Fruit juice might sound like a healthier alternative to soft drinks. Thanks to the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in fruit and fruit juice, it has an edge over soft drinks with their empty calories but that doesn’t mean you should drink it daily. Many people love fruit juice for its refreshing taste, but taste doesn’t always equate with health.
Research shows the juices you buy at the grocery store aren’t as healthy as manufacturers would have you believe. Despite the “health halo” that surrounds fruit and the idea that anything that comes from produce is good for you doesn’t necessarily apply to fruit juice. Let’s look at some reasons you might want to avoid drinking bottled fruit juice.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
What’s in that fruit juice bottle? Bisphenol-A (BPA) is chemical manufacturers use to make plastics. BPA can end up in fruit juice when packaged in a plastic bottle. The chemical may leach out of the plastic and into your juice. Leaching is more common when plastic bottles filled with liquid are in a warm environment, for example, sitting in warehouses or in transit on trucks.
In one study, researchers tested 93 bottles of fruit juice and measured their BPA levels. Shockingly, 83% of the samples they evaluated had measurable levels of BPA. Fortunately, the amount was lower than the amounts allowed by regulatory agencies. Still, if you consume fruit juice daily, there could still be some risk to your health.
BPA is linked to reproductive and endocrine problems, as well as cancer and obesity–so it’s best to avoid foods or beverages packaged in plastic bottles that contain BPA. Even plastic bottles that contain BPA-free plastic may carry health risks, as all components of plastic are unhealthy for consumption.
Arsenic is a heavy metal that occurs naturally in the environment including the earth’s crust and soil. Since crops grow in soil, they can absorb some of the soil’s arsenic. For example, sources show rice readily absorbs and accumulates arsenic from the soil.
Arsenic is of two types: organic and inorganic arsenic. The riskiest from a health standpoint is inorganic arsenic. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), inorganic arsenic may cause several forms of cancer including bladder, lung, and skin cancers. Fruit juice, particularly apple juice, can contain significant quantities of inorganic arsenic.
In recent years, there has been controversy over how much arsenic should be allowed in food products–particularly apple juice–and whether people should be informed when they consume it, so they know their exposure levels.
The European Union set limits on levels of arsenic in foods back in 2011. The FDA also monitors inorganic arsenic in foods. However, this isn’t enough according to some experts who want tighter regulation on how much arsenic is allowed in people’s diets.
According to Dartmouth University, children should limit fruit juice consumption to no more than six ounces a day to reduce their exposure to inorganic arsenic.
Other heavy metals
According to research, fruit juice may contain other heavy metals (cadmium, lead, and mercury). Cadmium is in many foods including cereal grains, potatoes, meat, and chocolate. Lead is present in older paint and plumbing. Mercury is a byproduct of industrial processes and is in some fish. Cadmium is especially concerning since it takes decades for your body to eliminate it and it can cause health problems like kidney failure and cancer.
Consumer Reports conducted a study and found half of the 45 fruit juices they tested contained high levels of heavy metals, including cadmium, lead, and mercury. Heavy metals would be of particular concern for children and pregnant women. The samples they tested were big-name brands too, the kind you see on grocery store shelves. In one analysis, grape juice and juice blends contained the highest level of heavy metals.
It’s concerning that parents give children fruit juice, based on the idea that fruit is healthy. Since kids have a smaller body size and a faster metabolism, heavy metals would be more harmful to kids than adults. That’s why it’s better to give kids whole fruit instead.
Let’s talk about sugar. First, a quick refresher on what it is. Sugar is a carbohydrate, which provides your body with energy. The carbohydrates you eat break down into simple sugars like glucose and fructose in your digestive system and are absorbed into your bloodstream. However, rapidly absorbed sugars cause a sharper rise in blood sugar.
It’s healthiest to get carbohydrates from high-fiber food sources, like whole fruit, where there’s fiber to reduce the rise in blood sugar you get from consuming sugar unaccompanied by fiber. So, enjoy a whole piece of fruit but limit the amount of fruit juice you drink. Even fruit juice without added sugar contains concentrated natural sugar that lacks the necessary fiber to slow its absorption.
If you’re looking for a healthier option, drink more water and add fruit slices for extra flavor. When you crave the taste of fruit, eat a piece of fiber-rich whole fruit instead.
Another option is to make a smoothie that contains non-starchy vegetables and fruit. Smoothies retain fiber and the non-starchy vegetables further limit the rise in blood glucose you get when you drink your icy smoothie. Be sure to wash the fruit first to remove pesticides.
When you consider there are alternatives to drinking fruit juice, it’s best to limit the amount you drink and reduce the amount you give to children.
- “New Report Finds Heavy Metals In Most Fruit Juices | Cooking Light.” 31 Jan. 2019, cookinglight.com/news/heavy-metal-juices.
- “Arsenic and Lead Are in Your Fruit Juice: What You Need to Know.” 30 Jan. 2019, consumerreports.org/food-safety/arsenic-and-lead-are-in-your-fruit-juice-what-you-need-to-know/.
- “Fruit Juice and Diabetes – What Juice Can Diabetics Drink.” 15 Jan. 2019, diabetes.co.uk/food/juice-and-diabetes.html.
- “Supporting Document for Action Level for Arsenic in Apple Juice.” 25 Feb. 2022, fda.gov/food/chemical-metals-natural-toxins-pesticides-guidance-documents-regulations/supporting-document-action-level-arsenic-apple-juice.
- “Arsenic in Fruits, Juices, and Vegetables | Arsenic and You – Dartmouth.” sites.dartmouth.edu/arsenicandyou/arsenic-in-fruits-juices-and-vegetables/.
- “Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products Risk Assessment | FDA.” fda.gov/food/cfsan-risk-safety-assessments/arsenic-rice-and-rice-products-risk-assessment.
- “Bisphenol A leaches from packaging to fruit juice commercially ….” 01 Jun. 2021, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214289421000466.
- “Heavy Metals in Fruit Juice: How to Counsel Parents – Today’s Dietitian.” https://www.todaysdietitian.com/news/exclusive0319.shtml.