Soda or Juice? Pick Your Poison

Photo: Soda Bad

     "A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine."   "Any weather is Pepsi weather."   What do these two advertising slogans have in common, besides the fact  that they talk about the weather?  Both are pedaling unhealthy products.

     The idea that juices are just as health-destroying as sodas comes as a surprise to many people.  In fact, it can be a complete shock to those of us raised to believe that juice is healthy as long as it is "100% juice."  

     Juice's effect on our blood sugar levels and insulin response, as well as its contribution to type II diabetes, obesity and metabolic disorders  is identical to that of soda's.  Saying it any less clearly would  simply be contrary to science.  I was going to say that it would be "sugar coating it," but that bad of a pun is beneath even me.

     Fruits and vegetables are among the most healthy foods we can eat.  How can it be, then, that consuming them in juice form is not a good thing?  The problem lies in  both how quickly our bodies can absorb the sugars in juice and, in the case of fruit juice, the high amount of fructose.

     Fructose is not unhealthy in amounts and rates absorbed from eating whole foods with their fiber intact.  Like all processed foods, however, juices allow you to consume much more than nature ever intended.   Even juice with the pulp remaining is still just as bad because the grinding of the fruit destroys the integrity of the water soluble fiber, rendering it useless. 

     Apples and apple juice are a great example.  If you eat a large fresh apple, or maybe even two, you  spend a few minutes chewing  and probably feel sated afterwards.  That's because of the large amount of fiber in apples in relation to how much sugar they contain.  

      Now if you were to drink a glass of apple juice, you could, in seconds, take in as much sugar as in two or three large apples.  Instead of feeling sated, however, your blood sugar levels and then insulin levels would spike and you would shortly find yourself even hungrier.

     As I said, our bodies are only designed to use the amount of fructose nature intended.  That's the reason that sugar is so harmful.  Sucrose, or table sugar, is made up of a glucose and a fructose molecule.  When we drink juice or eat processed foods, our liver is over loaded with fructose.  The end result is that this excess sugar is preferentially deposited as fat around your viscera and on your abdomen.   It is this visceral and abdominal fat, not simply obesity itself,  that is responsible for the plethora of health problems associated with obesity.

     It is incumbent upon all of us to reduce our sugar intake.  Avoiding sodas, juice, and other sweetened drinks is a necessary and effective first step to doing this.  I have had a number of patients and gym members tell me that they were able to lose the weight they wanted, or improve their insulin sensitivity, by making this change alone.

     Advertising slogans are used because they help sell products, not because they are necessary true.  Coke is not actually it, whatever it is, and billions of dollars in marketing can't change basic physiology.  Sodas are hugely health destroying because they allow you to ingest far more sugar than nature ever intended and the exact same is true of juice.  



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