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Is Fruit Juice as Unhealthy as Sugary Soda?
Many health organizations have issued official statements encouraging people to reduce their intake of sugary drinks, and several countries have gone as far as implementing a tax on sugary soda.
Yet, some people suggest that juice isn't as healthy as it's made out to be and just as detrimental to your health as sugary soda.
This article examines the latest scientific evidence to compare fruit juice and soda.
Both Are High in Sugar
One of the main reasons some people consider fruit juice as unhealthy as sugary soda is the sugar content of these beverages.
Research consistently shows a link between sugary drinks and a higher risk of illness, such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and heart disease, as well as a higher risk of premature death.
Due to their similar sugar contents, some people have started grouping juices and soda together, suggesting that they should be avoided to an equal extent. However, soda and juice are unlikely to affect your health in the same ways.
For instance, soda tends to increase your risk of disease in a dose-dependent manner. This means that the more soda you drink, the higher your risk of disease — even if you only drink small amounts.
On the other hand, drinking small amounts of juice — specifically less than 5 ounces (150 ml) per day — may lower your risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Only higher intakes appear to be detrimental to your health.
That said, the health benefits of juice only apply to 100% fruit juice — not to sugar-sweetened fruit beverages.
Fruit juice and soda contain similar amounts of sugar. Still, soda is likely harmful to your health, regardless of the amount you consume, whereas fruit juice may only increase your risk of disease when drunk in large amounts.
Both May Lead to Weight Gain
Both fruit juice and sugary soda may increase your risk of weight gain.
That's because both are rich in calories yet low in fiber, a nutrient that helps reduce hunger and promote feelings of fullness.
Hence, the calories consumed from either soda or fruit juice are unlikely to fill you up as much as an equal number of calories consumed from a fiber-rich food with the same amount of sugar, such as a piece of fruit.
Also, drinking your calories — rather than eating them — may increase your risk of weight gain. Experts believe this is likely because most people do not compensate for these liquid calories by eating fewer calories from other foods — unless they make a conscious effort.
That said, only excess calories lead to weight gain. Therefore, it's important to mention that consuming small amounts of calorie-containing beverages won't automatically lead to weight gain in most people.
Fruit juice and soda are rich in calories yet low in fiber, making them an inefficient way to reduce hunger and keep you full. They may also lead to excess calorie intake, further promoting weight gain.
Fruit Juice is Richer in Nutrients
Fruit juice contains vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds that sugary soda typically lacks.
Against popular belief, 1/2 cup (120 ml) of fruit juice is just as rich in most vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, as the same quantity of fresh fruit.
Keep in mind that many nutrients degrade with time. Therefore, freshly squeezed juice likely contains higher vitamin and mineral levels than other juice varieties. Still, all 100% juices have higher nutrient levels than sugary soda.
Fruit juice likewise contains beneficial plant compounds, such as carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids, which can help neutralize free radicals and reduce your risk of disease.
This may explain why various types of fruit juices are linked to health benefits, ranging from improved immunity and brain function to lower inflammation, blood pressure, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Yet, these benefits are likely best achieved when fruit juice is consumed in amounts up to 5 ounces (150 ml) per day.
Fruit juice is rich in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds that soda lacks. Regular intake of small amounts of juice has been linked to a variety of health benefits.
The Bottom Line
Fruit juice and sugary soda are similar in some aspects yet widely different in others.
Both are low in fiber and sources of sugar and liquid calories. When consumed in large amounts, both have been linked to an increased risk of obesity and illness, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
However, unlike sugary soda, fruit juice contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds that protect you from disease.
Therefore, when consumed in small amounts, fruit juice remains the clear winner.
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