May 23, 2024

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Juice is a staple that’s delicious to drink at any time of day — whether after a workout, with a snack or added to a tropical smoothie. While fruits or vegetables in drinkable form seem healthy, there’s a lot to consider.

Orange juice is the most popular fruit juice in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But go to any supermarket and you’ll find many options beyond OJ — everything from acai berry juice to watermelon juice, plus a variety of blends and cocktails.

Choosing the right kind of juice can mean the difference between a good source of nutrients or little more than sugar water.

Is juice healthy or unhealthy?

Many “juice products” are actually sugar-sweetened beverages — they’re mostly water with added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, so it’s important to look at the label and choose only 100% juice, which is nutrient-dense, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 advise.

Some juice can fit into a healthy diet, says registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, nutrition editor for TODAY.

“Since 100% juice is made from just the fruit or vegetable, it doesn’t have any added sugar,” she notes. “Drinking juice is a good way to get in some nutrients from the food if you can’t meet your daily fruit or veggie intake.”

“It is a way to get nutrients quickly, so you don’t have to exert a lot of effort to get in your vitamins,” Lisa Young, a registered dietitian in New York and author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” tells TODAY.com.

The downside is that juice is liquid calories — it’s lower in fiber than whole fruit or vegetables so you don’t register fullness in the same way as when you chew food, Young adds.

When choosing store-bought juice, Rizzo advises looking for products that say “100% juice” on the front and have a fruit or vegetable as the first ingredient — and preferably the only one. There will be natural sugar, but there should be zero added sugar, Young says.

What is the healthiest juice?

The dietitians offered three different choices for their No. 1 pick:

Pomegranate juice

There’s a lot of research surrounding its benefits, Rizzo says. The whole pomegranate is used to make pomegranate juice, so it has a lot of polyphenols, or antioxidants, that fight off inflammation, she adds.

The polyphenols in pomegranate juice have been linked to heart health, lower blood pressure and anti-cancer activity in studies.

Other research, funded by pomegranate growers, shows drinking the juice every day has potential benefits for visual memory in middle-aged and older adults.

Beet juice

Beet juice has nitrates, a compound that’s broken down into nitric oxide in the body. It’s a potent vasodilator, which means it opens blood vessels and increases blood flow throughout the body, Rizzo says.

That’s been shown to reduce time to exhaustion during exercise and reduce blood pressure, she notes.

Beets contain calcium, vitamin C, iron, potassium and magnesium, TODAY.com previously reported. Beet juice is also a little bit lower in sugar than other juices, Young adds.

“The only downside is that beet juice doesn’t taste great, so many people take it in concentrated shot form to get the benefits,” Rizzo says.

Low sodium vegetable juice

It’s very high in antioxidants like lycopene and vitamin C; plus, it contains lots of potassium, and is low in calories and sugar, Young says. Tomato juice falls into this category, but she prefers a blend of vegetable juices like you might find in V8.

Vegetable juice is usually salty so it’s best to get the low sodium variety.

“I drink that every single day,” she notes. “It really also (satisfies) your appetite. So it’s a great late afternoon snack.”

Other healthy juices

Other top picks include:

Tart cherry juice

“Tart cherry juice is one of my favorites to recommend to athletes because it’s been shown to reduce muscle soreness,” Rizzo says.

Choose natural tart cherry juice without any sugar added, Young advises. An 8-ounce glass contains 6% of both the iron and potassium a person needs in a day. It’s also considered a natural sleep aid because tart cherries contain melatonin and tryptophan, which help with slumber.

Because this juice is so tart, it often has a lot of added sugar. It’s a similar story with cranberry juice, so you have to read the label carefully, Young says.

Orange or grapefruit juice

The citrus juices are very high in vitamin C, so they’re pretty popular, Young says.

She’s partial to grapefruit juice, but cautions people to be aware of its interaction with medicines, including statins.

It’s perfectly fine to have orange juice from concentrate as long as it doesn’t have added sugar, Rizzo notes.

Which juice has less sugar?

All 100% fruit juice has natural sugar, but unsweetened tart cherry juice doesn’t taste sugary at all, Rizzo notes.

Vegetable juice and tomato juice have less sugar than other options, Young says. Beet juice is also low in sugar.

Can you drink 100% juice every day?

Yes, if you watch your portions. There’s often more than one piece of fruit in a glass of juice, so it has more sugar than just eating one fruit, Rizzo notes.

Both dietitians recommend sticking to 4 ounces, or half a glass, of 100% fruit juice per day. You can even dilute it with sparkling water to create a bigger portion without having to add more juice.

It’s OK to drink a full 8-ounce glass of low sodium vegetable or tomato juice since it’s so low in sugar and calories, Young notes.

What is the best juice for weight loss?

In Young’s experience, low-sodium vegetable or tomato juices are best because she finds they tend to cut her appetite.

But there’s no research on a particular juice for weight loss, Rizzo adds. She recommends opting for a juice that isn’t too sweet and has some health benefits.


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