Choose the fruit, you’d say! That’s the general advice, since juices are stripped of the fiber – which most us don’t get enough of — in whole fruit. And let’s face it: Most juice contains a lot of sugar, which most of us consume too much of.
To determine if that is true, a research team of German and Saudi scientists analyzed a batch of fresh navel oranges in three forms: peeled segments, a puree and as both fresh-squeezed and pasteurized juice. As outlined in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers saw no difference in the levels of vitamin C and carotenoids, while levels of flavonoids did vary. However, when they changed their experiment to better mimic digestion, more carotenoids and flavonoids were released via OJ than via the fruit.
In fact, they found that the release of carotenoids was two to three times higher in the liquid form than the fruit (11 percent versus 28 percent for fresh and almost 40 percent in pasteurized juice). The flavonoids were five times higher too.
While the study’s results are in line with other research that found that nutrients in fruits and vegetables can be more available when the produce is chopped, mashed or juiced, nutritionists caution against assuming that this study and others be taken as gospel. They point out that determining what nutrients exist does not determine which nutrients are better absorbed in the human body combined with what other substances. For instance, research has shown that people absorb more beta-carotene from tomatoes with olive oil added, and that cooking broccoli for too long can destroy its antioxidants.
Likewise, how the OJ is made can influence results. Buying a large carton (with sugar added) versus squeezing it oneself can have an impact. Furthermore, store-bought fruit juice often contains almost as much concentrated fructose as a soft drink. Besides health issues from the glucose, juice can also be less filling so people drink more, which can mean more calories are often consumed.
According to experts in food science and nutrition, drinking fresh-squeezed glasses of OJ and such also can spike blood sugar levels faster and higher than one experiences from eating whole fruit. In addition, a study linked regular juice consumption to an increased risk of diabetes and other studies have shown an impact on teeth.
While the answers do not support a definite conclusion as to whether the juice is as healthy as the orange, or a similar determination for other fruits, experts encourage that any servings of fruit are better than having none. To get the fiber from the pulp, they recommend choosing versions of things like OJ that have pulp added. In addition, they recommend keeping track of the sugars in fruit juices and keeping the sugar intake below five percent of one’s daily consumption.
So it’s complicated. FoodFacts.com would have to agree that any fruit in any form is better than no fruit at all. While juice has certainly received plenty of thumbs down in the last few years because of sugar content, orange juice is still made from oranges … not chemicals.