Is fruit juice part of your daily diet? I’d like to explain why reaching for the real fruit rather than a fruit juice could be better for your health; particularly if you’re on a weight loss program, or working to overcome pre-diabetes.
It’s all about fibre, the buffer between you and the fruit. All fruit contains sugar to a greater or lesser extent (that’s why it tastes sweet). The fibre in the fruit gets in the way of sugar absorption, creating a slower rise in your blood sugar level. Eat a whole orange and get 4g fibre; juice that orange, discarding the pulp, and get half a cup of orange juice containing only 0.2g of fibre.
A sudden rise in your blood sugar level feels pretty good, at the time; but without fibre, fat or protein to buffer it, your blood sugar level is likely to dive again soon afterwards as the glucose is pushed into cells by insulin. That feels pretty awful, with brain ‘fog’, sometimes sweating too, and a dive in energy. The technical term is a hypoglycaemic attack, or ‘hypo’ for short. The cravings for something sweet can be overwhelming; if you eat something sugary like fruit juice, the cycle can start again.
Some people notice that they experience severe mood swings as a result of this energy rollercoaster.
Because it’s faster to drink juice than eat a piece of fruit, you can easily ingest more calories than you intended, and it won’t be as filling. Not useful for weight loss programs. One filling medium sized orange will provide 68 calories. One cup of the juice (requires two oranges to create), without pulp, means double that calorie intake.
Why does your body respond so strongly to sugar? It’s the effect on your brain. This vital organ uses up most of the circulating glucose in your system to feed hard working brain cells. If this supply is threatened (with a low blood sugar level) your brain will create strong cravings for sugar, fast. Because if your brain isn’t functioning, your body doesn’t receive instructions. Your brain will function best on a steady glucose supply from a diet low in free sugar and high in fibre.
If you drink juice because you find water ‘tasteless’, try adding a wedge of lemon or a small squeeze of lemon juice to your water bottle.
There are occasions where fruit & vegetable juices are actually more valuable: For people who are sick or have a low appetite, because they are so concentrated in nutrients and sugar. For the rest of us, real fruit is the real thing.