Comparing Fruit and Fruit Juice is Like Comparing Apples and Oranges


From an early age, we’re taught that fruits--along with vegetables--are one of the healthiest foods we can consume. Relatively low in calories and loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and free-radical antioxidants that help prevent premature aging and disease and other miraculous phyto (plant)-nutrients, fruit should be part of everybody’s daily dietary intake.

Or should it? Low-carbohydrate advocates caution the public that fruits contain too much sugar and should be severely limited. For those that are managing their diabetes, learning to control blood sugar levels by learning which foods to eat takes some practice. Do fruits and fruit juices raise blood sugar levels too high?

Was your mom wrong when she admonished you to eat your fruit? Is she partly to blame for initiating a lifetime of blood sugar control problems by stuffing your brown-bag school lunches with juice boxes?

Fruit sugar on the glycemic index

People with diabetes who are trying to improve and manage it, and possibly reverse it, are most likely familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI) scale and Glycemic Load (GL) scale. The former scale takes a serving size of a particular food and measures on a scale of 0-100 how quickly that food raises blood sugar levels (within two to three hours after consumption); the latter measures blood sugar load by taking into account the net carbohydrates from the portion size and, if applicable, with what other foods it was consumed. The GL scale is considered more useful for measuring effects on blood sugar.

Here’s an example of the difference of the two scales: One medium apple has a GI of 38. Any GI scale with a reading of 55 or lower is considered low, while 70 or higher is high. Apples also rank low (6; 10 or lower is considered low) on the GL scale.

Combining fruits and natural fats

But if somebody ate two whole apples instead of one, the GL would be higher. Though, if somebody cut the apples into slices and dipped them in peanut butter, the fat from the peanut butter would slow the conversion of the fructose (fruit sugar) in the apple into a higher blood sugar level; the GL score would be even lower.

Before you run to your kitchen cabinet and crack open the peanut butter and start dipping every piece of fruit in your fridge with it, take note that high-fat foods like peanut butter are loaded with calories, so if you’re trying to lose weight, use natural fats sparingly (one tablespoon of peanut butter, for example).

The limitations of glycemic index readings with fruit

What’s even more confusing about the GI and GL scale is that certain fruits have very high GI scores but low GL scores. For example, watermelon has a high GI score of 72 but a low GL score of 8 (remember, anything under 10 on the GL scale is low).

How can this be? The answer: one cup of watermelon only has 11 net grams of carbohydrates. White rice is actually lower on the GI scale (64) than watermelon’s 72, but white rice’s whopping 52 grams of net carbohydrates ranks it 33 on the GL scale, which is significantly higher than 20, the low-end of high on the GL scale.

The lesson here is not to fixate on the GI scale and rely on it solely as a marker for controlling blood sugar.  

So was mom right about fruit? And what about my juice box?


Mom was indeed right: fruits are highly-beneficial. The key is to limit consumption of them. We don’t need more than a small handful of blueberries, for example, to achieve two critical dietary components: satisfying our sweet tooth and deriving optimal nutritional benefit. Avoid filling your plate at the buffet bar with fruit salad. Try to just eat one piece or serving size of fruit at a time. Enjoy them as a snack with a handful of nuts to feel full for longer and avoid bingeing on high-carb foods later.

Ignore dietary hype. Use common sense. Don’t be influenced by the latest glossy-glamour-fad magazine. Ignore articles telling you to avoid fruits because they are high in sugar. Let’s revisit watermelon. If you were to avoid watermelon because a diet ‘expert’ referenced the melon’s high ranking on the GI scale, you would be avoiding it at your trillions of cells’ expense as watermelon is super rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant also found in tomatoes (especially cooked tomatoes).

Mom shouldn’t have packed the juice box

One thing mom could have skipped from including in your grade-school lunch box was fruit juice. It’s easy, though, for moms to cave in to kids’ demands and peer pressure. After all, what child isn’t pacified or quenched of thirst with fruit juice. Isn't fruit juice better than soda, after all?


In terms of sugar and managing blood sugar levels, fruit juice is on equal par with soda. Fruit juices typically contain at least 25 or 30 grams of sugar with absolutely no fiber to reduce the amount of net carbs. Fruit juices also lack natural dietary fats or proteins, which both help slow down the rise in blood sugar levels.

The processing of fruit juices also destroys some of the vital nutrients that can only be derived from whole foods.

Speaking of whole foods, what are they?


Many people have heard the term ‘whole foods’ but what exactly is a whole food? Is an energy bar that one can find from a well-known health food store and made with chunks of real fruit  a whole food?

No. The simplest answer when comparing fruits and fruit juice or any food products that advertise added fruit, even organic non-modified fruit, is that only pieces of fruit as you would find them hanging off a tree in nature are considered whole foods. Whole fruits are more nutritious than their juiced counterparts and play an important part in keeping you full and eliminating cravings.

The fiber from an apple skin, besides being loaded with antioxidants, will help keep you full, unlike apple juice. A granola bar with added bits of organic apple is not a whole food and is most likely loaded with sugars.

There is really no reason to ever drink fruit juice. If you must have some, pour an eighth- or quarter-cup into a glass and fill the rest of the glass with water. Instead of drinking orange juice in the morning, eat half of a whole orange.

Turns out mom is right...most of the time.

High-carb texture and taste, guilt-free

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