The truth about fruit juice

The fruit juice we once happily slurped alongside our morning bowl of porridge has been right in the centre of a media spotlight as headlines dart around about the sugar content of what we once considered one of our five a day. With all this media frenzy, it's no wonder if you're feeling a bit confused about whether to ditch your orange juice for good or not. Fiona Hunter, an experienced nutrition consultant and food writer explains all you need to know about the issue.

Q. Will drinking juice make me put on weight?

You put on weight when the balance isn't right between how much energy you're consuming (in your food) and how much you're burning off. So if you eat more calories that you burn off with physical activity, you're likely to gain some weight.

A small glass (150ml) of 100 per cent fruit juice (check on the side of the bottle to see if this is the case) contains between  60-80 calories depending on the type you choose, but it also provides other important nutrients and will count towards one of your five a day.  Research in both the UK and US has shown that drinking juice is not in itself associated with being overweight or obese, but it's all a case of mdoeration and drinking juice as part of a varied and balanced diet.

 Q. Is juice as good as whole fruit and veg?

Juice contains less fibre than whole fruit and veg, which means that you can only count juice as one of your five a day, no matter how much of it you drink. But fruit juice does contain a range of good viatmins, minerals and phytochemicals that's similar to what you get from whole fruit and veg.

The key again is to enjoy a variety of food and drinks as different fruit and veg contain different vitamins and minerals, all of which form a healthy, balanced diet.

 Q. Which fruit juice is the most nutritious?

All 100 per cent fruit juices will count as one of your 5 a day, but the vitamins and minerals they contain are slightly different depending on what fruit they're from.

A recent study found that orange juice and other citrus juices like grapefruit are the most nutrient-rich juices. Orange juice is an excellent source of vitamin C which helps keep your immune system healthy as well as taking care of your skin and gums. It's also a source of folate (a B vitamin) which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue, as well as potassium which helps your muscles and nervous system function normally as well as keeping your blood pressure in check.

 Q. What’s the difference between not-from-concentrate juice and juice made from concentrate?

For most people it's a question of what you like best. Juice from concentrate has the water removed at source (so where the fruit is harvested and processed) and then it’s added back in later on. Some people think that juice which is not from concentrate has a better flavour than juice which is made from concentrate.

Q. How much juice should my grandchildren be drinking as a guide?

One small glass (approximately 150ml) of 100 per cent fruit juice will count as one of their recommended 5 portions of fruit and/or veg a day . We know that many children (and adults) struggle to reach this minimum target so fruit juice is a good way to get a bit nearer to that.

In terms of what age babies can drink fruit juice, it can be introduced into a baby’s diet after 6 months, but at this age I’d recommend diluting it with water to a ratio of about 1 part juice to 10 parts water.

 Q. Is there a best time of day to give children juice?

The best time of day is with meals, particularly with meals based on plant foods, such as fortified cereals, some beans, lentils and spinach as the vitamin C in juice helps the body to absorb iron from these sources. This iron is really important for healthy blood. Girls aged 11-18 in particular are often lacking in iron.

Q. Does juice contain added sugars which are bad for childrens’ teeth?

Look for 100 per cent pure unsweetened juices as they only contain naturally occurring sugars from the fruit unlike some juice drinks which add sugars.

Studies have shown that the impact on teeth of drinking fruit juice is no different to eating whole fruit or dried fruit, when you consume it as often.  As with all foods and drinks which contain fermentable carbohydrates including sugars, you should drink juice should in moderation to help reduce the risk of dental health issues.

It's a good idea to dilute juice and give it to your grandchildren with a straw as this helps to reduce the contact between the juice and teeth. Encourage them not to swish it around their mouths and ensure your grandchildren brush their teeth at least twice a day and have regular dental check-ups.


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