What's So Great About Juice

October 22, 2004

by Laura Dolson

"Drink your juice!" Most of us have heard this at one time or another. We all know that juice is good for us compared to other beverages. But is all juice created equal? In this article you will learn:

1) What in fruit (and to a lesser extent in juice) is so good for you.
2) How juice compares to whole fruit
3) Which juices are most nutritious.
4) Things to look for when choosing juices.

What's So Great About Juice? Besides food energy (calories), fruits have four basic nutrient groups that our bodies need: vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber.

- Vitamins - important compounds which the body needs, but cannot make on its own (example: Vitamin C)
- Minerals - basically molecules of rock that our bodies need for many things (example: potassium)
- Phytonutrients - special compounds in plants that are turning out to be very important for us, particularly in helping the body prevent and fight off diseases such as cancer. We will learn more about phytonutrients later.

- Fiber - indigestible material which is important for the digestion and some other regulatory functions. Again, we will learn more about this later

From Fruit to Juice - The problem is that not all of these substances make it from the FRUIT to the JUICE. There is very little if any fiber in juice. A lot of the minerals and phytonutrients are found in the skins and pulp of the fruit, which are usually left behind when juice is made. And usually the juice in stores is pasteurized, which destroys some of the vitamins. So, although juice is more nutritious than most other beverages in the market, we should be aware that any time we process fresh whole food, something is lost.

Most Nutritious Juices

Orange Juice - Good old OJ is one of the most nutritious juices you can drink. High in Vitamin C, potassium, and several B vitamins, it also contains smaller amounts of a lot of other vitamins and minerals. Although much of the calcium in the orange is lost during juicing, you can buy calcium-fortifed orange juice. OJ is also rich in phytonutrients. Depending upon how much pulp they leave in, it can even contain some fiber.

Tomato and V-8 Juices - Rich in Vitamins, A, C, several minerals, phytonutrients, and a little fiber. It has much less natural sugar than most other juices, so it won't spike your blood sugar as much.

Purple Grape Juice - A recent study shows purple grape juice to perhaps be the richest juice in phytonutrients. Unfortunately, most of the other nutrients in the grapes are lost in processing. White grape juice has very little nutrition of any kind, and all grape juice very high in sugar.

Smoothies made with berries and banana are also very good, but watch out for added sugar in smoothies.

Middle of the Road Juices

Pineapple Juice - Smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals, but still good for you.

Cranberry Juice - Cranberries are so tart that plain cranberry juice really is undrinkable, so water and sugar are added. Like purple grape juice, a lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber are lost, but significant amounts of phytonutrients remain.

Grapefruit Juice - Again, contains "good stuff for you", but just not the power houses orange and tomato juice are. Eating grapefruit is much better!

Low in Nutrition

Apple Juice - almost all of what is good for you about an apple is in the skin and pulp. It's MUCH MUCH better to eat an apple.

White grape Juice - ditto

Pear Juice - ditto again

Things to Watch For

Look for 100% juice - "Juice drinks" usually are mostly water and sugar. The label will tell you what percentage of juice is in the container.

Read the label - Make sure that what is prominent on the front of the label is really what is inside. Some juice blends are 100% juice, but they may be made up mostly of the juices which are relatively poor in nutrients, such as apple juice. Apple juice concentrate is often added instead of sugar so that it can still be labeled as 100% juice, even though apple juice concentrate is mainly sugar itself. Some strong juices like lemon juice aren't drinkable without added sugar and water, however.

Watch the sugar - Juices have natural sugars in them, without the fiber that would buffer the blood sugar reaction if you were eating the whole fruit. One glass of orange juice can have the juices of 2 or 3 oranges, depending upon size, and all that sugar can hit your bloodstream at once. Ideally, juice should be drunk with a meal containing protein and a high-fiber food such as oatmeal or vegetables.

More Health Articles for Junior High Students