The Truth About Juice
Despite the much-bandied benefits of fruit juice, the high sugar content can sometimes cause more harm than good
While it may not be quite the ‘baddie’ that a fizzy drink is, this ‘natural’ product is deceptively harmful to dental health and to children’s diets more generally. Well-meaning parents who allow their children to down beaker after beaker of juice in the belief that they are keeping the vitamin intake up are finding themselves in the dentist’s surgery for fillings before their child’s fifth birthday.
The best prevention is to drink fruit juice with meals and stick to water or milk between meals. The acidity in fruit juice, especially citrus juice, such as orange, can cause erosion of tooth enamel. The acid wears away the enamel and eventually the darker layer of dentine shows through.
Dental erosion is far harder to treat than caries (holes in the teeth), which is why dentists are so keen to prevent it. Although fruit sugar in juice is less harmful than added sugar it can still feed the plaque on teeth that can lead, over time, to dental decay and caries.
But before you go rushing to pour those cartons down the kitchen sink, it’s worth noting that there can be a many benefits when juice is given with some thought. If all the tooth-safety precautions for children and babies are followed then fruit juice can be a nutritious part of your child’s diet. Pure fruit juice is better than fizzy drinks and fruit drinks with added sugar or additives. It contains fructose, a low glycaemic index sugar. That means it is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly than sugar. Fruit juice also contains vitamins and minerals. But it does not contain fibre, as many parents think – only the whole fruit contains fibre.
One 150–200ml (5–7fl oz) pure fruit juice per day is enough for a child and it counts as one of your child’s recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. More than one juice or fruit-based smoothie will still only count as one portion of your child’s five-a-day target for fruit and vegetables.
It is also worth noting that some fruit juices are better than others. While orange juice, papaya and pineapple juice are rich in vitamin C, apricot nectar is rich in vitamin A and mango and vegetable juice are rich in both C and A, apple juice is way behind in the nutrients it holds as a beverage. Red grape juice, though, does contain two valuable antioxidants and can have the same ‘healthy heart’ benefits as red wine.
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