Fruit juice seems like one of those foods that should be really good for us. After all, it’s made from fruit which is a good source of vitamins and antioxidants, not to mention that the USDA counts a one-cup serving of 100 percent juice as a serving of fruit. The truth, though, is that all fruit juices are a potent source of sugar, natural or otherwise, and unlike fresh fruit, fruit juice contains no fiber to blunt sugar’s quick absorption into the bloodstream. Over-consuming sugar, whether from sweets, soda or fresh fruit juice, can impact our metabolic health.
So does that mean we shouldn’t drink juice at all? Not necessarily. But there are some best practices if you’re a regular juice drinker. Keep reading to learn how much is OK to drink each day, and how to choose the healthiest juice options.
How Much Juice Is OK to Drink?
Adults: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting juice consumption to one four-ounce serving of 100 percent fruit juice as part of your daily fruit intake.
Children: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
- Under 1 year: Juice not recommended.
- 1-3 years: No more than four ounces (½ cup) per day.
- 4-6 years: No more than four to six ounces (½ to ¾ cup) per day.
- 7-18 years: No more than eight ounces (1 cup) of the recommended 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day.
Which Fruit Juices Are Healthiest?
Here’s a breakdown to help you determine which fruit juices to enjoy and which are best to avoid.
Worst: Fruit-Flavored Drinks and Low- or Reduced-Calorie Juice
Fruit-flavored drinks are best avoided whenever possible. These drinks often say “made with real fruit juice” on the label, but if you check the ingredient list, they may contain a very small percentage of fruit juice combined with water, added sugar, flavoring and coloring.
Low- or reduced-calorie juices are also on this list as they usually contain artificial sweeteners. If you want to consume fewer calories without giving up that morning glass of OJ, you’ll save money and calories, and avoid artificial sweeteners, by watering down a glass of 100 percent juice.
Better: 100 Percent Juice
True fruit juices are made with 100 percent juice and no other ingredients. They are a healthier option than fruit-flavored drinks and low- or reduced-calorie juices since they don’t contain any added sugar, color, flavoring or artificial sweeteners, but they still contain significant sugar. The body treats sugary beverages made from a natural source, like fruit, the same as it does drinks sweetened with added sugar. The truth is, many of the juices that fall into this category, like grape juice and apple juice, have little to no nutritional value aside from the calories they contain.
Best: 100 Percent Juice with a Nutritional Boost
If you drink juice, you can make the most of the calories and choose one that comes with a nutritional boost. One-hundred-percent juices made from vitamin-, mineral- and antioxidant-rich fruits fall into this category. Here are a few that are nutritionally noteworthy:
- Pomegranate Juice: Pomegranate juice is a potent source of antioxidants and studies have shown that this fruit can have a positive impact on arteries and blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
- Blueberry Juice: Recent research has found that consuming just one ounce of concentrated blueberry juice (providing 387 milligrams of anthocyanidins) a day can improve cognitive function and memory. The flavonoids in blueberries are likely an important component in causing these effects.
- Cranberry Juice. A potent source of antioxidants and vitamin C, regular consumption of concentrated cranberry juice may also help prevent urinary tract infections. Cranberries contain two compounds that inhibit Escherichia coli, the most common cause of urinary tract infections, from adhering to urinary tract cells. Drinkers beware, though — because cranberries are so tart, many brands add sugar or dilute cranberry juice with other juices, like apple and grape juice, which undermines the potential health benefits. Look for unsweetened cranberry juice and add a drizzle of honey, if needed, to make it more enjoyable.
- Watermelon Juice. Hate feeling sore after a tough workout? Research has shown that, when consumed during a workout, the amino acid L-citrulline found in fresh watermelon juice can reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.
- Treat juice as you would a dessert, rather than a serving of fruit. Consume it in moderation – meaning a ½ cup (four ounces) or less per day.
- Avoid flavored juice drinks and reduced-calorie juices that contain added sugar, flavor, color and artificial sweeteners.
- If you do drink juice, choose those with proven nutritional benefits, like watermelon, blueberry, pomegranate and pure cranberry juice. Also, water it down to get more hydration out of each glass.