Wake up. Take a shower. Go to the kitchen for your morning glass of orange juice.
Before reaching for that OJ, you may want to rethink and grab a piece of fruit instead.
“People often think fruit juices give you those important nutrients you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC Sports Medicine. “But actually, consuming the whole fruit is healthier.”
Why? Because the liquid forms often lack two important things: fiber and fruit skin. With breakfast being one of the most important meals of the day, it’s crucial to kick-off your morning by eating something that is both nutritious, energizing and tasty.
Whether you’re getting the kids ready for school or boarding the train for your morning commute, grabbing a whole piece of fruit can be the perfect way to conquer the early hours of your day. From a vibrant red delicious apple to a simple grapefruit or orange, eating whole fruit has more advantages than you think!
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“One advantage of eating the whole fruit is the high fiber content,” Leslie said. “You lose a nutrient-rich, disease-fighting component when the fiber is removed from the fruit to make the juice.”
Fiber is essential for a healthy diet because it helps:
- Normalize bowel movements
- Maintain bowel integrity and health
- Lower blood cholesterol levels
- Control blood sugar levels
- Weight loss
Further, fiber plays a role in satisfying hunger.
“Think about what will make you feel fuller, longer,” said Leslie. “It often takes time to eat and chew whole fruit, whereas you can drink juice — and other beverages, for that matter — more quickly and still feel hungry.”
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Skins Contain Nutrients
And just like fiber, most fruit skins, or peels, are often removed during the juicing process.
“The skin of fruits interacts with the sun and forms different colors that contain various nutrients like carotenoids and flavonoids that can help improve our health,” said Leslie. “Fruit skin, such as grape skin, has been studied for its ability to reduce the risk of cancer and helps protect the body from ultraviolet rays.”
Consumers also need to be mindful of added sugar in fruit juices, which may also adversely affect blood sugar control in diabetics.
“Unfortunately, fruit juice often contains added water and sugar to make it taste better,” warned Leslie. “There are many juices on the market — typically called ‘juice-based-drinks’ — that are made from a variety of concentrates and sugar derivatives. These contain very few nutrients.”
If You Must Have Juice…
If you can’t function in the morning without having your juice, then Leslie recommends drinking 100 percent real fruit juice. Specifically, she advises consumers to reach for:
- Concord grape juice, which ranks the highest in antioxidant activity among 13 juices tested, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
- Wild blueberry juice, which also packs an antioxidant punch
- Orange juice that is fortified with calcium or plant sterols, which help lower cholesterol
- Cloudy apple juice, which contains more apple solids than the usual clear apple juice. The extra apple solids mean that cloudy juice has up to four times more polyphenols, a group of antioxidant plant compounds, than clear juice.
The bottom line on fruit juice?
“No juice will ever match the nutritional punch of whole fruits,” said Leslie. “Fruit juice can be a very concentrated source of calories, so if you decide to drink it, do so in moderation. Just remember, a serving size for most fruit juices is only 4 ounces or a half of a cup.”
When the sunrise begins to creep through your bedroom curtains and you bee-line your way to the refrigerator for that morning juice, keep in mind that grabbing a piece of whole fruit is a far more nutritious way to start your day! If juice-drinking has worked its way into you and your families morning diet, be sure to purchase 100 percent real fruit juice without unhealthy additives like refined sugar.
About Sports Medicine
Sports and physical activity bring with them a potential for injury. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury – or improve athletic performance – UPMC Sports Medicine and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program can help. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our experts partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers, and about 100 other high school, college, and regional teams and events throughout Pennsylvania – working daily to build better athletes.