Foods, Prediabetes

Fruit Juice: Healthy or Harmful for Prediabetes?

Fruit Juice: Healthy or Harmful for Prediabetes?
Chelsea Clark

If you have prediabetes, then you should consider the diagnosis as your chance to make healthy change. Prediabetes can be reversed and diabetes can be prevented – as long as you begin to take good care of your body and watch your diet.

Just as important as what you eat is what you drink. And while many people consider juice to be a healthy option (it comes from fruit, after all), juice is not nearly as healthy as it may seem. Drinking juice can lead to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar that make matters worse if you have prediabetes.

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How does fruit juice affect blood sugar?

Fruit juice contains high amounts of sugar. To give you an idea, one cup of orange juice contains more than 20 grams of sugar.[1] This is almost all the sugar you should consume in an entire day.[2]

And although the sugar in juice is naturally occurring, your body responds to this sugar in

essentially the same way as it would to sugar that is artificially added to soda.[3,4] Fruit juice is moderately high on the glycemic index, meaning that the sugar in fruit juice is digested quickly and rapidly enters your bloodstream to create a big blood sugar spike.

Rapid changes in blood glucose levels are something you really want to avoid if you have prediabetes. The more you have high blood sugar levels and the more often your blood sugar spikes, the more you put yourself at risk for developing diabetes.

Fruit is healthy, so why isn’t juice healthy too?

It can be confusing to learn that fruit juice isn’t as healthy as you might think, because it comes from fruit. Fruit is known to be full of vitamins and nutrients and is considered a healthy food.

But there are some important differences between whole fruit and fruit juice.

The biggest difference is that whole fruit contains fiber, which slows down digestion and helps prevent blood sugar spikes. Fiber is very important for health, and it is particularly beneficial when it comes to diabetes protection.[5]

Whole fruit is also less concentrated than juice, so there will be less sugar in a piece of whole fruit than there is in a glass of juice. It usually takes several pieces of fruit to make a small glass of juice, so you’ll get all the sugar from a bunch of fruit but without the bulk that contains healthy fiber and other nutrients.

Drinking too much juice may increase your diabetes risk

Sugary beverages (including fruit juice) are linked to diabetes risk.[6] And while fruit juices may not be as bad for you as sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, it can still be harmful.[3]

According to a 2013 study led by the Harvard School of Public Health, people who drank at least one serving of fruit juice per day had a 21% increased risk of diabetes. On the other hand, people who ate at least two servings of whole fruits like blueberries, grapes, or apples reduced their risk by 23%. The authors of the study estimated that people could reduce their diabetes risk by 7% if they just swapped out three servings of juice per week for whole fruits.[7]

The health effects of fruit juice extend far beyond blood sugar issues and diabetes. It can contribute to weight gain and other health concerns, too.[3] In fact, one study found that for each additional serving of fruit juice per day, the risk of all-cause mortality increased by 24%.[4]

What kind of juice and how much is okay?

As you can see, fruit juice isn’t exactly a health superfood. But that’s not to say you can’t enjoy some juice from time to time if you drink it responsibly.

Here are some tips for making healthy choices when it comes to juice:

  • Watch portions. Instead of pouring yourself a tall glass of orange juice with breakfast, pick a smaller glass and don’t fill it up all the way. Healthy portion sizes of juice are usually somewhere around ½ cup.
  • Stick with 100% fruit juice. Many people don’t realize that lots of juice products out there contain added sugar. If you do choose to drink juice, make sure you pick a product that is 100% real fruit juice. Stay away from things like juice “cocktails,” fruit punch, lemonades, and other juices that contain added sugars.
  • Opt for nutrient-rich juices. Juice made from pomegranates, cranberry, acai, and other nutrient-rich superfoods can be quite healthy. But be warned that 100% juice products like these won’t taste as sweet as what you may be used to. It may take some adjustment for your taste buds to enjoy these kinds of juices.
  • Water it down. If you really love juice and like to sip on a bigger glass, you can always add water. That way, you are still limiting your portion size of juice to the appropriate amount, but you can enjoy a larger beverage. A great trick is to add sparkling water to a little bit of fruit juice to create your own tasty concoction.
  • Eat fresh, whole fruit when you can. Whole fruit is always a better option than juice. To learn more about eating fruit with prediabetes, go here.
  • Swap out juice for healthier drink alternatives. If you drink a lot of fruit juice, your best bet is to cut down on your intake. Consider healthy alternatives instead like water, sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lime, tea, or other low-calorie, low-sugar beverages.

Key takeaways

Juice is often thought of as a healthy option. Many people drink it at breakfast, put it in their children’s lunchboxes, and choose it instead of soda for a treat. But it turns out that juice is usually not all that healthy, especially for people with blood sugar concerns.

Juice is loaded with sugar and lacks fiber, so it is digested quickly and can dramatically affect your blood sugar levels. If you have prediabetes, it is best to limit your juice consumption.

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You can still enjoy juice from time to time, but the key is to watch portion sizes. You should also make it a habit to swap out juice for whole fruits and choose healthy drink alternatives like water or tea more regularly.

If you’d like to learn more about cutting back on sugar with healthy beverage choices, click here.