Fruit or Juice: which is good for you

For long, fruit juice has been considered a healthy option. Which breakfast seems complete without a serving of freshly squeezed citrus fruit juice?

But the last few years have led to a vociferous debate on whether fruit juice can count among the daily recommended servings of fruit and vegetables.

Research has consistently pointed out that sweet juices are basically just fructose with a similar effect on the body to fizzy and soft drinks. Fruit may be low in calories when compared with many other foods but is high in sugar. A glass of juice, which usually contains four or five pieces of fruit, thus has the sugar content of all that fruit. But can too much fruit lead to weight gain?

Experts believe that fruit juice isn’t the same as intact fruit and has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks. Juice is also absorbed very fast, so by the time it gets to your stomach your body doesn’t know whether it’s an aerated beverage or juice.

Dr Robert Lustig’s book Fat Chance: the Bitter Truth about Sugar and a study published in the British Medical Journal have associated fruit juice with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Susan Jebb, a researcher at the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge University, has said that the advice that a glass counts towards the recommended minimum five-a-day servings of fruit and vegetables should be changed.

Despite all that, fruit juice continues to be an extremely popular option in India. A government-funded study of the Indian fruit juice market revealed that the market grew from under Rs 1,200 crore to over Rs 3,200 crore from 2004-2009. Since then, it has soared much higher.

Should you be reaching out for the glass of OJ or opting for the whole fruit?

Research has shown that the body and mind registers the calories differently when you drink them rather than eat them. A glass of fruit juice doesn’t create the feeling of fullness, or satiation, that a fruit – full of fibre – can. You end up adding juice to your normal food intake and increasing the calorie count.

But dietitians believe that juice can be healthy if consumed in the right portion size. The British Dietetic Association has stated that 150ml of fruit juice is perfectly acceptable as one of the five-a-day options.

So limit juice to a once-a-day serving of 100-150 ml. Break the habit of having it through the day. Dilute it before giving it to children and try and pair it with a meal so it doesn’t make the blood sugar rise too quickly. Reuse fruit pulp by adding it back to the juice or adding to pancake/cake batter.

Fruit juice may have umpteen benefits but the calories and sugar content outweigh them. Given a choice, opt for whole fruit, not juice.

Calorie count

Apple juice: 100 calories

Blackberry juice: 115 calories

Carrot juice: 96 calories

Cherry juice: 108 calories

Cranberry juice: 100 calories

Cranberry apple juice: 161 calories

Cucumber juice: 24 calories

Grape juice: 144 calories

Grapefruit juice: 110 calories

Orange juice: 110 calories

Papaya juice: 139 juice

Peach juice: 130 calories

Pineapple juice: 127 calories

Plum juice: 170 calories

Pomegranate juice: 158 calories

Tomato juice: 41 calories

All counts for a 240 ml serving.

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