Fruits are healthy and healthy foods shouldn’t make you gain weight… right?” The key in this case is the way in which fruits are consumed. A recent study that found that drinking fruit juice (yes, even 100% juice) actually contributes to weight gain, not weight loss.
Weight gain and obesity are chronic health issues in the United States. American adults are gaining an average of one pound per year. While one pound may not seem like a lot in the short-term, think of the long-term repercussions of that statistic – would it be easy for your family to care for you at age 80 when you weigh at least 30 pounds more than you did at age 50?
While fruit juice has certainly not been isolated as the sole culprit to weight gain, the study did find that it is a contributor. Not only has fruit juice been linked to weight gain, a 2013 study in the British Medical Journal found that participants who drank more fruit juice had a higher risk of developing type II diabetes. Participants who ate whole fruits instead of drinking the fruit juice had a lower risk of developing type II diabetes – a 7% reduction in risk to be precise. Imagine reducing type II diabetes risk by nearly 10% simply by trading out three servings of fruit juice per week for whole fruits instead!
Speaking of diabetes, fruit juice is not going to do your blood sugar any favors. Whole fruits do contain natural sugars, it’s true. However, whole fruits contain fiber. That fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, allowing blood sugar to remain more stable.
Fruit juice has vitamins and minerals just like whole fruits do, but the juice contains little to no fiber, has more calories, and is a far more concentrated source of sugar. For example, one cup of orange juice contains 112 calories and 21 grams of sugar, compared to just 65 calories and 12 grams of sugar in a whole medium orange. Not only does the fruit juice contain more grams of sugar, but those grams are far more damaging to the body.
Without fiber, the sugar in the fruit juice hits your bloodstream right away, resulting in blood sugar spikes. Fiber serves many purposes for the body. It helps to regulate blood sugar, it prevents the absorption of cholesterol, and promotes gut health and regularity. Without fiber, our digestive tract suffers, we develop high cholesterol that may lead to heart disease, and inflammation may increase in the body. All of these benefits are especially helpful for individuals with diabetes as it is crucial for them to control blood sugar, as well as, heart health.
Fiber also contributes to feelings of fullness. A whole apple is going to keeping you feeling full much longer than a glass of apple juice. This is thanks to the fiber in the skin and pulp of the whole apple that are absent in the juice. With the majority of Americans consuming less than half of the recommended amount of daily fiber, whole fruits are a great way to increase your fiber intake!
Sugar and fiber content aside, whole fruits still come out on top compared to fruit juices. The skin of many fruits is often the most nutritious part! The skin of the fruit, as it is exposed to the sun, develops phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients. Two phytonutrients commonly found in fruits (and veggies) are carotenoids and flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that assist the body in fighting everything from inflammation to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
When fruits are juiced, the skins and pulp are often thrown away. The juice that is extracted is processed, mixed with sugar, bottled, and appears on the supermarket shelf. A large number of those supermarket juices contain only a small percentage of actual fruit juice and contain mainly added sugar. Corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, maltodextrin, are all forms of sugar. Check nutritional labels carefully, you’ll likely be surprised how little juice is in your ‘juice’.
When it comes down to it, whole fruits are the best for health and blood sugar when compared to fruit juices. Fruits like apples and fresh berries are the lowest on the Glycemic Index, making them the best choices for diabetics. By selecting foods that are not only nutritious but delicious, we give ourselves the best shot at living a long and healthful life. Happy Fruiting!