The not-so-sweet truth about fruit juice

Berry juice is better for your teeth than citrus juice, say experts.

I believe most folks today would choose to drink or feed their children fruit juice opposed to soda and other fizzy drinks as a healthy choice. However, some health experts warn that fruit juice contains as much sugar as these other drinks and can be even more harmful to you. So, what’s the problem?

Lack of fibre is perhaps the most crucial. Apparently, juicing releases the sugars in fruit and eliminates the insoluble fibre. As the sugar in fruit is fructose, it can only be processed by the liver and is absorbed relatively quickly. If the fruit is consumed in its raw state, the fibre slows down the absorption making us feel full. Enjoying fruit in juice form prevents the liver from properly doing its job, which can lead to such health problems as liver disease, type-2 diabetes, increased fat production and obesity. Experts say that “fructose fools our brains into thinking we are still hungry – causing us to overeat – and is addictive, making us crave more”.

A second potential problem, according to some experts, is fruit juice’s connection to tooth decay. If the fibre is removed and you are basically drinking sugar and splashing it on your teeth directly, this is definitely a contributor. And yes, even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are naturally sugary, so there’s no relief there.

To further catalyze the problem is portion control. Nutritionists say you should consume five helpings of fruit and veggies a day. A small glass of juice can only account for one helping no matter how much of the stuff you consume. Why? Once again, it doesn’t contain the fibre available in the raw form.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m parched and looking for something to put out the fire, I can put away a lot of juice. According to those in the know, there are some ways to make fruit juice somewhat healthier. If using a juicer, make sure to blend in some veggies, berries and a small banana. Include the juice of half a lemon or a splash of apple cider vinegar to mask the taste of the veggies, making it sweeter so you don’t have to add more fruit or sweetener. Also throw in some flaxseeds or chopped walnuts as these fats slow down the absorption of sugar.

To fight against its affect on your teeth, try for apple or berry juice over citrus, as the acid in citrus fruit is more likely to erode enamel. Also, wait one hour after drinking before brushing your teeth, giving enamel time to harden. Heavily dilute fruit juice with water, always drink it with food and never just before bedtime. Avoid drinking it from a bottle, as it aggressively floods the teeth with the liquid increasing potential damage. And finally, if purchasing commercial fruit juice, choose those with no added sugar.

So are you ready to give up your fruit juice just yet? It seems rather drastic and goes against everything we have known for a lifetime. It can’t all be bad news, you say. Doesn’t pure fruit juice provide some vitamin C? I can’t see consuming a small glass, say 150 ml a day, complimented by other raw versions (fruit or veggies), doing harm. Everything in moderation! Regardless, that glass of OJ or grapefruit juice with breakfast in the morning sure helps rehydrate and tastes so darn good. It would be very difficult to part with.

Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator, judge

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