Reader question: Is juice good for you?

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Question: Please comment about the pros and cons of fruit juice in general and orange, in particular. One hears so many bad comments about juice. Many times it's compared to soda, which I think obfuscates the 'eating healthy' message. — Robert

Gary Emmett, MD, FAAP weighs in:

Positives of juice:

  • 100% fruit juices without additives (especially sugar) such as prune, grape and apple (in reasonable quantities of  4 to 6 ounces daily) are excellent laxatives that are very natural for those who have trouble with regular bowel movements.
  • Orange juice in small quantities (less than 6 oz per day) supplies Vitamin C but so does a multivitamin, and it supplies potassium but so does bananas.

Negatives of juice:

  • Juices are 10 to 14 calories per ounce and in 20 ounce servings (which is common now) can be 250 calories and if given three times daily will supply a 1/3 to ½ of a child’s entire caloric needs – sweetened drinks, no matter what the source – are a major contributor to overweight
  • Juice in bottles or sippy cups can lead to cavities if left on the teeth during sleep.
  • The problem is much more with amount of juice rather the juice itself – keep juice to 6 oz daily and do not use just before sleep and there is little damage but Americans drink liquids in huge quantities and that is the problem with juice, sweetened tea and soda – loads of calories from sugars especially fructose which the body does not process well.
  • Fruit juice does not contain the fiber and antioxidants that are in the whole fruit.

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