Why You Shouldn’t Give Fruit Juice to Your Kids

Why You Shouldn't Give Fruit Juice To Your Kids

How many oranges does it take to make a cup of orange juice?  When I had a juicer years ago, it took me about 8 or 9 medium size oranges to make a cup of juice. 

Can you imagine eating 8 oranges in one sitting?  I surely can’t, and this is one of the reasons I limit all fruit juice in our house, including fresh squeezed orange juice.

Below are several more reasons you shouldn’t give fruit juice to your kids:

Whole Fresh Fruit Contains Fiber

The beautiful thing about whole oranges (or any whole fruit for that matter) is that they contain more than just juice. Whole fruit also contains fiber, and fiber plays an important role in the way we digest sugars. 

When you eat a whole piece of fruit, the sugar is released slowly as your body has to work to free it from the fiber. Fiber is also filling; it keeps our bodies satisfied until the next meal. It can also help reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk for heart disease.  

When you drink a cup of juice, the body is flooded with sugar. All that sugar is available at once to be used, rather than the slow release that happens when sugar is paired with fiber.

What happens in the body when you drink a cup of juice?

First, the sugar passes through the body and is absorbed in the bloodstream via the small intestine.

The pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to try to convert as much of the sugar as possible into energy.  While some of this glucose will go to the muscles for energy, because of the sheer amount of sugar, some will inevitably go to the liver to be stored as fat.

Meanwhile, the large amount of sugar tricks the body to think that it’s stressed, so the body releases more hormones: epinephrine and cortisol (stress hormones). These hormones cause the heart rate and blood pressure to rise.

Finally, about 30 to 45 minutes later, after the body had gone into overdrive to release insulin and stress hormones, the body experiences a dramatic drop in blood sugar aka “the sugar crash.” This may cause your body to feel sluggish, achy, and irritable. When your blood sugar drops, not only do you feel tired, you also feel hungry and are likely to crave more sugar.  

Whew! What a ride. It’s quite a bad cycle. And this cycle left unchecked can cause excess weight gain which can lead to obesity and eventually diabetes.

Fruit juice is marketed as healthy, but the high sugar content overwhelms kids’ bodies.

Juice is a common part of most children’s diets. Since it’s made from fruit and fruit is good for you, that should be fine, right? But, as we’ve discussed, the concentration of sugar in one service of juice is much higher than in one serving of whole fruit. On top of that, many companies add sugar to their juice!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you shouldn’t give kids under 2 any added sugar. The daily maximum for a child over 2 years old is 25 grams, but it’s the same guidelines for children from 2 to 18, and I think young kids should have much less.

An 8 oz cup of orange juice contains around 23 grams of sugar. Many fruit juices have added sugar, but even for the ones that don’t, a high concentration of sugar close to the limit can’t be good right?

It would take almost three whole oranges to have an equivalent amount of natural sugar, but very few children would eat three oranges at once. Plus the fiber in fruit helps to balance the high sugar intake and there is no fiber in orange juice.

High consumption of fruit juices is one of the reasons that childhood diabetes is rising. Calories from sweetened beverages, such as orange juice, are often referred to as “empty calories” because the energy provided is fleeting and the excess sugars are stored as fat. Juice can increase hunger pangs and mood swings and leave your kids with low energy levels.

In the rare occasion that we drink fruit juice, we ALWAYS choose fresh juice with no added sugar, we have small cups (less than 8 fluid ounces), AND we treat it like a dessert. 

But what about smoothies and vegetable juice?

For smoothies, make sure to keep the amount of fruit to a minimum. Add in compliments like avocado, spinach, nut butters and coconut oil that don’t contribute much flavor but definitely add punches of healthy fats and vitamins.  Instead of using fruit juice as your base, just use water. The sweetness of the fruit will be enough of a sweetener.

Watch the sugar content in vegetable juice and beware of fruit juice with added vegetables. Even though root vegetables such as carrots and beets are vegetables, they should be treated like fruit because they have high sugar contents. For example, a cup of carrot juice contains about 9 grams of sugar.  This is much lower than oranges or apples, but it still includes a significant amount of sugar

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Instead of drinking any type of fruit juice, even fresh squeezed fruit juice, focus on eating fruit in its most natural and whole form. That way you’ll get all the added benefits and nutrients without the sugar crash. When it comes to fruit, the message for a healthier brain and body is simple: eat your fruit, don’t drink it.

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