Juice has become an incredibly popular beverage choice over the past few decades. With so many different types of juice available, from orange juice to grape juice to apple juice, it can be difficult to know which juices are actually healthy options. Apple juice in particular is a juice that is found in many homes and served often to children. But is apple juice truly a nutritious beverage choice?
Nutritional Profile of Apple Juice
To determine if apple juice is healthy, we first need to look at its nutritional profile. Here is an overview of the key nutrients found in 8 ounces (240 ml) of unsweetened apple juice:
As you can see, apple juice is high in sugar, with 24 grams per 8 ounce serving. That equals about 6 teaspoons of sugar. It does contain some vitamin C, but is lacking in other nutrients like dietary fiber, protein, and potassium. Overall, it is a high sugar, low nutrient beverage.
One of the biggest concerns with apple juice is the high sugar content. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men. Just one 8 ounce glass of apple juice contains 24 grams of sugar, nearly an entire day’s worth.
Consuming too much added sugar from beverages is associated with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and tooth decay. Sugar sweetened beverages like apple juice provide excess calories without any beneficial nutrients.
It’s important to note that the sugar in 100% apple juice is fructose from the apples, which is technically considered a natural sugar rather than added sugar. However, fructose has the same health effects as added sugars. Your liver processes fructose the same way as table sugar, and it can negatively impact blood sugar control.
Lack of Fiber
When you eat an apple in its whole form, you get the benefit of fiber from the flesh and skin of the apple. Fiber helps slow digestion and absorption of the fruit sugars. However, juicing strips that beneficial fiber out of the apple, leaving only rapidly absorbed fruit sugars.
Without the fiber, the sugar in apple juice is absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream. This can spike blood sugar levels and may contribute to insulin resistance over time.
The fiber in whole apples also helps you feel full. Soluble fiber like pectin absorbs water to form a gel, promoting satiety. This effect is lost with juicing, making it easier to consume more calories.
Low in Other Nutrients
In addition to being low in fiber, apple juice is missing most of the other beneficial nutrients found in whole apples. Here is a nutritional comparison of 1 medium apple versus 8 ounces of apple juice:
|1 Medium Apple
|8 oz Apple Juice
|8.4 mg (14% DV)
|4.4 mg (5% DV)
|200 mg (6% DV)
|107 mg (3% DV)
As you can see, the whole apple contains more fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Juicing the apple reduces many of its beneficial nutrients, including polyphenol antioxidants that are found in the skin.
Risk of Toxic Metals
There is a possibility of toxic metal exposure from apple juice and other fruit juices. Lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury may be present in juice products.
These heavy metals can come from outdated manufacturing equipment, soil contamination, pesticides, and packaging materials. Children are especially vulnerable as their developing bodies are more sensitive to toxins.
While the FDA does regulate limits on heavy metals in juices, it’s a good idea to buy high quality organic juices whenever possible to minimize exposure.
Lacks Protein and Healthy Fats
Whole apples contain a small amount of protein and fiber, while apple juice is devoid of protein. Protein is important for keeping you full as well as maintaining muscle mass and healthy blood sugar levels.
Additionally, whereas whole apples contain antioxidants like vitamin E and polyphenols, apple juice does not contain beneficial fats. The juicing process removes the healthy fats present in apple peel and flesh.
These types of fats help fight inflammation and protect your cells from damage. Sipping juice makes it easy to miss out on these satiating and protective compounds found in solid fruits.
Drinking apple juice, especially frequently throughout the day, can negatively impact oral health. Bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars in juice and produce acids that attack tooth enamel. This can lead to erosion and tooth decay, especially in children.
One study in children found that each additional daily serving of fruit juice increased the risk of cavities by 19%. Sticky sugars like those in apple juice are the perfect food source for the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
The acids in apple juice may also erode enamel over time. It’s best to consume juice alongside meals and limit between-meal juice intake to protect your teeth.
Blood Sugar Control
The combination of high sugar, low protein and low fiber makes apple juice a beverage that can spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This response may be exacerbated in people with prediabetes or diabetes.
One study compared the effects of whole apples versus clear apple juice on blood sugar levels in healthy adults. The researchers found:
- Eating 1-2 whole apples did not significantly impact blood sugar or insulin levels
- Drinking 12 ounces (355 ml) of sugar-sweetened clear apple juice spiked blood sugar and insulin levels, particularly in obese individuals
Another study in people with type 2 diabetes found that drinking 1 cup of apple juice led to a spike in blood sugar and insulin, while eating a whole apple with the skin had no detrimental effect on blood sugar control.
Though small amounts may be tolerated by healthy individuals, it may be wise to avoid large amounts of apple juice if you have diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Apple juice contains sorbitol, a type of sugar alcohol that can act as a laxative for some people. Consuming too much sorbitol can lead to gas, bloating and diarrhea.
Sorbitol is found naturally in apples and tends to be concentrated in apple juice. Drinking more than one cup per day may result in unpleasant digestive symptoms in sensitive individuals.
Some juice cleanses and detoxes call for drinking apple juice several times per day. However, there is no scientific evidence that going on a juice cleanse provides health benefits. These diets also involve fasting from solid foods, which can leave you feeling tired and depleted.
Although drinking vegetable juices can be healthy in moderation, fruit juices like apple juice lack protein, fiber and healthy fats. They do not provide adequate nutrition to sustain you for extended periods.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, apple juice does not contain much in the way of nutrition compared to a whole apple. It is high in sugar while lacking fiber, protein, and fat.
Regularly consuming apple juice may lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, tooth decay and an increased risk of chronic disease for adults and children alike.
While small amounts are unlikely to cause harm, it may be best to avoid drinking much apple juice on a regular basis.
Moderation is key if you want to incorporate this beverage into a healthy diet. For the maximum health benefits, opt for nutrient-dense whole foods like apples as often as possible.