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Many people could never fathom that such a daily decision as drinking natural fruit juice could negatively affect their health, and that of their loved ones. The fact of the matter is, many studies already establish that the consumption of natural fruit juices is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes in the future .
This news is not new, but still many people are unaware of it; and meanwhile the figures for diabetes continues to rise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , the number of people with diabetes worldwide has increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014 , multiplying by 3 in just 34 years. This disease being the main cause for kidney problems, strokes, myocardial infarctions, blindness, and amputations.
Although many people know the importance of a healthy diet in the prevention of diabetes mellitus (DM), a good number of us, are ignorant of the true basis on which this recommendation is based. In the interest of lowering our diabetes rates, it’s important to note that among many of the aforementioned studies, we find that, if we want to reduce sugar consumption, fruits should be consumed whole, NOT as juices .
We trust and estimate liquid calories.
Liquid calories (from sugary drinks such as soft drinks, pasteurized juices, iced tea and energy drinks) are, in my opinion, the most dangerous! Because they don’t fill us like a solid food, so we trust and end up taking more than our body really needs .
Additionally, consuming significant amounts of this type of beverage favors an INCREDIBLE amount of sugar entry into our blood – that is why our bodies activate so quickly after consuming them! -, which puts our pancreas on overdrive to produce exaggerated amounts of insulin to regulate the glucose rise in the blood. In the long term, the abuse of these types of drinks greatly deplete our pancreas, to the point of it not being able to produce insulin, turning us into one of the people that need to inject it. Not to mention the additional risks generated by this excessive consumption, favoring the development of mass obesity.
And what about natural fruit juices?
Even for many health professionals, the consumption of natural fruit juices was an excellent solution to reduce the consumption of other sugary drinks. However, many studies that shown a relationship between the consumption of these drinks and the development of type 2 diabetes.
It isn’t the fruit’s fault, but its processing.
The reason why the studies have attributed the relationship of fruit juice and diabetes is that, the fruit juice, being in a liquid state, brings with it a high load of free sugar to the blood that produces in the body an equal response to that produced by sugary drinks.
And the problem is not the fruits themselves, but the processing that people put them under. Since liquefying them breaks the fiber and releases the sugar itself from the food; In addition, by straining it, we eliminate the rest of the food fiber, which is responsible for preventing fructose from entering the blood quickly. And if natural fruit juices mixed with additional sugar, the effect is obviously exponentially worse!
Natural fruit juices = Sugary drinks.
Many people still believe that consuming natural fruit juices is better than drinking other sugary drinks. However, research shows that the calorie and sugar intake of natural juices is similar to that of many other processed beverages . The consequences in the alteration of the glycemia in the body is similar for both types of drinks; It does not matter if it comes from natural fruit or processed products.
The difference that is recognized between natural fruit juices and unsweetened sugary drinks is the amount of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals naturally found in fruit juices – although it is still a menial amount compared to what we get from the consumption of whole fruits. In addition, they are a product free of chemicals and preservatives, typical of processed beverages.
Despite these “advantages”, the contribution of micronutrients to the body is not enough to justify the consumption of natural juices, since it does not compensate for the negative effect they have on health.
The whole fruit: Free of responsibilities!
The type of sugar found within fruits is called ‘intrinsic’, meaning, it is present in food naturally (without breaking its matrix) ; which is metabolized more slowly in our body. The problem comes when we liquefy and process the fruits, breaking that matrix and taking, almost exclusively, the sugar from the fruit.
What makes the difference?
When liquefying and straining the fruit, we release the sugar that is inside it, causing it to become a free, pure, and unbound sugar (like that included in a soda); losing one of the most valuable components of this food group, fiber!
Recall that the fiber acts as a kind of ‘police’ in our intestines, regulating the absorption of glucose and preventing it from entering the blood . This prevents us from straining the pancreas for insulin overproduction, and unnecessarily storing fat.
More sugar = More fat
Whenever I deliver this line, many ask me: “What does fat have to do with this whole thing if you are talking about sugars?” And I always say, EVERYTHING! If we drink large amounts of sugar through natural fruit juices, and do not use all that energy in a short period of time, our body physiologically tends to STORE it, nothing more and nothing less than in the form of fat!
This is why many other studies also associate the consumption of natural fruit juices with an increased risk of being overweight and obese.
So, what can we take?
The eternal question: if sugary drinks and natural fruit juices are not the healthiest option; and sweeteners have been very controversial in health issues. What can we take?
The base of the hydration pyramid.
Many times, the most obvious answer is the one we like least! If water is the base of the pyramid of hydration, why don’t we also use it as a base for our lifestyle? The idea being to educate our palate – and above all that of our children! – to less sweet flavors . By doing this, we will be creating a great ally, because when you try a sugary drink again, it will be your body that rejects such invasive flavors. Great right?
Anyway, there are other healthy ways to hydrate ourselves that are very simple to make, and very delicious! For example:
Flavored waters: which you can do using the fruits you have available in your home, adding them to your favorite jug of water, and refrigerating it. You can also use vegetables that give it a touch of flavor. For example: water with watermelon pieces and peppermint branches. This option will also allow you to use this type of food, thus avoiding its waste.
Smoothies or fruit smoothies: that, although they have been partially processed when crushed, still retain a good part of the fiber, so the effect on our body is different when drinking a juice. Hence we feel full after having a glass.
Fruit ice: Which can be made by crushing our favorite fruits and vegetables which we have at hand. The advantage is that we can consume them whenever we want, because they will be well preserved in the coolers of our freezer.
Infusions: We don’t have to only take them hot! As there are many flavors and combinations (remember to always use the healthiest options, without chemicals or sweeteners) that we can make and refrigerate for later on. We can even combine them with our favorite fruits, imagination is the limit!
In the end, the best option will always be the whole fruit.
Consumption of whole fruits and vegetables has been linked to a decrease in the risk of developing diabetes mellitus 2; especially for its low caloric and glycemic intake, and its high contribution of micronutrients and fiber.
So I invite you to start to looking at fruits as excellent options for healthy desserts or snacks. Educate your body to only accept natural non-invasive flavors and chemicals, and your body will be your ally in living healthier!