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Ask Sharon: Should I avoid juice?

Sharon Palmer

As part of my new program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question submitted through my blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to answer here on my blog and in my newsletter. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question to Sharon in the month of March via her blog or other social media. 

Question: 

I’ve heard that juice has too much sugar and should be avoided. Should I avoid juice and smoothies or are they okay to consume? — Terri

Answer: 

That’s a great question. It’s true that I recommend eating whole fruits—skin, seeds, pulp, and all—for maximum benefits. When you drink juice, you’re not gaining the benefits of the whole plant, such as the skin, seeds, and pulpy fiber, which is where most of the nutrition in a fruit resides. You’re left with the sweet juice; without the benefit of fiber those natural sugars get absorbed into your blood stream right away. Those rapid highs and lows of your blood glucose are not a good thing for your health. And juice is much more concentrated in energy (calories), because it takes at least a couple of servings of fruit to get a tiny glass of juice. A few sips and it’s gone, but think how satisfying it is to eat a whole piece of fruit—even two for that matter?

However, that’s not to say that you can’t ever enjoy a glass of 100% juice every now and again. Fruit juice still contains a lot of vitamins and phytochemicals. Some studies show that drinking juice can increase your intake of these nutrients. And for many people it’s a struggle to meet their daily fruit intake (1 ½ – 2 cups per day for adults). That’s why most experts (me too!) suggest that it’s perfectly ok to add up to 1 serving of 100% fruit juice in your day if you enjoy this habit.

The problem isn’t so dramatic for vegetable juices, which are much lower in natural sugars. Though it’s important to keep in mind that even with vegetable juices, if you throw away the pulp, skin, and seeds, you’re missing out on important nutrients. But drinking vegetables juices can help many people fit more vegetables into their day, too. I recommend 6 servings of vegetables every single day!

When it comes to smoothies, it’s a totally different matter. Smoothies can blenderize the whole fruit—skin, seeds, fiber and all. So you gain all of the benefits of the whole plant. But keep in mind that many smoothies are packed with unnecessary added sugars. You’re better off making your own healthful smoothie by packing a blender with vegetables, fruits, plant-based milk, and nuts or seeds. Just remember that the calories count from a smoothie, too. Let it be a snack or mini-meal.

Sharon

Image: Sharon Palmer, RDN

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