This week national news broke around banning fruit juice from being a ‘5 a day’ contribution. Whilst you might not on a daily basis drink loads of fruit juice and be somewhat aware of it’s sugar content, you might still be wondering if it can have a place in your diet?
I’m going to cover off things you should think of when it comes to fruit juice and a number of questions you need to ask yourself to reference your own circumstances in deciding if it’s appropriate and how much.
Sugar in fruit juice
There is no doubt about it, fruit juice is a very high and concentrated source of sugar and therefore fructose (the more addictive part of sugar). With the fibre removed through the juicing process it doesn’t fill you up as the whole fruit equivalent would. For example, drinking a glass of apple juice is much easier than eating 6 apples (no thanks on the latter!).
I’ve mentioned this before when comparing juices vs. smoothies.
Fruit juice is misleading
The other problem with fruit juice is around the marketing of it, particularly when it comes to children. Often it’s touted as ‘healthy’ and marketed at helping you get towards your 5 a day.
Now for some, having a juice might well be healthy – for example someone who hasn’t eaten anything remotely resembling a fruit or vegetable all day and is screaming out for nutrition of any kind.
However if your current health goal is to get a handle over sugar cravings so you don’t lose control when the chocolate box comes out, fruit juice isn’t going to be helping you towards that goal – the small nutrients are going to be completely outweighed for you.
It further supports the point that you really can’t take any ‘healthy’ marketing at face value, you have to put juice into the context for yourself i.e. where you’re at with feeling in control of your cravings and how much other sugar you’re consuming in different forms.
Don’t you get nutrients from juice?
Yes you do, but you can easily get this from vegetables and whole fruit. Many people think that orange juice is the only source of Vitamin C for example. In fact half a cup of red pepper or broccoli is just as good source of vitamin C as orange juice (without the massive sugar hit). Drinking orange juice purely for vitamin C is just not a viable excuse to pump yourself with the sugar.
Ask yourself why you want juice?
This brings me to my next point. When you’re drinking fruit juice, think about what the purpose is
- Is it because you’re thirsty?
- Is it because you’ve always had it at breakfast?
- Is it a source of ‘5 a day for you’?
- Is it because you want a source of a certain vitamin or mineral?
- Is it to get another taste out of your mouth?
- Is it because you don’t like (or are just bored with) plain water?
- Is it to wash down some other food?
- Is it because you’ve always bought it with your Boots meal deal!?
- Is it because you’re craving something sweet?
Only when you work out what you really want from your fruit juice temptation, can you then identify what could be a healthier alternative that won’t induce sugar cravings. When I was on holiday in Skiathos this year, I found myself craving fruity juice drinks because of the thirst element. This helped me find strategies to keep things low sugar but still satisfy the need and core craving I had for cold thirst quenching refreshment that wasn’t a complete sugar overload. You can read about the 5 good tips and strategies I used here.
Moderation and portion control
Counter arguments in support of fruit juice are of course that all things can be moderated and rather than demonise particular foodstuffs, you should focus on portion control. I tend to agree with this in general…once you have your cravings in some sort of check and you call the shots with sugar. Also I will add with fruit juice, many people find it hard to portion control. Once you start gulping, especially if you’re thirsty, it’s actually very hard to stop.
If you’re an individual who finds yourself at the mercy of sugar cravings and you’re currently trying to get control of that, then even moderated fruit juice isn’t a good idea because you’re simply dialling up your palate to sweet once again. It’s not helping you with your main goal of recalibrating your tastebuds.
Natural portion control
When you don’t eat as much sugar or you just eat natural whole fruit forms, your palate will adjust and fruit juice actually becomes sickly sweet and often you can’t drink that much anyway. In this way, you can train yourself to moderate naturally your portions of it based on your own tastebuds without having to measure out a specific amount. I know I can’t really hack fruit juice. Sometimes on social occasions (thinking about my brunch experience in America) I am presented with it and I always feel a bit sick, craving savoury food insanely afterwards.
In summary, be very conscious of fruit juice if you’re trying to get a handle on sugar cravings. It will dial up your sweet preference very quickly and potentially result in continued cravings at other times. It’s also not really necessary and is usually just a habit you need to work to change.
Seek to eat whole fruit instead or dilute as much as you can with fizzy/soda water.
Also beware of using other excuses (e.g. for Vitamin C or for 5 a day) to justify juice intake, when really it’s because you’re just wanting a sweet interesting drink. Identify if fruit juice is just a habit that you need to break e.g. at breakfast or with your Boots meal deal.
Finally, know that it’s contextual. Whilst the headlines call for certain things and make recommendations, it’s only you that can know where you’re at and what impact that juice will really have on your health goals.
If you’ve got someone close to you who’s guzzling fruit juice like no tomorrow, share this article with them. Gentle influence
What are your thoughts on fruit juice? Do you think it should be banned from it’s contribution to our ‘5 a day’? Do you find you have fruit juice cravings and what do you do about them? Comment below and I’ll reply to any other questions.