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Drink your juice and get big as a moose

by Denis Faye - The Nutrition Nerd | November 9, 2009

One of the worst recurring fights I have with my 5-year-old is the Battle of the Juice. She wants the stuff all the time. I perpetually try to regulate it. A little juice is okay, but gallons of the stuff? I think not.

Of course, when the topic comes up in the presence of other parents, things only get worse. “What’s wrong with you?” they demand, rolling their eyes at the pathetic hippie dad. “Juice is good for you! It’s the nectar of the Gods!”

I explain that juice is fruit striped of fiber, so it causes sugar spikes just like soda. Furthermore, it provides vast sums of calories quickly, which makes it a huge contributor to America’s increasing obesity problem. Sure, it’s got vitamins and minerals, but the vehicle is flawed. I could put micronutrients in heroin, but you’re still not going to shoot up your kids with that, are you?

They never have a counter argument to this (I think the hard drug reference throws them). But my point is never heard. After a silent, disbelieving beat, they just retort, “But it’s juice!”

So it was with a happy heart that I finally found back-up in the form of this Los Angeles Times article.

A glass of juice concentrates all the sugar from several pieces of fruit. Ounce per ounce, it contains more calories than soda, though it tends to be consumed in smaller servings. A cup of orange juice has 112 calories, apple juice has 114, and grape juice packs 152, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The same amount of Coke has 97 calories, and Pepsi has 100.

And just like soft drinks, juice is rich in fructose — the simple sugar that does the most to make food sweet.

UC Davis scientist Kimber Stanhope has found that consuming high levels of fructose increases risk factors for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes because it is converted into fat by the liver more readily than glucose. Her studies suggest that it doesn’t matter whether the fructose is from soda or juice.

I love this article. It goes on to explain the history of juice and even tries to be somewhat objective.

A 2006 study of 971 low-income youngsters found that each extra glass of juice a day caused children who were already overweight or obese to gain an extra pound each year.

The link between juice and weight gain isn’t always found, however. In a 2008 review of 21 studies, six supported the connection and 15 did not.

In fact, several researchers have linked juice to healthier diets and lower weights. A 2008 report of 3,618 children ages 2 to 11 found that kids who drank at least 6 ounces of juice a day consumed less fat and more vitamins and minerals than kids who drank no juice at all.

But many experts say the data simply reflect a correlation between juice and healthful diets, not a causal relationship.

And for the record, there’s an ocean of difference (literally) between 6 ounces of juice and the supertanker tumblers I see kids suck down daily. I’m comfortable with my daughter drinking 6 ounces. But that whole silly moderation thing seems lost on many parents.

And, in all fairness to Steve’s idol, Jack Lalanne, if you’re super-fit and your body supports a 4000-5000 calorie diet, fresh-squeezed juice is a good way of making up some of those calories. But there’s just no place for juice in the modern child’s fiber-poor, calorie-rich diet.

My favorite part of the article is the conclusion:

Dr. Frank Greer, who spent 10 years on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee, said he “can’t imagine” the group would ever downgrade juice to the status of soda.

“It’s such a normal part of the American diet,” Greer said. “A glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast, my goodness!”

Gee whiz, Dr. Greer, I don’t know what to tell ya! Let’s go ask Andy if Aunt Bea gives Opie orange juice for breakfast!

Just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right, for gosh golly’s sake.

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9 thoughts on “Drink your juice and get big as a moose

  1. Anonymous

    How is the fiber lost when using a Jack Lalanne type juicer? This model of juicer liquifies the entire fruit. Thus, you are still consuming the fiborous part.

    Reply
  2. D Faye

    Yes, but I’m not criticizing the juicer. I’m criticizing the culture of juicing. People listen to Jack and those who buy his juicer do better, but 99% of people say, “Hey, Jack says juice is good, therefore my Minute Maid is the way to go.”

    Also, for the record, juicing fiber and all is an improvement, but you’re still loading calories, so it’s not the same as eating whole fruits. It also promotes juicing culture so that when kids are older and they don’t have access to a fancy juicer, they buy juice and they still refuse to eat fruits and veggies whole as so many Americans inexplicably do.

    Reply
  3. Michael

    Same Anonymous from above. It didn’t let me add my google profile earlier for some reason.

    I agree. Motts for Tots is mostly water so I don’t see a problem with one juice box everyday or so. But I try to discourage my kids from drinking their calories.

    Reply
  4. screwdestiny

    Dude, I freaking love juice. It’s pretty much the only thing I drink other than water. However, I’m FORCED to drink it in moderation because it’s so effing expensive. So it’s not a problem for me.

    And when I was a kid I drank like three glasses of juice a day. And I never had a weight problem. Because like kids are supposed to do, I ran around outside and played with my friends and burned off all those carbohydrates and calories while also getting vitamins. If all kids would do this it really wouldn’t be a problem. I just don’t like it when people villify juice, saying it’s causing obesity rates to rise, when it’s lower activity levels that are really causing obesity rates to go up.

    Reply
  5. Michael

    Screwdestiny,

    I think the difference is the overall view of juice. I’m not that old (late twenties), but I can remember as a kid it was a treat to have a juice or the almost equally nutritious Kool-Aid. Now it is a staple in kids’ diets. You go on a play date, and within two minutes a mom will say drink your juice.

    P.S. It is the same with candy. When I was little, we only got candy on Halloween and Christmas. It was a huge deal. Now I go to someone’s house and the first thing they offer my kid is a piece of candy.

    Reply
  6. D Faye

    So it took juice to turn you against me, hmm, young Jedi?

    I don’t think it’s right to point the finger at one, specific thing and blame childhood obesity on that. As far as I’m concerned it’s a result of everything short of the rotation of the earth, so I blame both faulty diets and lack of exercise — it’s the combination that’s a killer.

    That said, this debate has crystallized my issues with juice, so perhaps what bugs me most isn’t childhood obesity as much as nutritional education. Kids are taught that giant glasses of juice are as nutritious as a piece of fruit when they’re just not. In fact, I’d also probably dissuade a child from eating 4 oranges or 7 apples or whatever the caloric equivalent is to a 20 ounce glass.

    I’d love to come around on the subject, but you didn’t really offer anything compelling. Loving a food isn’t a good reason to label it as healthy. I love peanut butter, but I also know that it’s a weak source of protein, so I’m not going to claim it is. Also, regarding the skinny kids drinking juice. I knew skinny kids growing up who ate Apple Jacks for breakfast and hot dogs and french fries for lunch all summer long. It didn’t make those good food choices!

    Reply
  7. screwdestiny

    Oh, I wasn’t trying to get you to say it was good, I just don’t like people saying it’s a major contributing factor to obesity. But I understand your point of it not being nearly as healthy as some people like to make it out to be. I too think that people should have actual fruit instead of relying on juice to get those vitamins, but if it’s between juice or soda, I’m not going to look down on people nearly as much for giving their children juice.

    Michael, I hear you on the candy thing. It was the same way when I was growing up and it’s terrible how much candy kids get now.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Ask the Nutrition Nerd: Should I be juicing? | Denis Faye

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