Fruit Juice vs Whole Fruits

Whole fruits and fruit juices are popular snack and beverage choices for many people. You may find yourself wondering, what exactly are the nutritional differences between fruit juice and whole fruits, and which is healthier for my child and myself?

The major differences between these two choices are in their sugar and fiber content. Although fruit juices can be squeezed from real fruits, they are not the same as whole fruits. This is because they lack the fiber that real fruits have. Fiber is extremely important for proper digestive function. It is also a nutrient that many Americans are frequently lacking in their diet. One of the ways that fiber aids in our digestion is through slowing the release of food in the stomach. Soluble fiber increases the viscosity or thickness of the stomach contents after a meal, creating a “gel-like” substance. This is why fiber-containing foods help to stabilize blood sugar levels – there is now a steadier stream of partially-digested food entering into the small intestine. As a result, carbohydrate digestion and the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream is slowed. This is also why fiber-rich food items, such as whole fruits, help to provide a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time (and with fewer calories!). High-fiber foods not only provide volume, but also take longer to digest. Fresh, whole fruits are great sources of dietary fiber, while fruit juices contain little to no fiber.

As a result of these lower amounts of fiber in fruit juice, these types of drinks do not make you feel as full as whole fruits do. Think about it, you could probably drink 5 or more glasses of orange juice in one sitting (although this is not recommended), but can you imagine trying to eat 5+ oranges in a row?

Since fruit juice is simply the juice squeezed out of the fruit, and most or all of the fiber is left behind, there are more concentrated amounts of sugar in these beverages as compared to a piece of fresh fruit. For example, one whole orange has about 65 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of sugar. On the other hand, one 8 oz. glass of orange juice has about 112 calories, 0.5 grams of fiber, and 21 grams of sugar. A cup of grape juice has as much sugar as 50 grapes! One medium apple has about 19 grams of sugar, while one cup of apple juice has 24 grams of sugar. Additionally, a cup of apple juice that you can see straight through contains no fiber.

The Verdict: Whole fruits win! Eating the actual fruit is always the best option. Whole fruits will provide you with high amounts of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are important for your overall health. To stay hydrated, water is still a better choice than 100% fruit juice. Try having a glass of water with your whole fruits to quench your thirst AND have a great snack!

You also may be wondering, what is the difference between 100% fruit juice and a “fruit drink”? If a product is labeled as “100% fruit juice,” it is made entirely of real juice from the fruit itself. Fruit drinks not labeled as 100% fruit juice are generally made with water, added sugars, food coloring, and other additives, and maybe a little bit of real fruit juice added in.


Laura Reynebeau – UWGB Dietetic Intern