May 23, 2024

A glass of fruit juice looks not only appealing, but it is also a quicker way to take in an impressive list of vitamins and nutrients without the hassle of cutting fruits or munching on a solid though juicy fruit. But did you factor in the part that 100% fruit juice is also loaded with enough sugar to draw unflattering comparisons to soda?

Look at it this way: When you eat a fruit, you eat the fruit pulp, the fibre, the fruit meat that not only engages the mastication (chewing) process by your mouth, it also rolls the fruit matter in saliva, partly digesting some of it before sending it to the stomach.

When this chewed to pieces fruit reaches your stomach, the stomach gets into the process of further digesting the fruit and sending the matter to the intestines for further processing and absorption of nutrients etc. That means when you eat a banana or an apple or a piece of papaya, the fibre in the fruit helps to slow the absorption of its sugars into the bloodstream, preventing spikes in blood glucose.

Now compare that to a glassful of fruit juice. It takes 4-6 oranges/apples/pomegranates to fill up a glass with juice. Imagine the amount of sugary liquid you are taking in at a shot without the fibre of those many fruits to engage the digestive tract. In no time at all, that natural (even if none added artificially) sugar is going to reach your blood in a hurry. The loaded sugar bomb hits with immediate and unmitigated effects, leading to insulin spikes and eventual crashes. Within minutes of consuming a glass of juice, your hunger will return and you will crave more to eat or drink.

In the short-term, this means your energy levels are likely to seesaw and if you think of what happens if you do this over a longer period of time, insulin spikes may lead to unwanted weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other health problems.

Things only get worse when you drink juices sold at fresh fruit juice stalls or buy the pasteurised canned versions from supermarket shelves. You have no clue what the vendor adds as a secret ingredient (loads of sugar and food colourants can be carcinogenic) or preserves and sugar in some other forms added to the bottled versions.

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Why Sugary Beverages And Fruit Juices Are A No-No

People with type 2 diabetes have higher risks of developing cardiovascular disease or dying younger if they drink a lot of sugary beverages, including soda, fruit punch, or lemonade, suggests a Harvard-led study published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) in April this year.

Citing the study in a ‘Harvard Health’ article, Maureen Salamon, Executive Editor, Harvard Women’s Health Watch, writes that the same risk is lower if they drink healthier choices.

The study that conducted over a period of nearly two decades involved 9,252 women and 3,519 men who periodically reported how often they drank sugary beverages, artificially sweetened drinks, fruit juice, coffee, tea, low- or full-fat cow’s milk, or water.

These participants were either diagnosed with diabetes at the study’s start or at some point during the following 18.5 years. The study found that those who regularly drank sugar-sweetened drinks were more likely than other participants to have cardiovascular disease, die from it, or die for any reason during the study period. 

Each daily serving of a sugary drink raised the risk of dying from any cause by 8%. The good news was that when the participants who drank healthier beverages were studied it was found that all such risks decreased.

What Are Healthier Juices, Drinks, And Beverages?

According to an article in Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, humans seem to have forgotten how nature has provided them with the healthiest drink of all.

Good ‘ole refreshing water abundantly available across the planet for millions of years was the only beverage our prehistorical ancestors knew and it can provide everything the body needs to replenish the fluids it loses. 

When man began farming and domesticated animals, the cattle provided milk.

Slowly humans figured out how to make beer, and wine, and harvest coffee or tea for variation in beverages.

It is these newcomers on the block — the sugary beverages including soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks — that need to be put under a scanner.

While satiating our thirst and providing hydration, these unhealthy beverages dump a huge number of calories on our bodies and leave them in a mess as our physiques have not evolved to handle them. With food constantly available, we are never calorie-deficit or hungry. So with this hefty dose of calories, our pancreas has a hard time regulating all that sugar. Being more concentrated, juices provide more carbs in the form of sugar than most people can burn or use in one sitting with our desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles.

Fruit juices and dental health: The high content of sugar in fruit juices also provide food for the bacteria in dental plaque, inviting possible dental decay. Also, the acid content of many fruit juices eats into the enamel on your teeth and this can lead to a higher risk of tooth decay.

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How To Choose The Healthiest Beverage?

Water: The best choice to stay hydration and quench thirst. At least half of your daily fluid should come from water. It is tough to say how much water each one of us should drink in a day. The amount you need depends on how much you eat, what the weather is, and how active you are. Since 60% of the human body is water, the health of our brain, kidneys, heart etc depends on the availability of clean drinking water. Most experts recommend drinking 2.7 litres (or 91 ounces, or 11 cups) for adult women a day, and 3.7 litres (or 125 ounces, or 15 cups) for men.

Green juices: Opt for green juice — that is, a juice made entirely or primarily from vegetables. This is a smarter choice as vegetables are typically lower in sugar and calories than fruits.

Coffee and tea: These two are the most commonly consumed beverages across the planet. If consumed plain, they are calorie-free beverages full of antioxidants, flavonoids, and other biologically active substances that may be good for health. Green tea is lauded for its potential role in protecting against heart disease, while coffee may help protect against type 2 diabetes. A tip if you have chai: skip the sweeteners, even the dairy if you can. As for the milk, keep it low-fat and less is fine; just make sure you get your calcium from another source.

Fruit juices and milk smoothies: These beverages and those made with low-calorie sweeteners, like diet drinks can be had occasionally.

Alcohol: Your doctor knows best, but in moderation can be healthy for some people, though not everyone.

Sugary drinks like soda, sports beverages, and energy drinks: Absolutely worthy of avoiding unless there is nothing else available by any means possible.

Glycemic Index Of Fruits And Diabetes

The glycemic index (GI) is one tool scientists across the globe deploy to make people understand the effect different foods are likely to have on their blood sugar levels. The GI chart is basically a comparison that demonstrates how quickly different foods containing carbohydrates are likely to affect your blood sugar level.

These are the GI values and categories you must know:

Low: 55 or below
Moderate: 56 to 69
High: 70 and above

It is best to eat fruits freshly acquired and cut. You can eat frozen fruits if the availability of the fresh variety is not reliable. If you are shopping for canned fruit, read the labels and look for words like “packed in its own juices”, “unsweetened”, or “no added sugar.” 

Skip Sugary Juices, Eat Fruits With Low Glycemic Index And More Fibre: A Primer For Diabetics

Bottom line: Do not insist on eating a lot of fruit at once. Eat smaller servings over a period of time. The portion sizes and the number of servings should be as advised by your doctor. Also, if you consider having grapefruit, a citrus fruit which has a very low glycemic Index and is loaded with vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium and fibre, do check with your doctor about your medication first. Grapefruit is known to interact with statins and certain immunosuppressants.

The author is an independent journalist. 

The Cost Of Sugar, Part IV: Sugar And Intermittent Fasting: Can We Eat Dessert And Yet Lose Weight?

(This article is only for dissemination of findings of various studies, and not to be treated as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or a healthcare expert before making any changes to your diet, medicine, exercise, lifestyle, or health protocol.)

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