Monday Medical: Skip the juice; choose fruit instead
June 18, 2017
Before you reach for that glass of juice, you might want to keep in mind what's in it: a lot of sugar and carbohydrate, with none of the fiber real fruit contains.
"I always recommend that people eat fruit instead of drinking juice," said Cara Marrs, a registered dietician nutritionist with Yampa Valley Medical Center. "If you eat an orange, you're getting fiber, carbohydrate and all of the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. Juice has lots of natural sugars and carbohydrates, without the benefit of fiber."
Last month the American Academy of Pediatricians began recommending that children younger than age 1 avoid all fruit juice. The recommendations also limit how much juice older children should consume each day to no more than four ounces for age 1 to 3, four to six ounces for age 4 to 6 and eight ounces for age 7 to 18.
"That doesn't mean they should have that much juice every day," Marrs said. "That's the maximum amount."
Toddlers should not be given juice in bottles or sippy cups, as drinking juice throughout the day exposes teeth to sugar and can lead to decay.
It can also result in a sweet tooth.
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"One problem is when children are drinking juice, they get very accustomed to that sweet taste, and it creates a pattern," Marrs said. "So, something like water is not as appealing."
Marrs recommends that adults also have no more than a cup of juice per day. Otherwise, it's easy to drink away a large portion of their daily calories.
"We have a big problem in the United States with drinking our calories," Marrs said. "Plus, drinking juice gives you a lot of natural sugar at one time. It may raise your blood sugar pretty quickly, which can be damaging."
While the natural sugars in fruit juice are preferable to those added to soda and energy drinks, a diet with too much sugar can lead to a range of health issues, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more. Not getting enough fiber is also problematic.
"I personally think lack of fiber is one of the biggest drivers of nutrition-related disease in the country," Marrs said.
If you're going to drink juice, be sure it's 100-percent juice, with natural sugars instead of added sugars.
Using a juicer is better, but be sure to bulk up on vegetables instead of fruits. If you want a homemade juice to have a sweet flavor, Marrs recommends adding some sweeter vegetables, such as beets or carrots, some lemon or ginger, or a quarter of an apple.
If you're finding it hard to give up a juice habit, try a glass of sparkling water with a splash of the sweet stuff. It doesn't take much to impart a good flavor. Or, keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator that has sliced cucumber, lemons and limes, strawberries or other fruits for a refreshing flavor.
"That is really subtle, but it really imparts a nice flavor," Marrs said. "A lot of people don't like just plain water. But we can change our tastes and learn to like plain water."
Keep in mind that our bodies can only store a certain amount of carbohydrates to use for energy. Anything in excess of what's needed can turn into fat or circulate through the body as extra sugar in the blood.
"It's important to stop drinking so many carbs and so much sugar," Marrs said. "Try a piece of fruit, instead. It's just as delicious, much more satisfying and an overall healthier choice."
Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.