The next time you are about to put a juice box in your little one’s lunch bag or are pouring some “all-natural”, “100-percent” juice into a sippy-cup, think again. You might do better to give her a regular Coke instead.*
Yup. That’s right. A 12-ounce serving of some fruit juices can have up to 50% more sugar than a 12 ounce Coca-Cola. Apple juice, a kid-favorite, has slightly more sugar than a Coke, whereas grape juice is the real sugary kick-in-the-pants culprit.
But, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, right? That’s what we’ve always heard. I found this link to Dr.Sears, who has been practicing pediatric medicine for 30 years. It was helpful in understanding whether it’s a good idea to even EAT fruit, since fructose has become a watchword. The answer to eating fruit is yes, (an apple is much better than eating a handful of chewy-candy fruit snacks) but not all fruits are created equal.
Fruits provide us with varying degrees of important nutrients, including vitamin C, fiber, carotenoids, calcium and folic acid. Dr. Sears ranks an avocado as topmost in being the purveyor of the most of those nutrients and benefits packed into one natural package. Also, some fruits can be easier to digest as their sugar content is absorbed into the bloodstream more easily, whereas some, like pears and apples, are not absorbed as easily, causing intestinal gas. (And what do babies eat a lot of? Just sayin’…) Oranges, thankfully, are on that list, as are other yummy things like cantaloupe and strawberries, but who wants to slice an avocado over their cereal or yogurt?
And then there’s not just sugar content, but the other Bang for Buck monitor, Glycemic Index. A good glycemic index rating basically is a way to define how your blood sugar regulates after eating a certain food – the lower the better. For instance, a white-flour muffin will spike your blood sugar, then plunge it down, leaving you feeling less energized and hungry again, whereas a piece of whole-wheat-berry toast will keep you satisfied and energized longer.
But back to fruit: whereas cherries are on Dr. Sears’ “bad for the intestines” list, they have only a “medium” level of fructose and a “good glycemic index” rating, according to this list. But wait. EATING the actual cherries is doing a lot better for you than drinking them: 12 ounces of cherry juice – unsweetened- has 9 teaspoons of sugar in comparison to the 10 in a Coke. But gulping it down won’t give you A) any fiber to speak of and B) the enjoyment of popping cherries into your mouth and spitting out the pits on a hot summer day.
It’s like Dr. Sears says: “How you rank fruit depends upon the reason you’re eating the fruit and your individual tastes.” That’s the truth. I can certainly give up drinking a glass of OJ for breakfast in favor of a ripe summer peach, and forego bananas and grapes (high in fructose, high glycemic index – sorry, folks) and instead sprinkle ripe strawberries and blackberries on my whole-grain meusli in the morning. And really, when it comes right down to it, if you’re going to have a treat, make sure you know that you’re eating one – that mango isn’t a snack, it’s a dessert – high in fructose, high glycemic index, but conversely, number 7 on Dr. Sears top-ten nutrient content list. But I’d rather have the chocolate chip cookie, to be honest, and make sure to eat my broccoli and kale for dinner.