While this may seem insignificant on the surface, The Centers for Disease Control reported America facing obesity rates approaching 1/3rd of the population. Childhood obesity is a growing concern. As a result, a closer examination of calorie consumption through drinks, and juice specifically, may help reduce obesity rates and improve health across age groups.
Most dietitians agree that one-cup of juice each day, when consciously chosen, can nutritionally boost a diet while offering a refreshing beverage. The key to getting the most nutritional bang for your buck is selecting a fruit juice that contains a vitamin or nutrient lacking in your diet or one you would like to increase within your diet. Always avoid juice cocktails or the label ‘Juice Drink.’ These are often the juices with the lowest actual fruit juice and highest levels of sugar.
Vegetable juice ranks highest among dietitians for nutritional benefits. Drinks such as V-8, a drink based on tomato juice or others like it, have a low calorie counts and are associated with reduced prostate cancer risks. Many consumers have begun juicing, a process in which any and all vegetables are turned into palatable drinks with high fiber counts. Kale, beets and other Super Foods are most popular within the juicing movement due to their high anti-oxidant levels. High fiber foods help cut back on hunger pangs and are useful for those dieting to cut calories without feeling hungry. However, WebMD reminds consumers to watch the sodium levels in vegetable juices, as many companies boost salt levels to improve taste.
Typically when one reaches for a cold glass of juice, the old standbys come to mind like apple juice and orange juice. While these do offer nutritional benefits such as vitamin C, they are perhaps not the most nutritionally beneficial juices on the market. Pomegranate juice is touted as the most beneficial juice one can buy. Packed with antioxidants, pomegranate is thought to help prevent prostate cancer while simultaneously improving brain function.
In the past few years some unusual fruit juices have come to the forefront of the health market due to their abundant vitamin benefits. Berries in particular have gained recognition for their health attributes. Blueberry juice is also high in antioxidants and has been shown to improve memory. Acai Berries, a South American berry has been found to have higher levels of antioxidants than virtually every berry on the market. Relatively unknown to North American consumers, the benefits of the Acai Berry are still being studied. WebMD cites cherries as an excellent natural anti-inflammatory. For those heading out for a strenuous workout, a cup of cherry juice before or after may help reduce muscle pain later.
Many health experts are concerned about the role juice may be playing in adding weight to Americans. Health habits established in early life are often carried forward through life. Young children today are often seen with their ‘sippy cups’ filled to the brim with sugary juice drinks instead of water or milk. While this may seem innocuous enough, one-cup of juice can contain as much sugar as a candy bar. These high sugar levels are not only harmful to overall health and lead to weight issues later in life, but sugar has been identified as an addictive substance.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled, “Effects of Dietary Glycemic Index on Brain Regions Related to Reward and Craving in Men” is the first academic study to take on the addictive qualities of sugar. This study, showed that the human brain responds to higher glycemic indexes even when the taste buds of test subjects are tricked. Pumping our bodies with sugar, whether through sugary treats or juices, are leading to generations of sugar-addicted individuals.
A closer look at juice reveals that like most foods, in moderation there can be real health benefits. However, when abused or over-consumed juice is not better than any other high calorie food or drink. When selecting your juice, read labels and examine closely your diet to see which fruit drink would best enhance your health and diet.