We’ve heard it countless of times: As Americans, our diets aren’t as awesome as they could be. We’re not eating sufficient fruits and vegetables, are having too much sodium, and consuming way more sugar than we should—and that’s contributing to all kinds of health issues. But new research published in JAMA found that things are looking up in terms of what we eat.
For the study, researchers analyzed the dietary habits of nearly 34,000 people from 1999 to 2012 and discovered that we’re actually having more whole grains, nuts, seeds, and whole fruits on the regular. Hooray!
They also point out that we’re having less 100 percent fruit juices—and looking at it like it’s a good thing.
So…OK. You may be aware that fruit juices can be a sneaky source of sugar, but, confusingly, you might also know that they can included as a serving of fruit. So, what are we supposed to think?
The trouble with fruit juices is that they have calories that don’t fill us up, says registered dietitian Sonya Angelone, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Our bodies don’t recognize liquid calories as well as whole foods calories even if from 100 percent real fruit juice,” she explains. “This means that we don’t feel satisfied and eat more food to compensate.” Also, one of the big perks of eating fruit is getting fiber, she says, which fruit juices don’t have.
But don’t toss your OJ just yet. Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., cofounder of nutrition website Appetite for Health, says 100 percent juice is one way to get a fruit serving into your diet—it’s just considered more useful to actually eat the fruit. “They provide the same nutrients as the fruit…but without the beneficial fiber,” she says. And, she points out, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines (which give Americans advice on healthy eating) say that 100 percent juice can provide up to half of your recommended fruit and vegetable servings a day.
Juices also have health-boosting flavonoids and carotenoids, as well as nutrients like vitamins A and C, potassium, and folate, so they’re not exactly on par with drinking a soda, Upton says.
Angelone agrees. “One hundred percent fruit juices can be part of a healthy diet, but only if consumed in a small quantity,” she says. She recommends having no more than six ounces of juice a day and doing your best to eat fruit in its whole form whenever you can, too.
Basically, if you can’t live without your A.M. juice, you’re totally fine to keep drinking it. After all, it’s a good way to squeeze in some extra nutrients. Just make sure you sneak some whole fruit into your diet later on to make sure you’re really giving your health a boost.
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