Fruit juices provide health benefits, but drink them in moderation.
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 has filed complaints against manufacturers for allegedly exaggerating health claims, orange juice is, in fact, a healthy juice choice, says Ozner. OJ -- especially with pulp -- is loaded with vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid.
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.