Should you eat or drink your fruits and vegetables?

In the past year or so I’ve seen lots of online discussion about the nutritional value of juice, and the role that it may play in obesity and weight management.  Although there are a lot of good nutritional arguments against juice consumption, they are all a bit abstract (for a quick review of the main arguments, click here).  We can tell people again and again that orange juice is the nutritional equivalent of Coke, but when they look at at a glass of orange juice, it still looks like a glass of healthy sunshine.

I’ve started to realize that as good as those nutritional arguments are, they don’t always overcome the emotional attachment that many people have for juice.  But recently I realized that there actually isn’t that much juice in a single orange or apple.  So I started to wonder just how many oranges it takes to make the equivalent of one bottle of juice.   This led me to try a little experiment, and if you have a friend or family member who refuses to give up the “juice is healthy” mantra, this might be fun for you to try at home.

To do this experiment at home, you need a few things:

  • 1 measuring cup
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 knife
  • 10 oranges
  • 1 bottle of orange juice

The experiment itself is pretty simple. I measured out the amount of juice in 1 bottle of orange juice (450 ml or 15.2 fluid ounces), and then saw how many oranges it took to create that volume of juice (ok, so I used the term “experiment” pretty loosely).

For anyone who is curious, here is the amount of orange juice in one organic navel orange.

Pretty pathetic, no?

So I pushed on, until I had 450 ml of juice.  In the end it took six oranges to equal one bottle of orange juice.  Here is the proof:

I’d like to point out that I juiced all those oranges by hand, which is a surprisingly good workout!

To me, this is by far the most intuitive reason to try to limit the amount of juice you consume.  You would never consider sitting down and eating 6 oranges in succession – that is obviously far more orange than anyone needs in the entire day, let alone a single sitting.  But when you drink a bottle of orange juice, that is essentially what you’re doing.  You are also missing out on all the fibre that is in those oranges (even the “Lots of Pulp” style has 0 grams of fibre per serving, compared to 1.2-2.4 grams in a regular sized orange).  And last but not least, liquids are pretty much always less filling than solids.  If you want a nutritional mantra, “don’t drink your calories” is a pretty good one, and that definitely includes juice.  Of course you’re probably not going to cut juice completely out of your life (I certainly haven’t), but keeping it in moderation, and swapping it for water whenever possible, is a good step in the right direction.

Travis Saunders
This post was originally published on Obesitypanacea.com on January 11, 2010.
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21 Responses to Should you eat or drink your fruits and vegetables?

  1. julie says:

    I only ever drink juice when I’m traveling, and the breakfast menu has not a fresh fruit nor vegetable available, or when I want something to mix with a bit of vodka. Otherwise it’s fruit, and lots of it.

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  2. Jenny Reiswig says:

    I remember having breakfast at my grandma’s house and she had very small juice glasses. These days we would laugh at such a paltry portion and I don’t think they even sell glasses like that anymore. Looking back, that was an appropriate serving of juice.

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  4. JakeR says:

    Most or all commercial orange juice comes from the Valencia variety, which is smaller and produces more juice per volume than a navel orange. It also tastes better. I’d guess that 6 Valencias would produce about the same amount of juice, but that’s still a lot of oranges.

    And Jenny, you can still find 4-oz. juice glasses in specialty stores.

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  5. Noadi says:

    An 8oz glass of orange juice would be about 3 oranges so this is another case where you need to beware of serving size. Don’t buy the bottles of juice, the way our brains work a single person container seems like a single serving whether it is or not. Buy a jug or carton of juice and pour it into a glass and unless you go for refills you’re not likely to have too much.

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  6. Here in Italy it is even worse, almost all the juices have added sugar, and plenty of it – but of course have all the “healthy” looking labels, rich in vitamins etc. In the products that have so much sugar that they are not allowed to call them juice anymore they call the “nectar”.

    It makes this recent news very welcome: Fruit juice industry welcomes plan to ban sugar – http://bit.ly/blGa4e

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  7. Andreas Johansson says:

    I’m surprised anyone would feel the need to sweeten something as sweet as orange juice, but I was even more surprised earlier this year when I decided to do an unscientific survey of the phenomenon and found that sweetened orange juice simply wasn’t obtainable at my (then) local supermarket. There were half a dozen brands on offer – all “no sugar added”.

    Evidently health advice is having some impact around here.

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  10. Liisa says:

    I would eat six oranges in one sitting at the time when the local grocery had blood oranges on sale, those days, I’d eat two kilos per day. Admittedly, I’d eat them instead of well equilibrated breakfast, lunch and dinner and I’m surprised that I didn’t turn orange but I greatly enjoyed the feast.
    Orange juice? Meh, boring.

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