Fruit juices are a staple of the American diet. It’s so easy to grab one on your way out the door or as an after-work treat, but you may not know that they can be more harmful than helpful and it’s time to rethink what you’re drinking. Fruit juice is just sugar in liquid form, which is why it doesn’t fill you up like other foods do and often leads people to overeat. In fact, one study showed that people who drank a glass of fruit juice consumed an average of 316 and 122 fewer calories, respectively, at lunch. It’s also associated with increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. But how much is too much? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting your child’s intake to 4-6 ounces per day but what about the rest of us? There isn’t really an exact number suggested for adults but here are some tips on figuring out whether you’re getting too many juices:
How to Recognize Your Juice Addiction
Are you drinking more than one juice a day? Would you like to drink juice all the time, every day? If so, there may be an issue. While fruit is healthy in moderation, juicing fruits and vegetables strips them of their fiber content that keeps us full and slows down the release of sugars into the body. It’s no wonder juice feels like liquid sugar!
Do your teeth hurt or do you get frequent cavities? Dr. Robert Lustig, author of “Fat Chance” says that juices are worse for our teeth than soda because they contain even more sugar per ounce than soda — sometimes double the amount! He goes on to say that any food with 10-12 grams of sugar per serving has enough to cause cavities.
Do you feel better when you’re juicing? According to a study by Appetite Journal, people who juiced for three days showed signs of depression and anxiety. When they stopped drinking juice, the heightened moods returned in two weeks’ time. That’s because fruit juices are high in sugar, which is linked with mood swings and depressive episodes.
Do you use juice as a part of your weight loss plan? Some believe that only eating fresh fruit and vegetables is best for losing weight — and while fruits and veggies are great for health (including helping keep those sugary cravings down), this can actually lead to a slower metabolism and feeling hungry more often. The fiber in fruits and veggies helps us feel fuller longer so we’re less likely to snack between meals, which can actually lead to weight gain. A better plan is to eat whole fruits as a healthy snack or part of a meal and get your juice fix only occasionally.
Is it difficult for you to go more than 6 hours without craving sugar? Our bodies enter “reward mode” when we consume something super sweet like fruit juices because our brains link them with survival. That’s why we crave these things even when we aren’t hungry, or even thirsty! Eating regularly throughout the day (with no more than 3-4 hours between snacks) will keep those cravings at bay by keeping blood sugars stable.
Do you have trouble staying hydrated without juices? Juices, even those from fruits and veggies, are mostly water but lack the essential electrolytes and nutrients found in whole foods. Drinking juice is a quick way to get rehydrated but should only be used in extreme cases when you can’t stomach eating anything solid (like with food poisoning). For your daily hydration needs, it’s best to stick with water and milk–the natural kind from a cow or almond!
Does it take over your grocery list each week? According to Eat This Not That, our bodies process fruit as sugar which means that they’re bad for us if we eat them in excess. While some fruit is okay once in a while, most people aren’t thinking twice about how many oranges they’re juicing for breakfast or how many apples they’re snacking on at the office. Those foods are meant to be consumed in moderation and when eaten as part of a healthy diet (rather than daily).
Do you stay away from certain restaurants because you don’t have a “juice friendly” option? Our bodies work hard to digest solid food by breaking it down so that our cells can access the vitamins, minerals, fats, protein, and carbs contained within. Juices strip all those nutrients from the original source making it very difficult for our bodies to break them down completely. As such, they’ll pass through quickly without giving us much benefit at all! If you must get your juice fix out to eat try getting your juice made with the least amount of fruits possible–we love carrot and beet juices!
Do you feel like you’re flushing your money down the toilet? Juicing isn’t as simple as throwing some carrots in a juicer and calling it good. Many fruits and veggies are actually quite bad for our digestive systems so they should only be consumed raw, which means that most of the juice’s value is lost during the processing. If you want to drink more whole foods, make smoothies by blending in yogurt or milk for even better benefits.
Do you get a headache when going too long without juice? When we drink fruit juices, our bodies react faster than if we were eating whole fruits because of their liquid form. The average fruit is actually designed to be digested by an animal over a period of 12 hours so if we drink fruit juice too quickly, it sits in our digestive system until it ferments which can lead to bloating and discomfort.
Do you ever feel like slowing down on the juice? While juices are obviously better than soda, they’re still high in sugar (which makes them bad for teeth) and often have less nutritional value than whole fruits because of their reduced fiber content. Rather than having a glass of juice every day, consider switching to water and eating your fruits raw whenever possible instead!
Does your juice ever stay longer than 24 hours? Fruits and veggies are designed to be eaten fresh. The acids in juices make it difficult for the body to break down so they should only be consumed within an hour of making them (or blended as smoothies). If you’re juicing, do it once per week for maximum benefit and if you store your juice, keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days at most before throwing it out!
Do you drink your juice alone or with a meal? Fruit juices have little nutritional value compared to their whole counterparts but are still high in sugar which can lead to excessive weight gain around the midsection over time. However, our bodies digest fruit just fine when we consume them as part of a meal so try adding a serving of fruit along with some healthy fats (like low-fat yogurt or skim milk) and protein (such as peanut butter on whole wheat toast) to give it your best chance at being metabolized.
Are you drinking the same juice every day? We know these are hard questions to answer for yourself, but think about it: do you drink the same juice each morning for breakfast? Afternoon snack? Dinner treat? If so, you might want to switch things up because juicing the same thing over and over can cause our bodies’ natural defenses to fight off that flavor instead of digesting nutrients. Drink up different juices every week for maximum benefits!
Do you feel like you can’t go an entire day without juice? While there are some benefits to juicing, the main reason why we gain benefits is because our bodies can’t break down solid food as well. Make sure you eat a healthy whole meal every day (lots of veggies and whole grains) in addition to your daily glass of fruit juice for maximum benefit!
We know that it’s hard to resist the urge to drink up when you see all those bright colors packed into such a small package, but just remember that fresh fruit offers more nutrients than juices and may be easier for our bodies to digest if they’re consumed with a little bit of caution. Before making any changes, make sure to talk things over with your doctor first especially if you have any existing medical conditions.
Here are six reasons why you should get sober with fruit juices and if you always find yourself needing more than one cup a day:
1. Fruit juice is high in sugar – even more than soda!
One glass of orange juice has more sugar than a can of soda. So, if you think drinking fruit juice is much healthier than drinking soda, think again. Some people will even drink an entire liter or more per day! In terms of sugar content, fruit juices are about as bad for you as soda and other sugary drinks. It’s also important to remember that juice always contains added sugars. Even if it doesn’t come from added sugarcane syrup like many sodas do, any form of processed fruit (such as apple concentrate) is going to contain added sugars too.
2. Fruit juice contains a lot of calories and can lead to weight gain
If you’re drinking juice, your body isn’t getting the protein and fiber that come along with eating whole fruits. That means your stomach will be empty and you’ll soon feel hungry again – which is likely to cause you to overeat or snack on less nutritious food. The result? More calories in and fewer calories out. You may have heard that fruit juice can help fight obesity, but it just doesn’t hold up. It’s important to remember that any kind of weight loss plan requires a calorie deficit! Drinking liquids does not save you from a calorie deficit because they don’t make people feel full.
3. Fruit juices are often made from concentrate, which has been heated and processed
When you juice a fruit, the process creates heat and friction. These processes can destroy some nutrients and enzymes naturally found in raw fruits (and vegetables). So, rather than getting all of the benefits of fruit’s naturally occurring prebiotic fiber, you’re left with a concentrated sugar drink. Because it has been processed, fruit juice is also more likely to contain chemical residues, such as pesticides that have been used on the crop or chemicals involved in processing.
4. Juice does not contain fiber, so it’s easily absorbed by the body without any nutritional value
Unlike solid fruit, juices don’t contain any fiber or pulp. Fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar into the blood and slows the release of fructose from the liver. Without this natural brake, you absorb all of your juice’s sugars quickly. As an added bonus, fiber also fills you up and keeps you full for a long time. This is why including whole fruits in your diet is beneficial to weight management.
5. Drinking too much fruit juice will lead to dehydration as you’re not getting enough water
Water makes up about 70 percent of the human body and is needed daily to carry nutrients throughout your system, regulate body temperature, digest food, and more. It’s also important for your kidneys to function properly. If you drink only fruit juice and not enough water, it can lead to dehydration. Plus, if you’re drinking orange or apple juice every day without any other liquids (like water), this can cause long-term problems with your teeth and bones over time.
6. The acidity level in fruit juice is harmful for your teeth because it can remove tooth enamel over time
So, while fruit juice may be acidic enough to dissolve metal, it can also erode the enamel of your teeth. Acidic drinks like soda and some fruit juices are particularly bad for your teeth because they’re very good at dissolving tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is usually the strongest part of your body (even stronger than bone), but acidity weakens it over time. This causes discoloration in the appearance of your teeth and leaves them more susceptible to cavities and decay. Drinking orange juice every day will cause serious damage to your oral health over time because the high acidity levels slowly wear away at your tooth enamel.
The Bottom Line: Fruit juice is not a healthy substitute for whole fruits, but this doesn’t mean you should avoid it!
Sugary fruit juices are not a nutrient-dense way to keep your body healthy and strong. If you enjoy juice occasionally, that’s fine – but include it as part of a balanced diet alongside whole fruits and vegetables. It should never be consumed in place of fresh produce. Even if you’re using 100% pure fruit juice without added sugars, it still doesn’t have the same fiber content as whole fruit. Since it lacks this key component, you won’t feel full or satisfied after drinking it which increases the chance of over-consumption.
It’s best to avoid sugary drinks like fruit juices for weight management (and overall health). Instead, turn to more natural sources of hydration, like water or unsweetened tea. Drinking a sufficient amount of fluid is extremely important for your health and well-being, so make sure to add plenty of water to your day!
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