With the Government pushing their 5-A-Day messages and health professionals constantly promoting the benefits of fruits and vegetables, you would hope that people are starting to get the message to “just eat more”.
However, as is always the case with anything ‘nutrition’, there has been some conflicting information and confusion around the concept of fruit juice. This has been highlighted by recent research suggesting that ‘whole fruits protect against diabetes but juice is a risk factor for diabetes’.
Official recommendations suggest fresh juice should count towards no more than one of your 5 a day. The reasons behind this are as follows:
Whole fruits – When you consume a whole fruit you are consuming the flesh, the skin and the pulp. Each of these parts contain different sets of nutrients – such as fiber and flavonoids in the skin and vitamins and minerals in the flesh and even more fibre in the pulp. The nutrients in each component are likely to interact with each other, enhancing their digestion and absorption into the body.
Fruit juice – With fruit juice, the skin and pulp of the fruits are often removed which therefore reduces the number of nutrients and leaves a much more concentrated source of sugar. This concentrated source of sugar results in rapid increases in blood glucose and therefore blood insulin levels which may be detrimental for health and increase the risk of diabetes (see more on sugar’s effect on health here). Additionally some juices contain added sugar and/or sweeteners so you always need to check the labels.
So what is the answer?
- Fruit juice is ok to have occasionally as long as it is 100% juice (with no added sugar) and you keep to no more than around one glass of juice a day.
- Making fruit juice at home, including skin, pulp, flesh and even some vegetables, can help to increase the fibre, vitamin and mineral content of the juice. However, it is still likely too have an increased affect on blood glucose levels.
- If you are a big drinker of soft and fizzy drinks however, swapping to fresh juice is still a better option as it contain extra vitamins and minerals which are not found in the empty calories of other soft drinks.
Children under 5 do not need fruit juice in any form. Milk and water are the only tooth friendly sources of fluid and these are what should be encouraged. However if you do decide to give your child juice it should be:
- 100% juice
- diluted with water
- offered only in a cup or free flowing beaker and
- offered only at mealtimes.
For more information see our blog on appropriate drinks for children.