Get a Nutrient Boost with Fruit Juice
Squeeze extra nutrients into your diet with fruit and vegetable juices.
Eating fruits and vegetables helps keep you healthy and protects against disease, but it's not always easy to consume as much produce as experts advise. Fortunately, juices can be a convenient way to squeeze in extra servings. Six ounces―just 3/4 cup of juice―counts as one serving of a fruit or vegetable.
"Fruit and vegetable juices are excellent natural sources of vitamins and minerals and, in moderation, can be part of a healthy diet," says Barry W. Ritz, PhD, a nutritional immunology researcher at Drexel University in Pennsylvania. "Compounds found in fruit and vegetable juices appear to have widespread positive effects on health."
And the variety of juices available today helps expand our palates, too. Besides longtime favorites such as orange, grape, and apple juice, "now we have exotic juices made from things like pomegranate or blueberry or lychee," Ritz says.
But does juice provide the same nutritional benefits as the whole food from which it is extracted? Does it matter whether juice is fresh squeezed, bottled or canned, frozen, made from concentrate, or found in a juice cocktail or drink?
What are the nutritional benefits of juice?
Juice provides many―but not all―of the benefits you'd obtain from eating whole fruit or vegetables. Nutrients in fruit juices vary, depending on what was in the fruit before it was pressed and what, if anything, has been added to the juice.
Many fruit juices contain potassium, which helps balance sodium in the diet and lowers blood pressure. Vitamin C in some fruit juices helps heal cuts and bruises, prevents infection, and aids in the absorption of iron (helping our bodies use the iron we get from foods), and vitamin A benefits eye and skin health. Carbohydrates from natural sugars in 100 percent juice provide energy, and the water content in juice helps meet fluid requirements. Fruits and vegetables have beneficial antioxidants (nutrients such as polyphenols, quercetin, anthocyanins)―thousands have been identified so far―and 100 percent juices contain an array of these compounds, which aren't listed in the Nutrition Facts panel of the product.
On the other hand, a key loss in processing fruit to juice is fiber, which, in addition to controlling cholesterol levels and aiding digestion, also helps slow consumption and increases satiety. "It takes longer to consume an apple than to drink the equivalent amount of apple juice," Ritz explains. You miss out on certain antioxidants, too, says University of Arkansas food scientist Luke Howard, PhD. When fruit is pressed to extract juice, some antioxidants are left behind when fruit skins and seeds are removed. Also, vegetable juices may be high in sodium due to added salt, which is sometimes used as a preservative and flavor enhancer; look for versions with less sodium.