The Truth About Juice

The Gilmore family likes juice. Our fridge is always stocked with delicious, refreshing grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, OJ and V8 Fusion Strawberry-Banana juice. Now before the food police start up their sirens–it’s all 100% juice and I limit it to 2 cups a day. Okay, I’ll admit, on the weekends, when my husband is home, it might be three cups. He loves juice the most and will always give my girls more. The rest of the day they drink water and milk.

I get really nervous when I take my girls to their dentist. Dr. Natasha of Sparkles Dentistry is great, but she does not like juice. Really doesn’t like it. “What’s so bad about juice?” I asked her. She answered with some interesting background on juice and why she wishes parents would avoid or limit it.

Here’s her “Truth about Juice”:

When did juice become a staple drink for kids? I wondered and upon further research , it seems to me that the idea of getting Vitamin C and Calcium and some fiber from Orange juice has morphed in to the whole gamut of fruit juices. Is fruit juice really harmful? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thought that it was enough of a concern that they put out a policy on “The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.” Drinking too much juice can lead to obesity, cavities, diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas, bloating and the all so common “tummy ache.”

In order to be sold as juice, The FDA requires it to 100% fruit juice. In general, juice drinks contain between 10% and 99% juice and added sweeteners, flavors, and sometimes fortifiers, such as vitamin C or calcium. These ingredients must be listed on the label.

Our children require 2-4 servings of fruit a day (depending on age) and the AAP has laid out the quantities (listed below). They only way juice can be substituted for a serving of fruit, I believe, is if we are able to juice or puree that fruit ourselves.

Our bodies need real fruit for the fiber and vitamins. When fruits are juiced (take apple juice for instance), all we’re left with is sucrose, fructose, glucose, and sorbitol and if mentioned some small quantities of nutrients. Fructose and sorbitol have been implicated most commonly in malabsorbtion in the intestines causing the bloating and tummy aches. When we replenish fluids, our bodies need water to rehydrate. Juice not only works our GI systems harder, it is also adding unwanted calories to our kids daily intake.

Fruit juice should be part of a meal or snack. It should not be sipped throughout the day or used as a means to pacify an unhappy infant or child.

Below are the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Juice should not be introduced into the diet of infants before 6 months of age.
  • Infants should not be given juice from bottles or easily transportable covered cups that allow them to consume juice easily throughout the day. Infants should not be given juice at bedtime.
  • Intake of fruit juice should be limited to 4 to 6 oz/d for children 1 to 6 years old. For children 7 to 18 years old, juice intake should be limited to 8 to 12 oz or 2 servings per day.
  • Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits to meet their recommended daily fruit intake.
  • Infants, children, and adolescents should not consume unpasteurized juice.

I urge parents to feed their kids fresh fruit. Fruit snacks and fruit juice are not of any really value to your kids. I believe that a toddler who drinks apple juice, will be the middle-schooler who’s buying Gatorade /energy drinks (equally harmful) at a vending machine and then will be sipping soda to get through the day. If you are a parent sipping soda please consider leading your kids by example.

Okay, I get it Dr. Natasha. But I had to ask, “What if the juice 100% cranberry or pomegranate, which contains lots of good antioxidants? What about V8 Fusion that also has vegetable juice? In moderation it’s not awful right?”

She went a little easy on me and replied, “Georgette, juice isn’t completely awful. If you must, give 4 oz – 6 oz with breakfast and make sure they brush right after.”

(Photo: Flickr)

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  1. Loved Yoo-Hoo as a kid! I also had a craving for it when I was pregnant with my second daughter. It oddly helped my awful morning sickness.

  2. I just drank a lot of milk as a kid. I never liked yoo-hoo, but I loved Ovaltine. A lot of the Vietnamese delis in Brooklyn serve it hot or iced. Mmmm. It goes really well with Banh Mi.

  3. I’ve known this for years. I had a doctor once tell me that drinking OJ is like drinking sugar water. Plus, most juices are pasteurized, which destroys the vitamin content. (Enrichment is not the same thing). Your best bet is to eat real fruits, preferably organic, and get nutrients and fiber.

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