Should Fruit Juice Be Taken Off Canada’s Food Guide?

I don’t think the debate on Canada’s Food Guide will ever be settled, regardless of how they plan on changing it.  The most recent request to pull 100% fruit juice from the food guide because it contains too much sugar is a valid argument; however, the question remains: Is fruit juice that terrible…?

Health care professionals working in the beverage industry argue that fruit juice provides Canadian’s with a convenient way of achieving their daily recommended intake of fruit, as opposed to actually eating the fruit itself.  The flip side of this argument is that fruit juice contains excessive sugar and health care professionals should not be promoting the consumption of it.  Each side of this argument has some validity but what should we believe?  Should we stop drinking fruit juice? 

While 100% fruit juice does contain the wholesome nutrients that we consume fruit for, it is, however, very concentrated. For example: Have you ever made juice using a juicer?  How many oranges or apples did it take (or would you guess it would take) to make one cup of juice?  While it depends on the size and juiciness of the fruit (and the quality of the juicer of course), the fact of the matter is that it takes more than one orange, or one apple, to make one cup of juice.  An average sized orange or apple is one serving of fruit.  So if it takes more than one fruit to make one cup of juice, you are ingesting more calories than your body would get if you ate just the one piece of fruit.

How often do you sit down and eat 2-3 apples or navel oranges at one time?  Unless you are a teenage boy, chances are you wouldn’t, because it would simply be too filling.  However, one cup of juice isn’t as satisfying as eating the whole fruit.  Why you ask?  Well, it really comes down to simple mechanics.  When you eat the whole fruit, your body needs to process it – just like a juicing machine – the fruit is digested over the next 1-2 hours and the nutrients are extracted from the fibres of the fruit and absorbed.  When you drink juice your body doesn’t have to process it as much because the juicing machine has extracted most of the nutrients from the fruit so your body simply absorbs it.

Juice isn’t bad for you; it is the volume of juice you consume that needs to be monitored.  Half a cup of 100% pure juice per day is totally acceptable for a balanced diet.  Does it contain too much sugar?  Well, fruit is made up of naturally occurring sugar.  So yes, it does contain sugar, but the only time you end up getting too much sugar from fruit is when you over consume it – either in the form of juice or whole fruit. It is possible to enjoy a variety of fruit on a balanced diet; the key is watching your portions and aiming for 2-3 servings each day. Remember: half a cup of juice is one serving. 

So while I agree fruit juice should be removed from the food guide, I think the rational that it is too high in sugar is misleading and just adding to the confusion for the consumer.  A simple message is this:  Our bodies are intended to digest food.  The more processed a food is, the less work our body needs to do to get the nutrients.  The act of digesting food is what helps make us feel full and satisfied.  Take this away and we will naturally be looking for more food to eat.   So eat your fruit instead of drinking it; you will feel more satisfied!