How does fruit juice compare to whole fruit as one of the World’s Healthiest Foods?

Introduction

You’ll notice that on our website we’ve listed all of World’s Healthiest Fruits in whole food form, and that no fruit juices are specifically mentioned as the preferred form for your meal plan. The reason for this emphasis on whole fruits versus fruit juices is simple: regardless of the fruit, and regardless of the method used for juicing, the most diverse and intact collection of nutrients comes to you through the whole fruit!

What’s missing in fruit juice

Whole fruit provides you with a whole lot more nutrition that fruit juice. Focusing upon two components of fruit – the skin and the pulp – will help to clarify why there is such a difference between the two.

The benefits of fruit skins

The edible skins of many of the World’s Healthiest Fruits - including apples, apricots, blueberries, figs, grapes, pears, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries, and strawberries - are all sites of important biological activity in the life of the fruit. The skin is one of the places where the fruit interacts with sunlight, and forms a variety of colored pigments that absorb different wavelengths of light. These pigments, including carotenoids and flavonoids, are well researched as nutrients that protect our health and nourishment. The skins of whole fruits likes grapes have actually been studied for their ability to help lower risk of cancer and help provide protection from ultraviolet light.

Unfortunately, when fruits are juiced, we don’t always get to enjoy the fruit’s skin. That is because many juicing processes remove the skin, and do not allow for its full benefits to get into the juice.

The benefits of the fruit pulp

In addition to the skin, which is an important source of fiber in most fruits, the pulpy part of the fruit is also a source of fiber (and other nutrients). Fruit pulp - which would include portions like the spongy, white inner matrix of oranges - is often discarded along with the skin during the processing of juice from fruit. Although many commercial products will say “pulp added” on their labels, the “pulp added” many not even be the original pulp found in the whole fruit, and it is highly unlikely to be added back in the amount removed.

Juicing reduces the fiber content

How much fiber is lost in the conversion from whole fruit to fruit juice? Let’s use apples and apple juice as an example.

A cup of apple juice that you can see straight through (pulp removed) contains no measurable amount of fiber. To create this 8-ounce glass of juice, approximately 3-4 apples are needed (depending, of course, on the size and density of the apples). Each of these 3-4 apples contains about 3.75 grams of dietary fiber, for a total of about 12-15 grams of dietary fiber. Virtually all of these 12-15 grams are lost in the production of clear apple juice! In the United States, these 12-15 grams of lost fiber, if added back into the juice, would fully double our average daily fiber intake!

Is fruit juice unhealthy?

The answer to this question depends on how it’s consumed, and what foods it replaces. Fruit juice that has been robbed of its fiber and broad range of nutrients is basically just a concentrated source of sugar that lacks the supportive nutrients to help it digest and metabolize. Fruit juice elevates blood sugar more quickly than whole fruit, and the level of sugar that can be obtained from fruit juice is higher than the level found in whole fruit. For example, 120 calories’ worth of whole apples contain about 24 grams of sugar, while 120 calories’ worth of apple juice contain about 30 grams.

Practical tips

If fruit juice is the only “convenience” choice for replacing a canned soda pop, we’re all in favor of fruit juice versus soda pop. If fruits are juiced together with vegetables, the pulp is retained, and juicing allows a person to increase his or her intake of vegetables substantially, then we also would support this step (especially if you use a home juicer that allowed close to 100% retention of the pulp and skin.) However, in most cases, the switch from whole fruit to fruit juice can only be made at the expense of full nourishment and health.

References

Birt, D. F.; Pelling, J. C.; Nair, S., and Lepley, D. Diet intervention for modifying cancer risk. Prog Clin Biol Res. 1996; 395:223-34.

Boss, P. K.; Davies, C., and Robinson, S. P. Expression of anthocyanin biosynthesis pathway genes in red and white grapes. Plant Mol Biol. 1996 Nov; 32(3):565-9.

Kootstra, A. Protection from UV-B-induced DNA damage by flavonoids. Plant Mol Biol. 1994 Oct; 26(2):771-4.

This page was updated on: 2004-11-18 21:15:18
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation