I like my fruit mushy.
August 10, 2010 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Is fruit juice really not as good as regular fruit?

I come from a tropical country where fruit is very easy to get, and very affordable, too. For breakfast, I've always had a huge glass of juice (papaya, cantaloupe, strawberry banana, etc).

So now I moved to the US, and I do the same, with whatever I find first in my fridge (banana and fig today). I simply put them in the blender with water, and take half a litre to the office, and drink it as a (very dense) breakfast. I add flaxseed or silken tofu for a humph.

why is it that many, MANY people tell me this is not as good as eating the proper fruit? I am definitely not buying my juice, it doesn't have preservatives, HCFS or added sugar. When edible, I put the fruit in the blender with the peel, the way I did in my country. I thought this was the epitome of healthy in breakfasts, and it keeps me very satisfied (and the flaxseed makes me very happy, too).

Am I missing out on some fruity treasure when I drink juice? When I have a kid, will it be a bad decision to feed him/her juice for breakfast?

Added note: I never strain it. And I add the flaxseed after blending.
posted by Tarumba to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "Juice" is not a whole blended fruit. It is typically liquid extracted from the fruit with some or all of the solids strained and discarded.

There is no practical difference from what you are drinking and whole fruit. Don't sweat weird Americans.
posted by telegraph at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2010 [18 favorites]

Fruit is high in sugar. So while fruit sugars are better than HFCS, they're still packing calories.

No, feeding juice to a kid isn't bad. In moderation, like all things.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2010

Your smoothie is the exact same thing as eating the fruit. When the fruit gets into your stomach, it will have been pureed by your mouth -- you're just pre-chewing it by putting it in the blender.

The people you're talking to are wrong, because they've been told that fruit juice is not as good as eating fruit. This is true if you're talking about store-bought, strained juice which is missing all the fiber and some of the nutrients and has all kinds of garbage added.
posted by kataclysm at 8:52 AM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Do these people actually hear and understand that you juice the juice yourself rather than buying it? Because if you actually said that, and they still said it's not as good as whole fruit, you could just ask, "Why do you say that?" and see what they say.
posted by Gator at 8:52 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're really not drinking juice. You're drinking whole fruits blended. Usually juice is extracted from the whole fruit and it can take several fruits to make a whole glass. So usually a glass of orange juice has more sugar than one orange.
posted by inturnaround at 8:53 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Telegraph has it - fruit juice should be had in moderation because it is very high in sugar (natural sugars if it is 100% juice, but still sugar and the associated calories). This is because to make juice you extract... well, the juice from the fruit. This happens to be the more sugary part of the fruit so you end up concentrating the sweetness, sugar, and calories of several pieces of fruit into one glass of juice.

You're not doing that. You are making smoothies from whole pieces of fruit. It should be dead simple to figure out what the nutritional content of your drink is - it is simple the nutritional content of each piece of fruit plus whatever you add. Your drink is quite healthy and a great breakfast!
posted by alaijmw at 8:53 AM on August 10, 2010

The big deal with fruit juices, I think, is that it comes with all the calories/sugars of fruit without the fiber & pulp and fullness benefits. So if you're someone who needs to watch calories or you're on some sort of diet, things like fruit juices can often tip the balance calorie-wise. Fruit juice from fruits is good for you. Packaged fruit juice from the store often has a lot of added sugars and doesn't fill you up the way eating a piece of fruit would.

So for a lot of people who are starting from a more basic nutrition angle, the general advice "avoid fruit juices; eat fruit instead" is a good one. However, it's replacing the more subtle nutritional advice to avoid processed foods with added sugars, make sure you're eating enough fiber, be aware and conscious of what you're ingesting. This post from a few years ago goes into more detail.
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 AM on August 10, 2010

I think maybe the only argument one could come up with is that you could ostensibly drink fruit faster than eat it because chewing takes time and effort and all that, which if you weren't paying attention could mean ingesting more of it, and therefore more sugar and calories, than you normally would (not that I agree but IIRC there's a Japanese principle about only eating cooked, not raw veggies, for the same reason in reverse: the notion you can ingest more veggies quickly when cooked down so you get more nutrients...again, I don't buy this myself). But since you're portion controlling when you make it and not going back for seconds and you say it fills you up, that's moot.
posted by ifjuly at 8:55 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I guess it was a vocabulary problem We call it JUGO in Spanish, so I automatically assumed that the most similar word JUICE was the translation. I guess I'm drinking smoothies.

Also, I am calorie-counting, so I am very aware of the calories in my fruits. Thank you for the heads up! I was worrying about the "unhealthy, no-fiber" part.
posted by Tarumba at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Echoing everyone upstream who says you're fine and there's no difference between fruit and your fruit-mash. I do something similar every morning and it's awesome.

Protip: you can added leafy greens with no discernible difference in taste or texture, though the color will change a bit.
posted by punchtothehead at 9:00 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

In addition to the above, it's a lot quicker and easier to drink, say, three apples' worth of juice than to chew and swallow one apple. Generally speaking, any calories you drink are easy to overdo, and most people forget to count them.

Smoothies are good, but can also pack a lot of calories into a glass. However, you're drinking your smoothie as a meal, so you already know it has calories. If you want to keep the sugars down a little and add calcium, blend the fruit with skim milk or yogurt instead of juice.

Most commercially-sold smoothies add sugar to their recipe, and people buy them for a drink or a snack instead of a meal. Your version is a lot healthier.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:04 AM on August 10, 2010

You wont be getting all the fibre benefits of eating whole fruit because your blender will do a pretty good job of breaking it down, far better than your teeth but nutritionally your smoothie is just as good as eating fruit.
posted by missmagenta at 9:16 AM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: We call it JUGO in Spanish, so I automatically assumed that the most similar word JUICE was the translation. I guess I'm drinking smoothies.

Yeah, and particularly healthy smoothies if you're adding flaxseed and tofu.

When you say "juice," people are defaulting to their familiar association with this word: the "JUICE" you (well, not you! but people) buy in a plastic bottle in the store. They've heard that this isn't very healthy, so their comment to you is that "juice" isn't very healthy. Even if you think they should know how you're doing it differently -- even if you explain this to them -- they're likely to tell you what they heard about "juice."

This kind of thing comes up all the time, with all sorts of topics. People learn tidbits of information to go along with certain topics ("juice" = "bad," "fattening," "too much sugar," etc.), and it doesn't mean they have any serious understanding, it's just so they can have something to say when the topic comes up in conversation. You're throwing a curveball their way, and they haven't necessarily thought what you're actually doing with the fruit -- they're just transmitting their talking point about "juice." Your knowledge of the specifics about what you're actually doing trumps their talking points.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:17 AM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Disregard most of what you read here - mefi is very bad at nutrition.

Yes, there are differences between what you consume - pureed whole fruit, vs whole fruit. First, as a couple of people have alluded to - eating the whole fruit is preferable vs puree, because of the insulin response. You eat a whole fruit for a longer time than drinking a puree. But more important is something that has not been mentioned - when you puree fruit (or vegetable), you are breaking down cellulose walls and cells structures in the fruit. The result of that is that when you consume the puree, all of the nutrients and sugar hit your system at once and are immediately available - it's similar what would happen if you isolated the sugar from the fruit separately, the fiber separately etc - the ate them together... what would happen is that the body would absorb the sugar immediately, while passing the fiber along. That results in a massive insulin spike - keep repeating that, and you are increasing your chances for diabetes. This incidentally, is where the argument "it all breaks down in the stomach anyway" goes wrong - no, it does not break down the same way - it breaks down very, very differently, with a completely different physiological effect. In contrast, when you eat whole fruit, the body has to use gastric juices and enzymes to break down the cellular structure and liberate the sugars and nutrients from the cellulose matrix. That takes time, and also absorbs the sugars and nutrients in a small but steady supply - vastly superior way of dealing with blood sugar and absorption. Eat whole fruit rather than a smoothie - your pancreas, your liver and your whole body will thank you.

Bottom line - yes, eating the whole fruit is very much different and very much better than consuming the exact same fruit pureed.
posted by VikingSword at 10:12 AM on August 10, 2010 [57 favorites]

It's easier to get more calories from smoothies/juice than it is from whole fruit. I can easily drink 200 calories worth of orange juice - about 16oz - but it would take a while for me to eat 200 calories worth of oranges - about 2.5 oranges. Similarly, I can take in a lot more calories in a smoothie than I can by eating whole fruit and yogurt/tofu/whatever separately (I have trouble with my appetite sometimes, drinking is easier).

This isn't a good or bad thing. It's neutral. You're counting calories, so you don't accidentally end up making huge, caloric smoothies. I drink a lot of juice, because it's hard for me to maintain my weight and eat enough, and it's helpful for me to get the calories from juice. People who are trying to gain weight can find juice helpful, people who are trying to lose weight can find avoiding juice helpful.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2010

That is interesting info VikingSword -- I stand corrected :)
posted by kataclysm at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2010

Eat whole fruit rather than a smoothie - your pancreas, your liver and your whole body will thank you.

When I had gestational diabetes (in pregnancy), the nutritionist told me this exact thing. I've completely stopped drinking juices and smoothies now.
posted by Dragonness at 10:26 AM on August 10, 2010

VikingSword: I've never heard this before. Could you provide a citation?
posted by reren at 11:51 AM on August 10, 2010

What VikingSword said. I think it also bears mentioning that if you want "the epitome of healthy in breakfasts," you'd do well to consider taking in some protein rather than just sugar. e.g., every morning I make a shake with milk, oats, fruit, and whey.
posted by useyourmachinegunarm at 12:25 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: reren, there are two related but distinct phenomena here. One is the bioavailability of nutrients in mechanically abraded fruits/vegetables vs unprocessed fruits/vegetables. The differences are dramatic - f.ex. even *chopped* (let alone pureed) spinach has a drastically different bioavailability of nutrients vs whole spinach (PMID: 17995848). In this paper, they provide whole tables showing differences between chopped, pureed, liquified, whole etc fruits and vegetables - I have the paper in my files, but only a web-based abstract which I quote here:

"J Food Sci. 2007 Mar;72(2):R21-32.
Food microstructure affects the bioavailability of several nutrients.
Parada J, Aguilera JM.

Dept. of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, Pontificia Univ. Católica de Chile, P.O. Box 306, Santiago, Chile.
There is an increased interest in the role that some nutrients may play in preventing or ameliorating the effect of major diseases (for example, some types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, eye disorders, among others). In this respect, the bioavailability or the proportion of an ingested nutrient that is made available (that is, delivered to the bloodstream) for its intended mode of action is more relevant than the total amount present in the original food. Disruption of the natural matrix or the microstructure created during processing may influence the release, transformation, and subsequent absorption of some nutrients in the digestive tract. Alternatively, extracts of bioactive molecules (for example, nutraceuticals) and beneficial microorganisms may be protected during their transit in the digestive system to the absorption sites by encapsulation in designed matrices. This review summarizes relevant in vivo and in vitro methods used to assess the bioavailability of some nutrients (mostly phytochemicals), types of microstructural changes imparted by processing and during food ingestion that are relevant in matrix-nutrient interactions, and their effect on the bioavailability of selected nutrients.

PMID: 17995848 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]"

The other phenomenon is pretty common knowledge - google glycemic index and glycemic load. These are key concepts in nutrition (that also have applicability for f.ex. diabetes). In general you try to consume food that has low glycemic load - the same number of calories can have a drastically different physiological effect depending on the glycemic load. The speed of uptake is impacted by many factors, including gastric emptying speed - which is why nutritionists recommend adding a bit of fat to your carbs to slow down gastric emptying and thus lower the insulin curve, while the processing including pureeing speeds gastric emptying (less time needed to break down the food).
posted by VikingSword at 12:30 PM on August 10, 2010 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: I was trying to add protein with the tofu.

VikingSword, Thank you so much! I am eating my fruits from now on, and having juice on weekends. I am envisioning delicious fruit salads with oats and pieces of tofu for breakfast.
posted by Tarumba at 12:54 PM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was trying to add protein with the tofu.

FYI, silken tofu is 5.3% protein by weight. An 84g serving contains 4g of protein. Whey isolate is 90% protein by weight, with 2 tablespoons containing 18g of protein.
posted by useyourmachinegunarm at 1:26 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also - all of that sugar all at once might be contributing to your mid-morning crashes that you asked about earlier.
posted by barnone at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2010

I guess I'm drinking smoothies

yeah, no, don't say that either. here's what most people think smoothies are: some blended fruit along with a pile of strained/filtered juice, plus milk and or cream and or ice cream, plus protein powder/whey powder, plus peanut butter and jelly, plus crumbled cookies.

totally not the same. but that's what lots of people think is healthy.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:44 PM on August 10, 2010

Best answer: Considering the info in VikingSword's answer, maybe you could split the difference and instead of blending a smoothie and busting up every cell in the fruit, you could mash it up with like a potato masher and shake it up with water. That way you could still drink or half-spoon, half-drink it (although it would be pulpy and lumpy), and many of the fruit's cell walls would still be intact (as they are when you swallow lumpily chewed fruit rather than a smooth puree).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:11 PM on August 10, 2010

Also - all of that sugar all at once might be contributing to your mid-morning crashes that you asked about earlier.

In addition, I would recommend that if you're asking anyone (whether us or a doctor, etc.) about advice relating to this beverage, the only thing you can say is that you blend whole fruits and drink/eat the puree. To describe this as "fruit juice" or a "smoothie" will lead people to give off-point advice.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:34 PM on August 10, 2010

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