100% Fruit Juice. Friend or Foe? Nutritious or Not? It depends on who you talk to. Let’s say a kid drinks 16 ounces of 100% fruit juice several times a week. At least it is better than pop, right? What do you think about that? With the vast number of fruit juices and fruit drinks on the market, there are a lot of nutrition-related concerns. I am going to discuss some of the positives and negatives of drinking juice daily and some common misconceptions.
There are so many options for buying juice these days. So many, in fact, that it can be hard even knowing where to start. Let’s start with the labeling. What are you buying when you pick up a bottle of fruit juice? The United States Food and Drug Administration requires that a product labeled as fruit juice must be 100% fruit juice and anything less than that must state the percentage of fruit juice it contains and be labeled as fruit drink or the like.
It is important to know that 100% fruit juice does not equate to eating the whole fruit. The fiber is no longer in juice and the sensation of feeling full does not kick in as quickly as when eating a piece of fruit. The label may also indicate it is from concentrate. This simply means the water has been extracted from the fruit. An important consideration when purchasing juice is checking labels and ingredient lists to ensure there was not sugar added back into the juice during processing. Do choose 100% juice products over beverages with the terms, “fruit drink”, “fruit cocktail”, or “punch” because these products will contain additives and preservatives.
There is a concern nationwide that beverage intake of young preschool age children is shifting towards less healthy options. A study from 2012 looked at differences in beverage intake among young children across three different decades: 1976-1980, 1988-1994, and 2001-2006. In this analysis of beverage intake among children <1 to 5 years of age, milk consumption is decreasing significantly.¹ This is a major concern as milk contains important nutrients for growth and bone health in young children. Fruit juice consumption has increased significantly though, over the last few decades. Another study looked at how beverage consumption among 5-15 year old girls predicted adiposity and being overweight. The presence of being overweight was not linked to milk or 100% fruit juice consumption but was positively associated with sweetened beverage consumption. Higher consumption of sweetened beverage consumption among 5 year olds led to higher adiposity in the teenage years.²
Fruit Juice vs Whole Fruit
The goal in any household should be to promote more whole fruit consumption along with water. If children refuse water, an alternative is adding fruit slices for added flavor. Letting them help with the process will also get them interested and it is possible they will be more likely to accept it. As stated above, fruit juice is missing the fiber content that whole fruit contains and therefore can lead to excess calorie intake. Fiber has a satiety effect and causes us to feel full. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers ages 1-3 should consume no more than 4 ounces of juice per day. Children 4-6 years should consume no more than 6 ounces and children 7-18 years no more than 8 ounces. It is important to promote healthy eating in toddlers, and diluting the juice over the course of a day can help “stretch” it a little more.
Safety of Fruit Juice
A second component regarding fruit juice is safety. Always ensure you are buying juice that is safe for you and your kids to drink. Look for juice that indicates it has been pasteurized and will be free of harmful microorganisms. Another option is to buy organic when possible to reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides. Both apples and grapes are on the list of most common fruits and vegetables contaminated with pesticides.
As a quick cost comparison, 64 ounces of Mott’s 100% Apple Juice costs $2.48 as compared to Simple Truth Organic Apple Juice at $2.99 for 64 ounces. Over a year, the organic apple juice would cost an extra $26.52 if one bottle was purchased every week. So really, $26 is not too bad but I guess it depends how much juice is purchased over the course of a year. I am even sometimes guilty of only seeing dollar signs when I see organic but if it is something that is regularly consumed then choosing organic may be the way to go.
Frequency of Consumption
A third key component in consumption of fruit juice is how often and the type of cup it is consumed from which is especially important for young children. Toddlers who are given bottles or spill-proof (sippy) cups of fruit juice to carry around throughout the day are at higher risk of developing dental caries. A study conducted by Goyel et al looked at the erosive potential of four different drinks, orange juice, tomato juice, apple juice, and tap water. Tooth erosion from orange juice was highest followed by tomato juice, and then apple juice.³ And those results were present after immersion for 1 hour on 1 day. Dental health has become more of a concern with the increased consumption of fruit beverages over the last decade. Once toddlers are capable of holding and drinking from a glass, discourage the use of sippy cups of juice. Children are more likely to carry sippy cups around with them as they play. I point this out simply as a caution to parents and caregivers as this habit can lead to consumption of excess calories in beverage form when they could be getting additional nutrients if they were to eat a piece of fruit. In addition, whole fruits in most cases contain less calories.
In conclusion, 100% fruit juice can be part of an overall healthy diet. It is important to promote milk consumption in children and adolescents to enhance proper growth. Fruit juice can provide children and adolescents with additional fruit servings but should not replace whole fruit consumption. Fruit drinks and other sweetened beverages should be avoided in young children because they can lead to excess calories and adiposity that may lead to being overweight in adolescence and adulthood. Juice on the other hand, when consumed regularly and within recommended daily amounts can promote good health.
1. Heyman, M. Abrams, S. (2017). Fruit Juice in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: Current Recommendations. American Academy of Pediatrics. 139 (6).
2. Fiorito, L.M. et al. (2009). Beverage Intake of Girls at Age 5y Predicts Adiposity and Weight Status in Childhood and Adolescence. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 90 (4), 935-942.
3. Goyel, P. et al. (2013). Comparative Evaluation of Erosive Potential of Different Beverages on Enamel and Tooth Colored Restorative Materials: An In Vitro Study. Journal of Pediatric Dentistry. 1 (3), 58-62.