Is Fruit Juice Worse Than Soda?

Is Fruit Juice Worse Than Soda?

Let's talk sugar.

Soda isn't the healthiest drink. Known for its high sugar content, research suggests that the sweet and bubbly beverage can contribute to kidney stone formation, tooth decay, heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.

As a result, many turn to fruit juice, believing it's a healthier alternative. But get this: many fruit juices have just as much sugar as your average soda, if not more. For example, 8 ounces of cranberry juice has about 33 grams of sugar, whereas 8 ounces of standard Coca Cola has 26 grams of sugar. Even 100 percent fruit juice can have more calories than a can of soda.

Sugar and your health
Sugary beverages like fruit juice, soda and sports drinks are always in high demand in the United States; in fact, on any given day, about half the US population will gulp a sugary drink. That's not all: for 25 percent of the population, at least 200 daily calories come from sugary beverages.           

Marketers know this, and often go to great lengths to disguise a drink’s sugar content. So, read the label and look for these ingredients, which are often used as sweeteners: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, evaporated cane juice, and anything that rhymes with “gross”—more specifically dextrose, fructose, and maltose.

Why? They can be dangerous to your health. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that these added sugars only make up of 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. Exceeding this amount on the daily may increase your chances of weight gain, tooth decay and heart disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against giving fruit juice to children under age 1. 

While juice and soda may not do your body any favors, here are some drinks that offer a number of health-enhancing benefits.

Jazz up your water
Water is the best drink to quench your thirst and improve your health. It helps your body maintain a regular temperature, keeps tissues hydrated and helps gets rid of waste through sweat and urination. Plus, it keeps you from consuming extra calories, as well as many artificial sugars, which have been found to contribute to obesity rates.

If you don’t like water's lack of flavor—or just want to switch it up—try adding lemons or limes.  Or, you can make your own naturally flavored water. Simply combine these ingredients, let them sit in refrigerated water overnight, and enjoy chilled the next day:

  • Strawberry and cucumber
  • Orange and blueberry
  • Watermelon and mint

Other alternatives
Another great substitute for fruit juice, especially after a workout, is coconut water. It rebalances electrolyte and carbohydrate levels, helpful after working up a sweat. Coconut water also has many antioxidants and is high in potassium, an electrolyte that moderates sodium’s effects on the body. Just be sure to check the label for added sugar.

Do you enjoy iced tea? Swap out artificially sweetened iced tea for kombucha, a black tea fermented with bacteria and yeast. It's rich with nutrients and may help increase the biodiversity of bacteria in your gut, which could aid digestion. Note, however, that the kind of kombucha that helps gut bacteria is slightly alcoholic and unpasteurized, which carries risks of contamination, especially for pregnant women and others with vulnerable immune systems.

By choosing these beverages over fruit juice, you'll save calories—and maybe even improve your health. Something to keep in mind next time you're at the supermarket.

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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