Eat fruit, don't drink it


A big glaA fruit is the epitome of healthy food, a fountainhead of nutrition loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Yet, when you discard the fibre and turn a fruit into juice, you throw away a large part of that nutrition and are left with a glass loaded with calories and sugar.
All that sugar comes from the fruit. Fruits have plenty of fructose, a close cousin of the more familiar glucose. Although it is quite unlike processed cane sugar, fructose can be as harmful if you make a habit of drinking juice on a regular basis. Especially if you replace the fruit in your diet with juice.
Suppose the doctor has advised you to have 400gm or 4-5 servings of fruit daily. Each serving then works out to 80gm, roughly a portion as big as a tennis ball. You are supposed to savour the fruit bite by bite one serving at a time, the fibre helping you feel full. If, instead, you plead lack of time and energy, zap all the servings of fruit in a juicer and glug the whole lot down at once, you make life difficult for your liver.
Unable to efficiently handle all that fructose, the liver turns a portion of it into fat (triglycerides). This gets deposited in the liver as well as around the various organs in the abdominal cavity, eventually leading to a potbelly and a fatty liver. Meanwhile, triglycerides and bad cholesterol in the blood shoot up, along with the chance of insulin resistance, paving the way for diabetes. A juice overload also raises the level of uric acid in the blood, which leads to gout.
That doesn’t, however, mean that you must avoid fruit juice. “If you are slim and healthy, there’s no harm in having a 3-4 small glasses (150ml) of juice every week though it’s even better if you have a smoothie instead,” says city-based endocrinologist Dr Satinath Mukherjee. “But if you have a metabolic disorder such as high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver or high cholesterol, even this small amount can be harmful. Its effects will be evident in 10 weeks, or so,” he adds.
If an overweight person drinks 480ml of grape juice every day for three months, both the waistline and insulin resistance will increase remarkably. Also, if women have about 300ml of fruit juice daily, the risk of getting gout doubles.
Why is fruit healthy while juice is not?
When you eat a fruit, you take small bites and chew well. The fructose trickles into the digestive system and gets absorbed bit by bit, along with the fibre. This keeps you satiated for a long time and is easy on the liver. If you drink a glass of juice, you add an enormous amount of calories in a very short time. Take apple juice; 350ml of it has 165 calories, whereas 350ml of a cola has about 140 calories. Moreover, juice does not make you feel full. So within an hour of having it, you will be hungry again. You will have to eat more food – therefore more calories – to take care of the hunger pangs. This increases your total calorie intakess of fruit juice every day can leave your liver struggling with a sugar overload, says Sujata MukherjeeWash and juice
While fruits are good, the pesticide residue on the peel is not, so you have to clean it carefully. First, scrub and wash it in running water for 2-3 times. Then, in a large vessel of water, mix in one-fourth cup vinegar and a quarter teaspoon of salt and soak the fruit in it. A small fruit should be kept immersed for five minutes and a large one at least 10. Or, use one of those special veggie washes from the supermarket. Throw away the dirty, foul-smelling water and rinse the fruits again. If you can follow this ritual religiously, you can get rid of more than 80 per cent of pesticides.
The sort of juicer you use is also important. Most households use centrifugal juicers that chop up the fruit with a flat blade to separate the juice from the pulp. As a result, the pesticide residue gets mixed with the juice. On the other hand, the masticating or gear juicer yields juice by pressing the fruit hard. This keeps the nutrients intact while keeping away pesticides.
In the can
You may think that it is better to opt for packed juice instead of going through the rigmarole of washing the fruit and juicing it but it is not so. Though most brands claim to be “100 per cent fruit juice” or “not from concentrate”, the reality is different. After the juice is extracted, it’s kept in an oxygen-free tank. Then it’s pasteurised, processed with preservatives and packed in tetrapacks or cans. The process not only decreases the nutritive value but also kills the flavour. So artificial flavours are added.
Best option
Nutritionists suggest having 400gm of 4-5 fruits daily. Once in a while you can turn the fruits into a smoothie that keeps all the necessary fibre. You can also treat yourself to a glass of juice occasionally provided you are young and fit, you exercise regularly and don’t have any metabolic diseases.
That, of course, precludes most of us.
Sujata Mukherjee has a PhD in inorganic chemistry and is a hospital administrato


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