Will it cause my body problems to stop drinking fruit juices?
August 13, 2013 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Is it healthier to drink fruit juices or to avoid them?

I'm trying to lose weight, and I'm planning to cut as much refined sugar from my diet as I can. I usually have a glass of juice with breakfast. I know that these juices are high in calories/sugar, so I'm thinking of cutting them out of my diet.

But I also have the impression that fruit juices are supposed to be good for you, especially orange juice. I cannot tell if this is accurate or if this impression comes from good marketing. Is it healthier for me to avoid fruit juices or to drink them?
posted by JDHarper to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you want the vitamins, it's healthier to eat the fruit.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [16 favorites]

Fruit is good for you. But juice is high in sugar and low in fiber. Try a whole orange with breakfast. Or a bowl of berries. Or a banana. Or toss whole fruit into a blender with almond or soy milk without added sugar. All delicious, and all much lower in grams of sugar intake.
posted by bearwife at 11:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The healthiest option is to replace your fruit juice with whole, fresh fruit. You get (generally) less sugar, more fiber and, (as tchemgrrl says on preview) you get the vitamins.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

The juice is Nature's way of making you eat your fiber and vitamins.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:18 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Juice is the sugar and the calories of the fruit, without the fiber. Eat an orange instead of having the juice.
posted by inertia at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2013

I was told by my dietician that fruit juice was the one food I should categorically avoid -- everything else in moderation, but fruit juice? no way.
posted by KathrynT at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's slightly less worse than cola.
posted by bleep at 11:21 AM on August 13, 2013

Fresh fruit juice (ie fresh squeezed by you) is most definitely nutritious because it has no added sugar, but if your body metabolizes sugar too extremely then yes, any and all forms of fruit juice will interfere with weight loss.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:22 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fruit has been bred to produce concentrated sugar juice. The juice has a very high proportion of calories to nutrients. If you're trying to cut back on calories, you have better sources for nutrients, including whole fruit.
posted by zippy at 11:35 AM on August 13, 2013

Tomato juice is particularly low in calories, try that, or V8.
posted by ftm at 11:41 AM on August 13, 2013

No, IMO juice is not a healthy choice. Eating whole fruit is a much better choice, because the fibre offsets the sugars.
posted by Joh at 11:44 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Will it cause your body problems if you stop drinking juice? Almost certainly not. And to answer your later question it is almost certainly healthier to skip the juice than to drink it.

But you can answer these questions yourself with a little research that should help you with other decisions, too. Take a look at the juice container nutritional information: how much RDA of vitamins is in there? How many calories? Next, take a look at any nutrition website and determine the nutrition and calories in similar whole fruits and veggies. Pay attention, too, to the fiber count - higher fiber is better for keeping you feeling full and your digestive health.

Juice is not evil - if you greatly enjoy a little juice, have a little juice. If you're trying to determine what best to eat and drink, switching to whole foods is an easy way to cut out calories - without cutting nutrition.
posted by ldthomps at 11:49 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Go fresh. You won't regret it. If you get a macerating juicer (they aren't cheap, but they last a long time) you can juice greens as well as fruit, so you're not getting a neat sugar rush first thing. You won't get the fiber, but juice from a macerating juicer is a bit thicker and still has plenty of nutrients.

You can do this and still calorie control, provided you have a bit of greens or cucumber in your juice and don't just have things like pure apple juice.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:50 AM on August 13, 2013

If I recollect correctly, here's the long answer for why you want to eat a fruit (with fiber!) instead of drink a fruit juice (without fiber!).
posted by aniola at 12:05 PM on August 13, 2013

Studies show issues with fructose in regards to potential metabolic syndrome, diabetes, weight gain, etc. It may not be refined sugar, but it's still a sugar, and it's metabolized very similarly to sucrose and glucose, with only minor differences (which are still being discovered). So if you're trying to keep away from sugar in general, then you need to cut down on fruit, too.

That said, I kinda hate fad-based elimination diets and believe that everything in moderation is key. So it really depends on what you want. If you're doing low carb, a bit of fruit is okay. If you're doing something like Sugar Busters, very little fruit is okay. Maybe one piece a day, provided you're not having any other sugar.

You can still drink juice occasionally, but I wouldn't make it your primary way to be hydrated or anything, any more than one would make their primary hydration coffee or something. I wouldn't have it every day, either, really. Your body will not suffer by eliminating juice; you can glean most of the similar nutrients in fruit from vegetables. Eat the whole fruit if you have fruit at all, in lieu of juices.

If you're looking to lose weight, keep a food diary for a bit. That way you can track just how much energy you're obtaining from fruit juice and other sources. You would be surprised.

The point of eliminating juice isn't because it's unhealthy or 'bad' (it's not, really) it's because it's not nutritionally dense. Energy wise, apple juice and an apple are very similar-- but one will keep you fuller for longer because of the dietary fibre. You know what else is similar, energy wise? A boiled egg is, and a small piece of toast is. It's the same as a glass of juice. So basically the dilemma becomes, if you can only eat 10 things a day or such, it doesn't make sense to have one of them be a glass of juice-- given it's not going to keep you full for long but will have the same calories.

That said, there are no 'bad' foods or 'good' foods-- just foods with different attributes. You even need small amounts of saturated fat in your diet occasionally, believe it or not. The human body needs a bit of everything. Salt. Sugar. So have your juice occasionally. Maybe swap it out for fruit and enjoy it once a week.
posted by Dimes at 12:43 PM on August 13, 2013

Fruit juice is the most useless part of the juice, all fructose no fiber. It's a glass of carbs, which is a dietary problem for most people.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:47 PM on August 13, 2013

...good for you...

The biggest problem with all health food/diet plans is that *nobody knows what the above quote means*. Presumably, by "good for you" you mean "provides some noticeable benefit". Orange juice will prevent you from getting scurvy, which would be a benefit, if you were in any way likely to get it in the first place, which you're not.

If you want to eat/drink high calorie foods, because you think they might have some ancillary benefit, try this:

1) List the benefits you think they provide.
2) Figure out a way to measure whether or not, or to what degree this benefit is being provided.
3) Cut out the food (or alternatively, start eating the food) and see if the degree to which you are receiving the benefit has changed ofter some time period (a week, a month, etc).

Frankly, any reasonably balanced modern western diet that contains the proper amount of calories is not going to be particularly bad for you. Sure, you shouldn't eat nothing but pasta, but that's not balanced. And you shouldn't eat 3,500 calories a day of anything, regardless of how balanced it is, but that's not the proper number of calories.

If you're eating a reasonable number of calories and a reasonable variety of different types of food, you really don't have to worry about whether your food is "good for you" or not. You will be fine.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:55 PM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

The bottom line is that humans have been getting by just fine without morning orange juice for literally millions of years.

Once you're thinking of fine points like whether it's "healthier" (however you even quantify "healthier") to consume or avoid X generally non-poisonous item, you get to a place where there's no real answer to that question because we're humans, and we're built to survive and thrive in a huge diversity of food situations. Eight ounces of juice per day isn't going to kill you.
posted by Sara C. at 1:20 PM on August 13, 2013

If you want to cut down on the amount of sugar per serving, add some carbonated water to your juice.

There is also a difference nutritionally between juice and a juice drink.
posted by oceano at 1:33 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a Weight Watchers member and they discourage you from drinking juice (well, it's high in points, while fruits and vegetables are zero points). Basically you're not getting the fiber that helps you stay full. Juice is a lot of empty calories (like most non-water drinks) so cutting that out may help you out a lot.
posted by radioamy at 2:15 PM on August 13, 2013

I would say that a real juice, that is just squeezed [fruit] with no added junk, is fine, in the standard 6 or 8 ounce serving size. Especially if it is a berry type of juice. But standard OJ or apple juice, or "juice cocktails" that are mostly apple juice with some other juice thrown in? It's mostly a waste of calories.

If you like drinking it, just cut the portion size down to save calories.
posted by gjc at 2:23 PM on August 13, 2013

OK, cool. I sort of figured the right answer was "eat the fruit, lose the juice" but wanted to consult the hive mind to be sure. Thanks!
posted by JDHarper at 2:30 PM on August 13, 2013

Most fruit juices in the market today are plain sugar and pasteurized aka heated in high tempretures that make it worthless. Eat a fruit, forget about juices. That said have you wondered why fruits and milk in this country do not go bad even if they are left sitting out for long periods of time?
posted by ladoo at 4:11 PM on August 13, 2013

This New York Times article based on a recent Journal of the American Medical Association paper agrees with the prevailing wisdom above:
All three experts caution against choosing juice over whole fruit. While the best juice has nothing added, nothing subtracted, some important changes take place when you turn fruit into liquid. Chewing the whole fruit slows down consumption, Dr. Katz said, compared to when you “take an 8-ounce juice and just pour it down the hatch,” which not only makes it easier to ingest more calories, but releases fructose faster into the bloodstream.

Plus, he said, with juicing, “you reduce some of the metabolic benefit of the fiber by pulverizing it so fine; it changes the physical structure.” Commercially produced juices are particularly concerning since they are often filtered, removing fiber altogether. If you opt for juice, tossing whole fruit in a blender rather than squeezing it offers the best chance of retaining most of the fiber, vitamins and minerals.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:11 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's another article talking about the reasons why a piece of fruit is so much more nutritious. Juice is sugar water - the sugar water from 8 oranges in a glass - even if you have the pulp.
posted by smoke at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2013

"slightly less worse than cola" is relatively new thinking and one might be wise to be slightly wary. It is unlikely that what comes out when you squish a fruit is wholly "bad" for you but fruit is simultaneously wholly "good" for you.

But, Google around for Colombian juice recipes, which involve swizzing the whole fruit in the blender with water and a little sugar. (I know, I know -- sugar. The horror) Jugo de pina, for example -- 3 cups pineapple, 1 cup water, ¼ cup crushed ice, 2 tablespoons sugar.

Yes, that will still be bad for you if you swill it all down in one go or something. I think a lot of the current bad rap for juice comes from (1) crappy juice, (2) the death of tiny juice cups. I notice the "juice" linked in oceano's "There is also a difference nutritionally between juice and a juice drink" is sweetened with grape juice concentrate, which is the sort of thing I mean by crappy juice. The NY Times article mentions "Chewing the whole fruit slows down consumption, Dr. Katz said, compared to when you “take an 8-ounce juice and just pour it down the hatch"..." Right, okay, which is a good thing to critique in an era where it's not that common anymore for a restaurant to bring you a 4oz or 6oz juice that you sip at over the course of your entire breakfast. Grapefruit juice didn't suddenly turn into poison, just: grapefruit "cocktail," giant servings, etc. Alter consumption habits... The "juice is terrible!" idea leans heavily on "sugar is bad!" but it is not that terrible in moderation.
posted by kmennie at 10:19 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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