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Fruit juices and smoothies not much better than soda

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You're eating healthy by opting for fruit juice and fruit smoothies over soda, right? Wrong, unfortunately. These more natural alternatives are still loaded with excess sugar and high in fructose, creating largely the same health risks as drinking sugary sodas. That Coke and Pepsi have bought dozens of fruit juice and smoothie brands is testament to the dubious health claims of these products. When studies linking sodas with obesity and diabetes hit the media, these companies began touting fruit-based beverages as an alternative.

Fruit juice not the way to meet daily produce requirements

Bottled fruit juice and smoothie sell themselves as a way to meet your daily requirements for fruit. But these drinks do not fill you up the way eating a whole piece of fruit does, and they bombard your bloodstream with more sugar than the human body was meant to handle. A smoothie can have the same amount of sugar as a large soda. It doesn't matter if the sugar is "natural" — the impacts are deleterious regardless the source. Ongoing studies on  fruit juices and smoothies  show they cause the same problems with weight gain and diabetes as sodas.

Fruit sugar linked with modern health diseases

High intake of fructose has been linked with weight gain, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, elevated triglycerides and LDL, and type 2 diabetes. One  study  showed subjects who consumed high levels of fructose over 10 weeks developed new fat cells around their organs and had problems assimilating nutrients. Subjects given glucose instead of fructose did not suffer the same consequences. This is because the body metabolizes glucose differently and with less burden to the liver. Also, glucose is utilized by the body more rapidly while fructose is converted to fatty acids for storage.

If your only fructose came from whole fruits and vegetables, you would consume about 15 grams a day. You would also receive fiber, minerals, enzymes, and healthful phytochemicals — nutritionists recommend 28 to 35 grams a day of fiber. Unfortunately, the average teen today consumes more than 70 grams of fructose a day through fructose-sweetened drinks. Research shows those who drink  fruit juice  two or more times a week are almost 30 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who don't consume it. This is not far behind the 40 percent higher risk for soda drinkers.

Smoothies are slightly better because they also include the fiber, however they are still high, sometimes to a staggering degree, in calories and grams of sugar. Also, experts say that because smoothies don't need to be chewed, the brain doesn't receive signals that you've eaten. Studies show chewing leads to eating fewer calories.

Safely including fructose in your diet

This doesn't mean you have to give up fruit completely, you just have to be sensible with your fruit intake. Skip the juiced and processed fruits and eat whole fruits instead, chewing thoroughly. If you love your smoothies, try  vegetable  smoothies that use a modest amount of fruit to make them more palatable.

Meet the Author

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM.

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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