Q&A about fruit juice and nutrition
Mumsnetters had the chance to ask their questions about fruit juice and nutrition to Tropicana's Senior Director of Nutrition Sciences, Dr. Sue Gatenby
With over 25 years' experience in nutrition research, education and the food industry, Sue Gatenby has responsibility for nutrition strategy at Tropicana. See what she had to say below.
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The nutritional benefits of juice
What are the nutritional benefits of drinking fruit juice? (Gill81uk)
Sue Gatenby: Juice, when consumed in moderation, can contribute positively to the nutritional quality of the diet. A small glass (150ml) of juice is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of folate (sometimes known as vitamin B9 or called folic acid when added to foods during fortification, such as in some breakfast cereals). These vitamins are important in helping to maintain a healthy immune system. Research also suggests that people who drink juice are 70% more likely to meet the five a day goal without displacing whole fruits and vegetables in the diet.
I remember my health visitor recommending drinking juice with meals to help with absorption of iron - is this true? (Whyisitsodifficult)
Sue Gatenby: Vitamin C - of which orange juice is an excellent source - is great for assisting with the absorption of iron from plant foods (such as cereals, beans, pulses etc), so drinking a small (150ml) glass of orange juice with a plant based meal can help your body to absorb the iron naturally present in that meal. Considering that a major source of dietary iron is found in red meat, this is very good advice for vegetarians and vegans whose iron status could otherwise be compromised.
I've seen a lot of conflicting information saying that fruit juice is not as healthy as we think, that it is loaded with sugars and can cause weight gain - is this true? (VickyRsuperstar)
Sue Gatenby: Juice provides calories from the sugars it naturally contains. If more calories are consumed than are needed by the body then no matter which foods and drinks those calories come from, body weight will gradually increase unless those additional calories are expended through activity. A small glass of juice can be consumed by children and adults as part of a healthy, varied and balanced diet. Research in both the UK and US has indicated that drinking juice is not associated with being overweight or obese in adults or children.
Is it true that certain juices are linked to 'cures' or helpful in a specific medical sense rather than just general vitamin C content? (clopper)
Sue Gatenby: Juices can provide essential nutrients which play an important role in maintaining a healthy body. The vitamins found in orange juice, for example, are important in helping to maintain a healthy immune system (vitamin C and folate) and also in helping to maintain a normal blood pressure (potassium). However, while these nutrients are important to help maintain health, it is not legal to make specific medicinal claims (prevent, cure, treat disease) for foods. The nutritional value of juice is varied because it depends on the nutrients in the original fruit. Research has indicated that pink grapefruit and orange juice provide the greatest nutrient density.
Is there a difference between naturally occurring sugars in fruit juice and refined sugar in fizzy drinks? (TattieHowkerz)
Sue Gatenby: There is no difference in the way your body handles sugars naturally occurring versus those added to foods and drinks. Pure fruit juice does contain sugars, but only the same types of sugars you would find in whole fruit - there are no added sugars in 100% juice.
The benefit of products containing naturally occurring sugars is that they can come packaged with other nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, potassium and folate in orange juice). This means the calories from sugar in orange juice are not 'empty calories' but deliver positive nutrition as well, contributing to a healthy balanced diet. Focusing on one ingredient, such as sugar, without considering what other nutrients are being delivered, is misleading and unhelpful for people trying to understand what can make a positive contribution to their and their family's diet.
Why can you only count one glass of juice towards your 'five a day'? (Maiyakat)
Sue Gatenby: A small glass (150ml) of 100% fruit or vegetable juice can only be counted as one of your five a day because juice doesn't contain as much dietary fibre as whole fruit. The recommendations are also designed to encourage people to eat a variety of different fruit and vegetables. Different foods provide different vitamins and minerals, so it's important that people enjoy a variety to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
I often see fruit drinks rather than fruit juice in the supermarket, what is the difference? (suzyq50)
Sue Gatenby: 100% fruit juice contains no added sugar or preservatives. Juice drinks, however, may contain less fruit, and often have other ingredients added such as water, flavours and sweeteners including sugars. It's always a good idea to look at both the ingredients list and the nutrition table on the back of pack.
Are certain fruit juices lower in sugars than others? (janeyf1)
Sue Gatenby: Different fruits contain different amounts of sugar, which means that the same is the case for fruit juices. Grapefruit juice for example is lower in naturally occurring sugars because the fruit itself contains smaller amounts of sugars than an apple, for example. Ripe fruit tends to be higher in sugars than unripe fruit.
Which fruit juice is best vitamin-wise? (baconbap)
Sue Gatenby: Research has shown that citrus fruits tend to be the most nutrient dense and are renowned for their high vitamin C content.
Teeth and juice
Are any particular fruit juices 'better' - or perhaps not as bad - for teeth than others? (purplepandas)
Sue Gatenby: All juices and indeed all acidic foods and beverages (citrus fruits, red wine, vinegar) have the potential to cause dental damage if consumed irresponsibly. The natural acid in these beverages and foods can erode tooth enamel if they reside too long in the mouth or are swished around the teeth. In addition to the acid, the sugars they naturally contain can contribute to dental decay in the absence of good dental hygiene. The key message is to consume and drink acidic foods and beverages at meal times and responsibly - and it's important to maintain good dental hygiene at all times as all sugars, no matter what their source, can contribute to the risk of dental decay. Juice is certainly great with porridge for breakfast!
Should you brush your teeth after drinking any kind of fruit juice? (julesh123)
Sue Gatenby: You should generally wait for at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing your teeth to give your mouth enough time to produce enough saliva to neutralise any acid that might be present from foods and drinks. This is the same for juice. The saliva helps your teeth to harden through remineralisation, which then acts like a protective armour when you brush your teeth.
The best ways to enjoy juice
How much healthier is orange juice with pulp as opposed to smooth juice? (WineOrSleep)
Sue Gatenby: The pulp from the fruit can contain fibre so orange juice with pulp is likely to be higher in fibre than smooth, non bitty, orange juice. However, both juices will provide vitamin C, folate and potassium.
Some fruit juices say from concentrate and others don't - what is the difference other than adding water later, does it matter nutritionally? (VickyRsuperstar)
Sue Gatenby: For most people it is a question of personal preference and taste rather than about nutrition. Juice from concentrate has water removed at source (ie where the fruit is harvested and processed) and then the pulp/concentrate is transported to other countries where water is added back to reconstitute the concentrate. Some people believe that freshly squeezed juice and juice which is not from concentrate has a better flavour than juice which is made from concentrate. Irrespective of whether the juice is made from concentrate or not, it will provide you with lots of important nutrients to help you maintain a balanced diet.
We like to drink juice but don't have much fridge space. Is the long-life juice as good as the freshly squeezed refrigerated juice, in terms of nutrients? (CopperPan)
Sue Gatenby: Long-life juice is pasteurised so that it can be stored and consumed for a longer period of time. This means that a small amount of nutrients may be lost in the process. However, long-life juice still has many different vitamins and minerals important for a healthy body. I'd suggest always choosing juice products that best suit your lifestyle.
Can fruit juice in cartons be frozen? It would be handy if they could... (Gazelda)
Sue Gatenby: Expansion occurs during freezing and this can damage the container, resulting in juice leakage and exposure to air. This will cause the juice to lose flavour. If you would like to freeze your fruit juice, it's best to pour it out of the carton and put it in an airtight container.
Should I always dilute fruit juice and if so by how much? (glenka)
Sue Gatenby: You don't have to dilute your juice - it's down to personal preference. Some people prefer to dilute their juice to reduce the intensity of flavour. Health professionals often recommend that juice is diluted for children.
At what age and at what consumption levels is it reasonable for younger kids to drink them? (sweir1)
Sue Gatenby: Fruit juice can be introduced into a baby's diet after six months, but at this age you should dilute it with water to a ratio of about one part juice to 10 parts water.
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Last updated: about 2 months ago