Juicy News for Fruit Lovers

Fruit juices provide health benefits, but drink them in moderation

By Carol Sorgen
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine, went an old TV commercial. Now we're more concerned with the health benefits of juice than a sunny start to our day. You've seen the ads and read the headlines. Cranberry juice prevents urinary tract infections. Pomegranate juice may clear clogged arteries. Grape juice lowers risk of blood clots. But are these claims valid? And if so, does that mean the more juice you drink, the healthier you'll be?

The answer to the first question is -- in many cases -- yes. Scientific studies have shown that certain juices can indeed offer protective health benefits. But that doesn't mean, however, that drinking more juice will make you healthier. As with most things in life, moderation is in order.

While most nutrition experts would prefer you eat whole fruit rather than drink its juicy equivalent, 8 ounces a day of 100% juice is acceptable, says Michael D. Ozner, MD, president of the American Heart Association of Miami and author of The Miami Mediterranean Diet: Lose Weight and Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.

"Is juice as good as whole fruit?" he asks. "No. Fruit has more fiber, fewer calories, and more phytonutrients than juice." For the sake of convenience, however, Ozner admits that it's often easier to drink a glass of juice than, say, start peeling an orange on your way out the door.

Lots of Juice Choices

And many juices are indeed worthwhile, says Ozner. Despite the fact that The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Tropicana Products, Inc., alleging that the company had misled consumers with claims that drinking two to three glasses a day of its "Healthy Heart" orange juice would reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, orange juice is, in fact, a healthy juice choice, says Ozner. OJ -- especially with pulp -- is loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid. (The basis of the complaint by the FTC was not that orange juice didn't offer health benefits, but that Tropicana went overboard with its health claims. The company has been prohibited from making similar health-related claims in the future unless they can be substantiated by reliable scientific evidence.)

Ozner's other juices of choice are purple grape juice, cranberry juice, and especially pomegranate juice, all of them loaded with antioxidants which may offer protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer. "Fruit juice certainly has a role to play in healthy living," agrees Ann Kulze, MD, a family doctor specializing in nutrition and wellness and author of Dr. Ann's 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality.

No matter how healthy a juice, though, Kulze cautions those who are watching their calorie intake to watch their juice consumption as well. Indeed, a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that fructose, a sweetener found naturally in fruit juice, may induce a hormonal response in the body that promotes weight gain.

Choose Colorful Juices

Juices made from deep purple, red, and blue fruits (such as grapes, cranberries, pomegranates, and blueberries) are high in anthocyanins, says Kulze, which have been shown in lab and animal studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

"Richly colored juices are your best choice," Kulze says, and advises that when selecting a juice, you choose one where you can see sediment at the bottom of the bottle. "That means the skin has been used in making the juice," she explains. "The skin of any fruit is where you find the highest concentration of beneficial properties." (Make sure you shake the bottle vigorously before pouring so you get some of that sediment in your serving, says Kulze.)

Don't be thrown off by labels that say juice "beverage," "drink," or "cocktail," says nutrition consultant Carla McGill, RD. "Look for a label that says 100% juice," she advises, which means that it is not a sweetened beverage. The exception to this is cranberry juice, which is much too tart to drink unsweetened, but even in this case, there are degrees of sweetened cranberry juice from which to choose.

New Juices on Market

One of the newer fruit juices that is capturing our attention is black currant juice. For 100 years it was illegal to commercially grow black currants in the U.S, but that law has now been overturned, thanks to the efforts of Greg H. Quinn, president of The Currant Company, which is the first, and at the moment, the only domestic producer of a currant product in the U.S., a nectar known as CurrantC. (Growing black currant was banned in the early 1900s because it was found to promote the spread of white pine blister rust, which threatened the booming timber industry.)



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