Is drinking juice as healthy as eating fruit?

Mujer sosteniendo un zumo de naranja

Is it worth drinking orange juice because of its vitamin C content or is it better just to eat an orange? Does a juice cleanse really clean the body? 

Are Green juices, detoxes, cleanses, fruit juices, vegetable juices, weight loss juices, as healthy as they are represented to be or are they just another lie?

These are all questions which you may have had at some point or another.

The Mega team has spoken to two nutrition specialists to bust the myths that revolve around juicing. 

Dr. María Isabel Beltrán Margarit is a specialist in nutrition and dietetics. Dr. Beltrán Margarit belongs to the old school of thought which means drinking fruit juice will never become the equivalent of actually eating a piece of the fruit. The reasoning behind this is that when making a juice, the fruit is squeezed, which means in order to extract the juice it must break its natural cells. It is precisely in these cells in which fibre is found and when discarded, the juice will barely have any left. If it is liquefied "it also becomes free sugar but maintains some of the effects of the fibre even if it is sifted", says Beltrán Margarit.

However, "if we make a smoothie and include the whole fruit, then the fibre is preserved", says Marian Alonso-Cortes, dietician-nutritionist, food technologist and head of the technical department at Aizea, Nutrition and Health Consultancy.

What does it mean to remove the fibre from the fruit? 

"When consuming the whole piece of fruit, the natural sugars are "locked up" in the vegetable cells and with digestion, these sugars will be released little by little after the gastric juices act on them. When squeezed, we break those cells through the friction of the squeezer and the enforce of pressure on them," says Beltran Margarit. 

This means that if we drink a fruit juice when the sugars are released from the cells, will enter the body suddenly, not little by little as it would happen when we eat a piece of fruit. This leads to the dreaded glycemic peak, which gives your body a shot of sugar immediately which disappears almost immediately after leaving your body craving for more. 

Carlos Ríos, the creator of the Realfooding movement, outlines the benefits of choosing a piece of fruit rather than its juice: "We have to take into account that the sugars provided by the fruit are immersed in its food matrix, which means that we find many other benefits in the intake of fruit: lower energy intake (high water and fibre composition), greater satiety, high contribution of micronutrients and phytochemicals and improved health of our microbiota".

Vegetables, on the other hand, have fewer vitamins and more minerals and starches. They also release free sugars but in a lesser quantity as the juicer does not break down the starches. These are processed much slower in the digestive tract. Smoothies with vegetables are better than those with fruit, but the best idea is to make a healthy mix, points out Dr Beltrán Margarit.

Are you one of those who religiously drink orange juice at breakfast every day because of vitamin C? Well, you should know that you would be better off eating an orange... According to the nutritionist Marian Alonso-Cortes, an orange without squeezing it provides an average of 50 mg of vitamin C per 100g. When squeezed you do not take advantage of its full potential in vitamin C content because some of it can remain in the pulp. 

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