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The Fitness Zone

Is Fruit Juice as Bad as Coca Cola?
April 21, 2014

Your breakfast juice might not be as healthy as you think. Fruit juice has been under fire in the health industry for a long time, with experts saying that it's almost as bad as soft drink. Here we get to the bottom of what goes into your juice and the health concerns it could be causing.

The Sugar Content of Soft Drink

Susan Jebb is a government advisor and head of the diet and obesity research group at the Medical Research Council's Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge University. She says that some fruit juices have as much sugar as common soft drinks. "Fruit juice isn't the same as intact fruit and it has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks," she said. For example, 350ml of Coca Cola has 40 grams of sugar in it, but the same amount of apple juice has nearly the same amount of sugar at 39 grams. "It is also absorbed very fast, so by the time it gets to your stomach your body doesn't know whether it's Coca-Cola or orange juice, frankly, said Jebb.

Fruit juices may have a few extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants over soft drink, but they are missing the fibre of real fruit. So by the time your juice is processed and preserved there aren't many natural components left over - just a whole lot of sugar instead.

False Flavour

Alissa Hamilton, the author of the 2009 book Squeezed: What You Don't Know about Orange Juice explained that, when it comes to orange juice, the juice is squeezed from the fruit and then stored in holding tanks for up to a year, where the flavour degrades significantly. As a result, manufacturers need to put the flavour and aroma back in via flavour packs' made from fruit essence and oils that are more like perfume ingredients than anything found in nature.

Links to Diabetes

Your fruit juice could also be doing your liver harm. The liver digests sugar, but only up to a certain point, and when we drink fruit juice we get a much bigger hit of sugar than if we had slowly chewed our way through the four or so pieces of fruit that go into it. When our livers get overloaded, some of the sugar is stored as fat and can build up in the liver as a fatty deposit. This generally doesn't happen in the bodies of lean and fit people, but can be a real problem for those who are sedentary and overweight.

What's worse is that this fatty buildup in the liver can lead to an insulin resistance - and research has shown that the fructose from fruit juice is a major culprit. As a result, a study published in the British Medical Journal in August 2013 found fruit juice was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

What Can You do if You Love Fruit Juice?

First, start turning that carton or bottle over to look at the amount of sugar in your juice and simply pick ones with as little as possible. Second, opt for pulpy juices for more fibre and try to get your juice freshly squeezed from a cafe or juice bar so there won't be any preservatives or flavour packs added in. Third, opt for only a small serve of juice instead of a full glass so that you don't get the big hit of sugar. Fourth, dilute your fruit juice so it is essentially water with a bit of the sugar and flavour added in for taste.

Finally, you can make your own juice. This is a big hit among health and fitness enthusiasts as you can tailor your juice how you like it, and you know exactly what has gone into it. And don't just stick to the regular fruits - add some nutrient-rich vegetables like kale, silver beet, carrot and beetroot.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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