Is juice as good as whole fruit?

Dear Alice,

Are juicers as good as whole fruit?

— Joyful Juicer

Dear Joyful Juicer,

Juicing can be a great and tasty way to get nutrients your body needs. This freshly squeezed juice contains a majority of the vitamins, minerals, beneficial plant chemicals (phytonutrients), and carbohydrates that are found in whole fruits or vegetables. However, a lot, if not all, of the healthy fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables gets lost during the juicing process. Juicers work by extracting the juice, and some pulp, from fruits and vegetables. So, depending on what benefits you're looking for, juice doesn’t always measure up to eating the original fruit or veggie from whence it came. Read on to learn more!

Fiber is mostly located in membranes between sections, the white part around the outside (as in oranges and grapefruits), the seeds, the skin, and the peels, which tend to be parts of the fruits and vegetables that are lost when juiced. For example, orange juice contains minimal fiber (even if it has pulp) because the fiber is found in the membrane of the fruit, which is lost during the process of juicing. So, why is this relevant to know when considering juicing or eating fruits and vegetables raw? One reason is that fiber helps aid in the digestive process by acting as a sort of "scrub brush" for your intestines and also speeds up the movement of waste through your system. Additionally, fiber can also make you feel full for longer and help people maintain a weight that meets their body's needs, which in turn may help protect them against certain cancers.

Furthermore, fresh juice, though nutritious, also isn't considered to be a low-calorie beverage. If you've used a juicer before, you know that it can take a lot of fruits and vegetables to make a full serving. For instance, an eight-ounce glass of orange juice contains 110 calories, which is equivalent to two oranges (each containing about 60 calories). Additionally, since juice doesn't contain much fiber (or any at all), many people may find that drinking a calorie-dense beverage, such as juice, just isn't as satisfying, or filling, as eating the same amount of calories in food. In turn, this may cause individuals to either consume more juice in order to feel full. However, for those who need to increase caloric intake, juice may be a great choice to help them meet those needs.

If you choose to include juice as part of a balanced diet, fresh juice may be an alternative to its processed, commercially-sold relatives. This is because less stable vitamins, such as vitamin C, aren't compromised in fresh juice as they may be in processed varieties due to pasteurization. There's also some evidence to show that your body may process certain minerals — such as carotenoids and flavanones — better through pasteurized orange juice than whole fruit, but that may not be the case for all fruit juices. Additionally, when juicing or purchasing juice, a healthful choice might be those without added sugar as it can increase caloric content.

In general, there is nothing wrong with juice; it all depends on what  you're looking for. If fiber is what you’re after, you may prefer the whole fruit or veggie over the liquefied form. If you're looking for a tasty drink, juice may be just the ticket. For more information on the benefits of fruits and veggies and ideas for incorporating them into your diet, check out the Go Ask Alice! Optimal Nutrition category in the Nutrition and Physical Activity archives.

Happy juicing!

Last updated Jul 15, 2022
Originally published Apr 09, 1999

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