If you’re trying to decide on something sweet to drink with breakfast, 100 percent fruit juice (that is, juice that has nothing added) is certainly healthier than juice drinks with added sugars.
A cup of it can even count as a daily serving of fruit, according to the Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines. And it contains many of the vitamins and minerals found in the whole fruit it comes from.
Nevertheless, says Wendy White, Ph.D., R.D., an associate professor in the department of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, drinking juice isn’t the best way to get your daily dose of fruit.
A key reason: Fruit juice contains little fiber, if any. “Most Americans substantially underconsume fiber,” White says, and fiber is linked with health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and constipation.
Fiber also helps you feel fuller longer, and that can help control your weight. Juice leaves the stomach faster than a piece of whole fruit. “As a result, fruit juice is less filling,” White says.
Then there’s the sugar content. Although nutrition experts generally say not to be concerned about the sugars that are naturally present in fruit (as well as in milk, plain yogurt, and some vegetables), many make an exception for fruit juice because the lack of fiber means your body absorbs the juice’s sugars more rapidly.
And fruit juice is a more concentrated source of sugars than whole fruit. For example, there are 12 grams of sugars in a medium orange, but a cup of orange juice has 21 grams. A cup of grape juice has about as much sugars as 50 grapes.
A serving of fruit juice also has more calories. A cup of orange juice, for instance, has 112 calories compared with 65 calories in a medium-sized orange, according to data from the USDA.
And a 2013 study in the British Medical Journal found that the more fruit juice you drink, the higher your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, whereas eating whole fruits was associated with a lower risk of the disease. Blueberries, grapes, and apples, in that order, had the greatest effect. Swapping three fruit-juice servings per week for whole fruit led to a 7 percent decrease in diabetes risk.
What to Do if You Don’t Like Fruit
If you still prefer to drink your fruits and vegetables, using a juicer is an easy way to reap most of the vitamins, minerals, and certain other disease-fighting substances.
But depending on which type of machine you use, juicing can strain out most of the fiber and possibly other unknown beneficial substances, says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads Consumer Reports’ food-testing department. An auger-style juicer tends to leave more fiber-rich pulp than a juice extractor or centrifugal juicer. (Check our juicers buying guides for an explanation of the differences.)
The best fruits to blend are pears, apples, and watermelon. Note that you’ll need to do slightly more prep work with fruits if you put them in a blender. For example, you’ll need to remove an apple’s core or an orange’s peel before blending.
“It’s also best not to add any sugar to your juice or smoothie,” Siegel says. “Eating a lot of added sugars may increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, or heart disease.”