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Does juice cause belly fat?

With the popularity of juice cleanses and juicing diets, many people wonder if drinking fruit and vegetable juices can lead to belly fat. There are arguments on both sides of this debate. Some claim that juice is high in sugar and calories, which can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. Others argue that juicing is an easy way to get nutrients from produce and can be part of a healthy diet. This article examines the evidence surrounding juice and belly fat and offers tips on enjoying juice as part of a balanced diet.

The Sugar and Calorie Content of Juice

One of the main concerns with juice is its high sugar and calorie content. Fruit and vegetable juices are concentrated sources of natural sugars. For example:

Beverage Serving Size Calories Sugar (g)
Orange juice 1 cup (240ml) 112 21
Apple juice 1 cup (240ml) 114 25
Carrot juice 1 cup (240ml) 94 22

While natural sugars from fruit and veggies are not as concerning as added sugars, they can still contribute extra calories and blood sugar spikes when consumed in excess. Over time, this could potentially lead to increased belly fat storage.

Juicing Removes Fiber

One of the downsides of juicing is that it concentrates the sugars from produce while removing the fiber. Fiber plays an important role in managing blood sugar spikes and promoting satiety. Without fiber, it’s easier to drink a lot of calories very quickly from juice. Some research has linked low-fiber diets to increased abdominal fat over time.

Risk of Weight Gain

Some studies have found associations between juice consumption and weight gain. For example, a large study in over 120,000 men and women found that people who increased their juice intake the most over a four year period gained the most weight.

Change in Juice Intake Average Weight Gain
Did not increase juice intake 0.69 lbs
Increased juice intake by 1 serving/day 0.82 lbs
Increased juice intake by 2+ servings/day 1.07 lbs

However, this does not mean that juice caused the weight gain. People who drank more juice could have made other lifestyle changes that contributed to their weight gain. Overall diet quality and calorie intake matter most for weight management.

Potential Benefits of Juicing

Despite concerns about sugar and calories, there are some potential benefits to juicing fruits and vegetables:

  • Easy way to get nutrients from produce
  • Allows you to consume produce you normally wouldn’t eat
  • Makes it easier to get recommended amounts of fruits/veggies
  • Phytonutrients from juice may have health benefits

When included as part of a healthy diet, juice can be a convenient way to get beneficial vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds from fruits and vegetables.

Tips for Drinking Juice

If you enjoy juice, here are some tips for drinking it in moderation as part of a healthy diet:

  • Limit juice to 1 small glass (6-8 oz) per day
  • Drink juice with meals or snacks to reduce blood sugar spikes
  • Opt for lower sugar juices like citrus, cucumber, and tomato
  • Always eat whole fruits and vegetables too for fiber
  • Be mindful of calories and avoid mindless sipping
  • Read labels and avoid juice “drinks” with added sugar

The Bottom Line

There is no direct evidence that juice itself causes increased belly fat. Weight gain results from an excess of calories, and juice can contribute extra calories without offering feelings of fullness. The best approach is to enjoy juice in moderation as part of an overall healthy eating pattern focused on whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fiber, and healthy fats. Limit high-sugar fruit juices and focus on lower-calorie vegetable juices like tomato, cucumber, and greens instead. Be mindful of portion sizes, and avoid excessive calorie intake from juices, which could lead to weight gain over time.