What juice is the best to buy for your family? There sure are plenty of choices, with new fresh, frozen, refrigerated, bottled and boxed juices seemingly coming out every week, plus products fortified with vitamins, minerals, sterols, phytochemicals and fiber. And that’s not to mention organic, sweetened, unsweetened, artificially sweetened, and light varieties of juice. The options can be mind boggling.
Here’s the classic advice: it is better to eat the whole fruit than drink the juice. Fruit comes packaged with many beneficial substances that don’t make it into juice. It takes longer to eat a piece of fruit, giving you a sense of satisfaction and fullness. And, you process calories you drink differently than calories you chew.
In addition, experts say you should drinks 8 ounces of juice, maximum, and that should be 100% juice. That means all the other bottles, cans and boxes could be left in the store. Bottom line: there is no nutritional reason to drink juice, except for enjoyment.
For children the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no juice for children under 6 months. Between 6 months and 6 years juice should always be given in a cup, never in a bottle, with a maximum of 4 to 6 ounces of 100% juice per day. Between 7 and 18 years, 8 to 12 ounces daily, is tops. By age 5, most children in the US are drinking more sweetened fruit drinks daily than 100% real fruit juice.
Fruit beverages come in many variations – 100% real juice, drinks, ades, cocktails, and punches. !00% juice is just that; juice with nothing added. It is always clearly stated on the label. No other fruit beverage can make that claim, though some do state the percentage of real fruit juice in the beverage. Drinks, ades, punches and cocktails are always less than 100% juice, often containing 10% real juice or less, and in some cases there is no real fruit juice at all. Many advertise that they contain exotic juices like acai, pomegranate, or mangosteen. Though all these exotic fruits are healthy for you, most fruit drinks contain little of the exotic juice and are often boosted with the addition of white grape, pear or apple juice.
The majority of fruit drinks are sweetened and many are fortified with extra nutrients or phytochemicals. Vitamin C is the most common addition. Calcium is now being added to many varieties, as well as plant sterols to lower cholesterol, glucosamine to support healthy joints, and an entire medicine chest of vitamins and minerals.
Do you need juice to provide these nutrients? Can you be well fed without fortified fruit drinks? Without a doubt, yes. Are you better off not drinking sweetened fruit drinks? Absolutely! Bottom line – fruit flavored drinks in small amounts are simply a tasty drink. Drinking them regularly in large amounts, especially for children, promotes a high sugar intake, crowds out more nourishing choices, and may contribute to weight gain.
Handy hint: Freeze your favorite fruit drink in an ice cube tray and use the flavored ice cubes to chill water or seltzer for a refreshing lower sugar, lower calorie beverage.