Just about everyone seems to have gone mad about fruit juices and smoothies: supermarkets are brimming with them, kitchens are stocked up with high-tech fruit blending gadgets and high-street vendors have picked up on this hype- it's smoothie galore! It's not hard to see why this particular sector is so popular, after all, it's a quick, tasty and convenient way to get a shot of essential vitamins and minerals which will contribute to meeting the daily nutritional requirements. This is certainly a very appealing aspect with the health conscious, fast-paced lifestyle society. However, is fruit juice really as healthy as the marketing would lead one to believe? As with any dietary trend, it is important to look beyond what is often marketing hype to determine whether these products are really healthful.
Squeezed from whole fruit, 100% fruit juices often have no added sugars, are free from preservatives and flavourings, which make them very popular. Although fruit juices contain many vitamins and minerals naturally found in fruit, these beverages are no substitute for the real deal. Why is this? Whole fruits contain seeds and peels which are high in fibre, making them more nutrient-rich. Also, the fibre in whole fruit ensures that the natural sugars are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, creating the feeling of fullness and aiding digestion. Fruit juices are often demonised in the media for being high in sugar. This is true, as several pieces of whole fruit will be required to produce a decent serving size of fruit juice. As such, when drinking fruit juice you will be getting a more concentrated level of natural fruit sugars and energy compared to consuming only one piece of fruit. This makes it very easy to over-consume fruit juices and smoothies and to drink more than one serving at a time. Damage to teeth is another downside of excessive consumption of fruit juices; the free acids and sugars are released in the blending or juicing process from inside the fruit structure and are consequently able to come into direct contact with the teeth.
Difference between from "concentrate" and "not-from concentrate"
You will often find indicated on the labels of fruit juices the terms "concentrate" or "not-from concentrate". This often puzzles consumers as they wrongly believe that fruit juice labelled "from concentrate" is less healthy due to the associated connotations that it is less pure. However, this terminology merely relates to the processing technique in fruit juice production. As such, there will be no difference whatsoever in the nutritional value between the two products. Both "from concentrate" and "not from concentrate" juices are pasteurised to remove potential pathogens that may have been in the fruit. Commercial juices labelled "not from concentrate" are made by juicing the fruit, and then pasteurising it. "From concentrate" juice is juiced from the fruit, then filtered through a processor that extracts water. This way, the juice takes up less space when transported. Before being packaged and sold, water is added back into the concentrated juice and it is pasteurised. As long as the process only involves adding the correct amount of water back into the concentrated juice, juice "from concentrate" will be no different nutritionally than juice "not from concentrate". The calorie content will be the same, and the nutrient density of the juice will also be unaffected. However, if additional ingredients are added, e.g. sugar, the nutritional profile of the juice will be different due to the additional sugar.
A small 150 ml glass of fruit juice once a day as part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle is fine, as it contains essential vitamins and nutrients and will contribute to meeting your five-a-day fruit and vegetable goal. However, consuming above this amount means that you will be having a greater quantity of calories, which will all add up to your daily calorie allowance. As such, you should be careful if you are trying to watch your weight, are diabetic or if want to take care of your teeth.
Read the nutritional label - it is extremely important to read the nutritional label, choosing products that contain 100% fruit juice with no added sugars, as this will only increase the level of calories in the product.
1 glass (250 ml) of apple juice typically contains approximately 114 calories and 24g sugar
One medium-sized apple typically contains around 95 calories, 19g sugar but unalike fruit juice it is high in fibre.
Sophie Bruno is a Registered Dietitian living and working in Brussels (Belgium). Read Sophie's foodie blog which will enable you to learn, increase your knowledge & cultivate yourself in the field of nutrition & health directly from Brussels