Photographed by Christy Kurtz.
A team of scientists from Britain, Singapore, and the Harvard School of Public Health have found that while eating fruit lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, drinking fruit (in the form of juice) actually increases it.
The study, which surveyed nearly 190,000 Britons over 24 years, found that blueberries were the best option, with three servings per week cutting the risk of diabetes by 26 percent. Grapes and apples also substantially lowered the risk of diabetes, while bananas, plums, and peaches had a negligible effect. Three weekly servings of fruit juice, on the other hand, upped the risk by 8%.
Despite its convenience, juice is a far less healthy option than a real piece of fruit. Not only does the juicing process destroy a number of beneficial compounds and antioxidants, it removes nearly all of the natural fiber. All the sugar with none of the fiber? No, thanks — fiber carries a myriad of digestive benefits and is crucial for slowing the absorption of the fruit’s sugar and keeping its glycemic index low. This, the scientists hypothesized, may be why juice increases the risk of diabetes, and why a high intake of fruit juice has been linked to childhood obesity.
It’s important to note that while it’s often marketed as healthy and natural, juice is not a low-calorie beverage. Just eight ounces of regular orange juice, for instance, contains more than 110 calories, the equivalent of almost two oranges. However, you won’t feel as filled up, because the juice doesn’t contain any fiber. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the calories are worth the vitamins — a single orange provides well over the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and without as high a spike in blood sugar.
Many juices on the market are also a lot less natural than they appear. Some “100% juice” products, such as those of Tropicana and Minute Maid, undergo a decidedly unnatural manufacturing process wherein the juices are squeezed and stored inside giant vats while the fruit’s in season. When oxygen is removed to help with preservation, the flavor vanishes with it, and companies that specialize in synthesizing fragrances are hired to add in “flavor packs” before the juice gets sold — up to a year later.
It's probably better to just grab an apple. A bottle of juice can be a more portable source of vitamins than, say, a half-eaten banana. But, whenever both are viable options, pick the fruit. The fiber will fill you up, the nutrients are intact, and it still tastes like nature’s candy. Nom.