Drinking fruit juice may be a healthier alternative to drinking soda, but is fruit juice healthy? Is it actually a good choice for a balanced diet?
The answer is “it depends.” We caught up with Nutrisystem Registered Dietitian Courtney McCormick to find out the facts about fruit juice. How healthy is it and how does it measure up to the real thing?
Fruit Juice Vs. Fruit
When you compare real fruit with fruit juice, there isn’t much competition—real fruit is the clear winner. Although fruit juice can provide vitamins and minerals, when you drink juice as opposed to eating the whole fruit, you end up missing out on all the fiber, says McCormick. And fiber is important when trying to lose weight, as it is the key to staying fuller for a longer period of time.
In addition, fruit juice is more calorie-dense than whole fruit. For example, a half cup of 100 percent apple juice has 60 calories, compared to only 28 calories for a half cup of apple slices. You’ll feel fuller after the slices and also consume fewer calories.
Since 100 percent fruit juice does provide some essential vitamins and minerals—and it’s a much better choice than soda and other sweet drinks—the occasional glass is not a bad thing, says McCormick. It’s just important that you are mindful of the serving size. You should keep your juice intake to a half cup and limit yourself to one serving per day.
It’s also very important that you choose 100 percent fruit juice—not “fruit drinks.” There’s a big difference. Beverages advertised as fruit drinks in general contain very little actual fruit juice and a whole lot of added sugar. This is especially true of fruity beverages marketed to kids, warns McCormick. Don’t take the name of the juice at face value. Dig deeper and look at the ingredients. A lot of juice products claim to be fruit juices, but wind up having very little actual fruit.
You’ll also find that many of these products are watered down. Look closely at the ingredients and you’ll often see the sugars in each serving are reduced because the juice was diluted with water. A healthier option would be to make your own reduced sugar version by diluting 100 percent fruit juice with water at home. There’s no sense in buying watered down fruit juice when you can easily make your own—stretching a bottle of 100 percent fruit juice much further. You can even try seltzer water to add a little fizz, suggests McCormick.
Juicing at Home
Juicing has long been a popular health craze but just like store-bought juice, you are still removing most of the fiber when you juice your fruits. The only real benefit to making your own juice is that it’s fresher than store-bought.
McCormick says that she would recommend making smoothies at home over making juice. For one, a blender is a lot easier to clean than a juicer. And there is an abundance of smoothie recipes out there, which add in vegetables—like kale or spinach—to stretch the serving, while also reducing the calories. You can get a big, beneficial boost from vitamins and minerals in healthy smoothies, says McCormick. Check out these 10 Tasty Smoothies You Can Make With Your Nutrisystem Shakes to get your fill. >
Just keep in mind the serving size with your smoothies as well. Calories can quickly add up when you throw in multiple fruits or additional sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Is fruit juice healthy when it’s loaded with all of this extra nonsense? Probably not.
So, Is Fruit Juice Healthy? The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, an occasional glass of 100 percent fruit juice will not do any harm to your diet. Fruit juice can be a healthy treat that dishes out lots of vitamins and minerals. But because it takes a larger quantity of fruit to breakdown into a serving of juice, juice is automatically going to have a much higher calorie count when comparing ounce for ounce. Plus, when you opt for the juice, you miss out on all that beneficial fiber found in fruits. So your best bet? Whenever possible, opt for fresh fruit over juicing. When you do chose juice, stick to a small serving or stretch it further by adding water or seltzer.