Prediction: A lot of people are going to be mad at me for what I say in this article.
But let’s start with this:
If you ask a hundred people on the street if kale-apple-pear juice is a healthy choice, about ninety-nine of them are going to say “of course!” Approximately ninety of those ninety-five people are going to follow up that “of course” with “but why in the hell would you torture yourself with that disgusting stuff?”
Okay, so the general public thinks kale-apple-pear juice is healthy but possibly kind of gross. Now let’s change it up a little and think about that same question asked of grape juice. I can guarantee the answers are going to be different and that fewer people will answer “of course” to whether grape juice is a healthy choice.
While most people believe that fruit juice is a healthy choice (far better than a cookie, they’d say), there would probably be a decent number of people who say, “Hmm … kind of … but doesn’t that have a lot of sugar?” And, unless the person hates grapes (a tragedy!), they won’t comment on it being torturous and disgusting. You’d likely get similar results for orange juice and apple juice.
So what’s the deal? Why do we think kale-apple-pear juice is definitely a healthy choice, but grape, orange, or apple juice is kind of “meh” on the health scale?
Adding Vegetable Juice to Fruit Juice Makes Most People Think About it Differently.
Imagine that you have four tablespoons of glorious, creamy ranch dressing. If you dip a bread stick in those four tablespoons of ranch dressing (about 300 calories, by the way), you might feel a little guilty. Bread, dressing … not that healthy. Oh well, you’ll do better starting Monday.
But what if you added those four tablespoons of ranch dressing to a salad? WHOA THERE, HEALTHY EATER! Look at all that SALAD you’re eating! Ranch dressing? WHO CARES! That stuff doesn’t even count because LOOK AT ALL THOSE VEGETABLES!
Our minds are funny things. When we add something undeniably healthy (like vegetables) to a food that might not be that healthy, our mind totally ignores the unhealthy thing and gives us mega brownie points for eating the healthy thing.
That same kind of thing goes on when we add juiced vegetables to juiced fruit. We see “kale” and ignore the rest. Let’s be real here: you probably could wrap a sugar cube in kale and people would proudly say “Look at all this kale I just ate!” We want so badly to believe we’re doing the right thing that we’ll justify it however we can.
So, when we reach for the kale-pineapple juice or the cucumber-celery-apple juice, we often don’t see the whole picture. We just see the vegetable and deem it 100% good because vegetables = good.
It’s Fruit Juice. What Could Possibly Be Wrong With Fruit Juice?
At this point, you still might be scratching your head about the problem. As long as the fruit juice is pure and doesn’t have sugar added to it (check the ingredients list—some of them do, unfortunately), what’s the problem? Orange juice with breakfast isn’t a candy bar. Kale-apple-pear juice with lunch isn’t a cookie. Pineapple-cucumber-celery juice for a snack isn’t a slice of cake.
Here’s the deal: fruit juice is basically sugar water. Fruit juice with a fancy vegetable added is basically designer sugar water.
Before you warm up your hate-mail fingers, let me give you a few quotes from experts:
“Yes, from our long-term, huge studies in Singapore, Australia, the U.S. and Europe, I think 100 percent fruit juice is as bad as sugar-sweetened beverages for its effects on our health.” – Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a leading obesity researcher1
“Fruit juice … is presented as a healthy item when it is little more than a soft drink without bubbles.” -2016 report on obesity by the Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology in Canada2
“Calorie for calorie, gram for gram, ounce for ounce, juice is actually worse than soda … Our bodies are not equipped to consume lots of fructose … but fruit juice does that.” -Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California at San Francisco, and a leading obesity researcher3
“When you isolate fruit into a liquid form, you’re mostly getting sugar water … it’s easy to consume excess calories in liquid form, and those calories can add up … and they’re void of any protein or fiber, which is usually what helps keep people satiated.” – Sharon Zarabi, Lenox Hill Hospital (New York City) nutritionist4
Why the Fruit Juice Hate? Here’s Why …
When you remove the fiber from the fruit, you remove the natural mechanism that slows down the absorption of the fruit’s natural sugar content. The fiber is like a ramp meter—one of those traffic lights that slowly lets cars onto a freeway. Without the ramp meter, the sugar in the fruit just flows into your body with nothing to stop it.5 It’s a sugar overload, even though that sugar originates from a natural source.
For that reason, the sugar in fruit juice, even your beloved kale-apple-pear juice, actually counts toward your daily sugar consumption.* (I can feel the hate mail being written at this very moment. It’s okay; sometimes it’s good to let it all out.)
Plus, fruit juice goes down really easily. Did you know that it takes three or four oranges to make a measly eight ounces of orange juice? Your stomach would probably tell you to stop long before you hit three or four oranges, but eight ounces of orange juice would go down with no problem. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that drinkable calories may not tell our body that we’re full as fast as calories consumed in their whole form.6
You might only be able to consume 150 calories of oranges before your body says “STOP!” but you might get down 300 calories of orange juice before that happens. Fruit juice can be not just a sugar overload, but a calorie overload too.[thrive_leads id=’3046′]
Go for Mindful Fruit Juice Consumption
I briefly lived in Florida when I was younger, and one of my best Florida memories is visiting an orange grove and drinking freshly squeezed orange juice from freshly picked oranges. I still remember the exact second I drank a small glass of their mind-blowingly sweet, fresh orange juice. Growing up in Ohio, all I ever had access to was filtered, pasteurized orange juice from the grocery store, and this stuff was nothing like what I was used to drinking. I remember thinking that this was real orange juice and all that other junk I drank must have just been imposter orange juice.
Note that I said I had a small glass. They didn’t serve huge pours because their juice was so good on its own that you didn’t need a lot. While you may not always have access to freshly picked, freshly squeezed juice, you should look at the juice you do drink as a little pour of the good stuff.
Much like you shouldn’t drink a big glass of water with a few dissolved sugar cubes, you shouldn’t drink a big glass of fruit juice either. (Obviously there are a few exceptions for medical conditions and participation in sporting events, but I’m talking about the average situation for the average person here.) Have a little, remember it counts toward your daily sugar consumption, and enjoy that small amount like it’s the best and freshest out there.
If you’re a parent, it should go without saying that this goes for your kids, too. Kids shouldn’t eat much sugar, including fruit juice, either. Keep their fruit juice consumption low, or better yet, bypass the fruit juice altogether and give them fresh fruit. It will keep them full longer and they won’t get a big sugar spike.
Think Whole Foods (the actual foods, not the store)
So the next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market and find yourself tempted by that fancy kale-apple-pear juice, consider making yourself a kale salad with an apple-pear fruit salad on the side instead. (I bet you won’t eat nearly as much whole as you would have consumed juiced.)
Or, buy the juice and drink half today and half tomorrow. You don’t have to completely abandon your designer sugar water; you just have to think about it a little differently.