Obesity Panacea

From the Obesity Panacea Archives: The following post first appeared on January 11, 2010.

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

Comments

  1. #1 Keith
    April 26, 2010

    The one thing your experiment neglects is any mention of serving size. It says on the side of that 15.2 oz juice bottle that it is “about 2″ servings. So if the consumer abides by the suggested serving size it would be like eating 3 oranges at a sitting, not 6. I drink my OJ in a 6 oz juice glass, which is about 2.3 oranges. But even that confirms that my practice of drinking 6 oz of low sodium tomato juice a few times a week instead of OJ is probably a good practice. Unless your next experiment reveals the dangers of tomato juice.

  2. #2 Moopheus
    April 26, 2010

    What about juicers–blenders that puree whole fruit? Would be better, yes? You’d be getting more of the fiber and other nutritional benefits of the fruit, but I suppose it would still encourage consuming a greater quantity of fruit than if you ate whole fruit.

  3. #3 cass_m
    April 26, 2010

    Another effective demo is showing just how much sugar is in sweetened drinks by weighing the amount of sugar and putting it in a glass the same size as your serving glass. Many people don’t realize how soluble sugar is.

  4. #4 Richard
    April 26, 2010

    It makes me think of one of my friend who often complains that he his overweight and want to lose 20-30 pounds… but he likes Iced Cappuchino which his much worst than orange juice because it also contains a lot of fat. It is the energy equivalent of a whole breakfast, more than 500 kcal. I tell him all the time, still it doesn’t work…

    Plus, with the iced cappuchino (or the Coke), you don’t get the vitamin C, folate and all these things…

  5. #5 Travis
    April 26, 2010

    @ Moopheus,

    You hit the nail on the head – you can have a very “healthy” smoothie that still has >700 calories. And there is some evidence to suggest that all else being equal, softer foods are less filling and take less energy to digest than harder foods. Not that fruit smoothies are the worst food in the world, but it’s worth recognizing that it’s still pretty much a liquid meal.

    @ Cass_m,

    The URL escapes me, but there is a terrific website that shows the number of sugar cubes found in a serving of Coke, orange juice, etc. It’s a fantastic site, I’ll put up a link if I can find it again.

    @ Richard,

    I agree completely. Cutting down on liquid calories, especially in things like coffees and soft drinks, seems like one of the easiest ways to reduce your caloric intake.

  6. #6 Tim
    April 28, 2010

    Certainly the vitamin content of juice is higher than that of coke?

    I’m not certain I buy caloric intake as a health meter; I drink juice or cider exclusively, but walk several miles a day and weigh about 130 pounds (at 5’10″ in height). When I track my nutrition, I track my intake of vitamins and nutrients recommended by the FDA, irrespective of their associated calories, which I have never had trouble burning off (I’ve always been very active).

    Would you suggest drinks that are not 100% juice instead? For example, organic lemonade (10% juice on average)? My impression is that those drinks are less healthy than straight juice, but being honest, I’ve not researched it.

    I ask out of genuine interest in improving my health, so please don’t think I am being argumentative, I am just curious!

  7. #7 Rachelle
    April 29, 2010

    When I was growing up, juice glasses looked like tall shot glasses. They probably held 2 or 3 oz of juice. Then everything started getting huge. Maybe people who want to drink juice should head down to an antique shop and buy some old-fashioned juice glasses.

  8. #8 Travis
    May 1, 2010

    @Tim,

    True, natural juice has more vitamins and minerals than Sunny Delight or Coke or other artificial drinks. It’s just important to remember that juice still has a tremendous number of calories, regardless of the vitamins and minerals. And those vitamins and minerals don’t negate the impact of those calories, or the glycemic response that all that sugar can elicit. Along those same lines, most people would agree that Coke is not a healthy choice, even if it was spiked with vitamins and minerals. And keep in mind that you can get all those same vitamins and minerals in other foods containing far fewer calories.

    For someone who is already at a stable and healthy body weight this is of less of a concern, but I think it’s worth recognizing that a 16 ounce bottle of juice isn’t necessarily as healthy as people think.

    Travis

  9. #9 Pfil in BC
    May 1, 2010

    I had my own version of your experiment, being hungry at a outdoor fair. Looking for healthy choices, I watched as a vendor juiced 6 or 7 oranges for my one glass. Drinking it made me nauseated. Natural, but still sugar.

    The sugar content of juice, and how fast it hits my system, keeps me from drinking it in all but tiny amounts, and only with solid food. (and not pancakes with syrup!)

    There was also a documentary film that I’d like to track down that details exactly how long orange juice is kept in storage, and what goes into it to keep it “fresh”.

  10. #10 Travis
    May 1, 2010

    @Pfil in BC,

    I’m not sure of the documentary, but there is a book called “Squeezed” that I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while. Perhaps once my Kobo e-reader arrives this week…

    Let me know if you come across the documentary!

    Travis

  11. #11 MPL
    May 2, 2010

    @Tim,

    In addition to what Travis said, it’s worth pointing out that once you get your vitamin and mineral needs met, getting more won’t help you, but more calories can certainly hurt you.

    You sound like you are a stable weight, so clearly you consume about the same number of calories as you use. There’s nothing wrong with getting some of those calories from juice. For people trying to cut calories from their diets, juice might be a good place to start.

    My mantra: foods aren’t healthy or unhealthy, diets are.

  12. #12 Tim
    May 6, 2010

    @ MPL and Travis,

    Thank you very much for the responses. I’m definitely interested in eating healthier, and it can get confusing trying to do so, given the reams of conflicting information out there.

    It probably couldn’t hurt to add some straight water to my diet (almost all of my fluid intake is juice at this time), and I’ve changed my shopping habits to reflect that. Thanks again!

  13. #13 Katrin
    July 23, 2010

    You will find that there are calories in fresh fruit- an average of 45-125- like in any food you eat.
    Fruit juices are definitely way better than soft drinks, but you are better off eating an orange- 60 calories than a glass of orange juice- 120 calories

  14. #14 seattle chiropractor
    December 27, 2010

    And to think that so many people feed their babies and small children juice bottles and juice boxes – crazy!