruit only 54 per cent eat enough to meet the recommended number of two serves a day. Be pleased as that’s way better than for vegetables! Bear in mind that juice was NOT classified with fruit but as a ‘non-alcoholic beverage’ along with tea, coffee, cordial, soft drink, water and electrolyte drink.
As a nation, we drink 283mL (8 ¼ oz) per day of fruit juice and juice drinks combined. This means over one glass a day which is a lot and is 100 per cent more than the recommended juice maximums.
These figures are averaged over the whole population. Two to three year olds have the highest intake of juices of us all with some chugging tons of the stuff.
Think of juice as ‘liquid calories’ that don’t satiate, are all too easy to over-consume and don’t pack in the fibre of whole fruit. Yes it’s healthy (in small doses), fat-free and has a divine flavour but it’s still high in natural sugars and ranks on a par with soft drink. Sip with caution. And eat a piece of whole fruit with a glass of water. Or dilute your juice with water or ice.