Proponents of juicing say it's a great way to stuff more vitamins and phytonutrients into your diet. Fruit juice has also been criticised as a sugary, fibre-free drink no better for you than cola. What's the truth? A new study shows that orange juice does make certain nutrients more accessible to your body, but not enough to recommend juice over whole fruit.
Photo by Caitlin Regan
So is orange juice healthy? That depends on whether it helps you meet your goals. If you're trying to reduce the sugar in your diet (as many of us should), the sugar concerns may outweigh the benefits you get from the extra micronutrients.
Here's what the study, published in this month's issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, actually showed. Researchers squeezed and pasteurised some orange juice, then put samples of the juice and of orange segments into a test-tube simulator that mimics what happens in your digestive system. The juice made far higher levels of carotenoids, flavonoids and Vitamin C accessible for digestion than the orange segments or even a puree made from the segments. For example, the juice had four times as much carotenoids (a family of chemicals related to Vitamin A), but only 10% of the fibre that the orange segments had.
When NPR asked experts for their take on the study, several noted that other studies show that juicing makes sugar more accessible, too, resulting in higher spikes of blood sugar. Taking in those calories as a few sips of liquid may also mean you don't perceive them as being as filling as if you ate a whole orange.
So is juice healthy? It depends how you look at it. But for most of us, the whole orange is still the better choice.