Smoothies and fruit juices are often seen an alternative to eating fruit, especially for children who won’t eat fruit, as a ‘healthy option’ when going out for a drink or as an addition to a lunchbox. But are they really as healthy as they claim? The Guardian published an article today about the health risks of fruit juices and smoothies. I thought I’d write a blog about fruit juices and smoothies to highlights their pros and cons, and how you can include them healthily in your diet.
Fruit juices can only ever contain a maximum of 1 of your 5-a-day, regardless of how much you drink or how many different types of fruit are in it. Smoothies can only ever contain a maximum of 2 of your 5-a-day. To contain 1 portion of fruit, a smoothie must contain all the edible pulped fruit of at least 80g of that fruit. To contain 2 portions, it must contain either:
At least 80g of one variety of whole fruit and at least 150ml of a different variety of fruit juice
At least 80g of one variety of whole fruit and at least 80g of another variety of whole fruit
The positives of fruit juices & smoothies
- They are a good source of vitamins, especially vitamin C
- They are an easy addition to the lunchbox (cartons / bottles)
- If drunk with a meal, the vitamin C in the juice will help enhance the absorption of iron from the other foods in your meal
- Smoothies often have yoghurt or milk added to them, providing a source of calcium
The down side to fruit juices & smoothies
- Don’t under-estimate the power of eating the ‘whole fruit’. Fruit juices are lower in fibre – you don’t get the effect of the whole fruit, e.g. the skins and pith. Smoothies have been blended down already, so the digestion process has been started for you, before you even drink it
- Fruit is digested slower than juices and smoothies, releasing its sugars more slowly into the bloodstream than fruit juices. Fruit juices will give you a sugar ‘high’, meaning you’ll feel hungrier sooner
- They are high in sugar – yes this is natural sugar (fructose), digested in a different way to sucrose (found in the sort of sugar you add to your tea), but it’s sugar none-the-less. Imagine how many fresh oranges you’d have to squeeze to make a glass of fruit juice – probably at least 4! Would you eat that many oranges in one sitting?
- Fruit juices can still be high in calories because of the concentrated fruit
- Smoothies can be full of calories too – containing concentrated fruit, plus the manufacturers often add ‘high fructose corn syrup’
- Fruit juices and smoothies don’t fill us up, whereas eating fruit does
Summary: the bottom line
The bottom line is that there is no alternative to eating fruit in its whole form. Remember that fresh, frozen, tinned and dried all counts. When it comes to fruit juices, it’s all about portion control. A small glass of fruit juice once a day is fine – consider drinking it at breakfast, as the vitamin C in the fruit juice will enhance the absorption of the iron from your cereal or toast. Smoothies are ok as an occasional drink, but try to limit your portion size. If you want to include fruit juices more regularly or in larger portions, consider switching to a vegetable juice instead. Now… who’s for an apple?