You may be thinking: if juice comes from fruit then fruit juice and whole fruit must be the same nutritionally. However, when comparing fruit juice versus whole fruit, whole fruit is the nutritionally superior option. This may be surprising considering the popularity of juice bars and juice cleanses and their association with health. Drinking 100% fruit or veggie juice is not an unhealthy option. In fact, fruit and veggies contain antioxidants and vitamins and drinking juice is a means of getting these beneficial nutrients. However, when given the choice between whole fruit versus juice, the whole fruit is the better option. Here’s why…
Whole Fruit Contains Fiber
The primary difference between fruit juice versus the whole fruit is fiber. When you juice a fruit, the fiber in the fruit is removed. While you do retain the antioxidants and vitamins in the fruit, you lose out on the benefits of fiber. Fiber slows down digestion and contributes to satiety. Additionally, dietary fiber has several health benefits such as ability to lower cholesterol levels, assist in maintaining a healthy weight, and help lower risk for development of certain diseases.
Furthermore, when you separate out the fiber from the fruit, you are primarily left with sugar and a lot of it. Excess sugar intake is associated with certain health risks.
For example, one large orange contains about 17.2 grams of sugar and 4.4 grams of fiber. Imagine juicing that single orange. You would attain very little orange juice from just that one orange. You would need to juice many oranges in order to get a full glass of juice. Now multiply the sugar in a single orange by the amount of oranges you need to juice to get one glass of OJ – that is a lot of sugar! In comparison, if you ate a whole orange, you would only consume the sugar from that single orange and also have the additional benefits of fiber.
Fruit Juice Contains More Fructose
Our bodies break down carbohydrates and sugars into simpler forms of sugars. These simpler sugars include glucose and fructose. Fructose is a simple sugar found in fruit. It is metabolized differently than glucose.
Fructose is metabolized 100% in the liver. In comparison, only about 30-40% of glucose is taken up by the liver. If high amounts of fructose are consumed and the liver has reached its capacity for energy intake, the excess fructose will get converted into triacylglycerol and stored in the muscle and adipose (fat) tissue. Triacylglycerol is the storage form of fat (Gropper et. al). This means that excess fructose consumption can lead to more stored fat.
What Does This Mean?
Fruit contains beneficial antioxidants and vitamins that are important in the diet. However, excess consumption of juice should be avoided due to its lack of fiber and high fructose (sugar) content.
Fruit juice contains higher quantities of sugar than a whole fruit. As a result, it is better to eat the whole fruit versus drink the fruit juice.
Fruit juice tends to be less expensive than whole fruit and therefore there may be economic barriers to consumption of whole fruit instead of fruit juice. If you drink fruit juice as a means of obtaining your daily dose of fruit, limit consumption to the recommended daily amounts (which is about 1-2 cups per day) . Click here to see the recommendations for fruit based on age and sex.
Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, by Sareen Annora Stepnick Gropper et al., Cengage Learning, 2018, pp. 71–71.