It was not uncommon for me to drink several sodas a day when I was a teenager. That was until my junior year in high school. The summer before beginning my junior year, I went to a week long overnight basketball team camp in Washington. Some of the drills and games were played outside in the heat of the direct sunlight. Our coach explained the increased risk of dehydration and placed a "no soda" rule on the team for the week and insisted that we drank water instead. After the week of camp and tired of only drinking water, I had a soda as soon as I entered my house. But I couldn't get passed the first sip. It was too sweet.
I then began drinking fruit juice to replace the soda in my every day diet, thinking that it was a healthier option. This is common for most Americans trying to reduce/replace their soda intake when trying to make healthier life style choices. Schools have even replaced soda in vending machines with fruit juice. The problem is that juice contains just as much sugar, sometimes more, than the soda that it is replacing and presents the same health risks as soda. Here's why.
Soda is artificial and uses high fructose corn syrup as it's sweetener. Juice comes from fruit, which is naturally sweetened by fructose. When fructose enters your body, it is sent to be processed in your liver. Part of the fructose is converted into glucose and stored as glycogen, while most of it is converted into triglycerides (a type of fat). High amounts of triglycerides leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
The journal of Nutrition published an article last year that looked at the difference in the level of fructose in sodas and juices, what they found may surprise you. They found that fruit juice purchased in the store had, on average, a fructose concentration of 45.5 grams/liter, just 4.5 grams/liter less than it's soda counterpart (50 grams/liter). Minute Maid Apple Juice had the highest fructose concentration of the juices that were in the study at 65.8 grams/liter. That is higher than soda power houses Pepsi (65.7 grams/liter), Coca Cola (62.5 grams/liter), and Dr. Pepper (61.4 grams/liter).
Well does this mean that eating whole fruit is just as bad as drinking soda too, since it contains fructose? No. Whole fruits also contain fiber, which slows down the and reduces the absorption of sugar in the body.
So what if you aren't ready to cut juice completely out of your diet, but don't want the high amounts of sugar? Although many juices have begun to cut the sugar, it is recommended to dilute your juice with 50% water.
Lesson? My morning glass of fruit juice had more sugar than if I drank a morning glass of Pepsi. Several years ago, I completely cut out fruit juice and began drinking water. And I have never felt better. If you are a juice-a-holic like I was, make sure to dilute your juice with water, or better yet, just drink water.
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS, CSPS is the founder and head trainer of Specialty Athletic Training and is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. He is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America and the Central Oregon Disability Support Network.