When opting for a healthier beverage for their kids, most parents will reach for the OJ versus Dr Pepper any day. After all, if it comes from a fruit, then it MUST be healthy – right? Not necessarily.
Like soda, juice is high in sugar content and often contains added ingredients like artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends limiting juice intake to 4 ounces per day, with meals. But how does juice stack up against soda in calories, sugar content, and artificial flavorings?
Here’s a Battle of the Beverage breakdown comparing juice and soda in 5 categories:
Sugar Content: According to the Harvard School of Public Health, orange juice matches cola and orange soda in sugar content at 10 teaspoons of sugar for every 12 ounces. Cranberry juice, however, tops the list in sugar content, requiring an extra dose of sweetness (12 teaspoons per 12 ounces!) to balance the tartness.
Calorie Content: Surprise! Orange juice is equal to or worse than soda in calorie content as well, according to the same Harvard University study, which reveals 170 calories for every 12-ounce serving of orange juice or orange soda, and 150 calories per 12 ounces of cola. Similarly, the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital reports 180 calories per 12-oz glass of OJ versus 150 in a glass of soda.
Sodium and Caffeine: Juice wins on this front. According to SugaryDrinkFacts.org, which published a study of 644 products, including 216 fruit drinks and 67 regular soda brands, soda is higher in sodium and caffeine content than fruit drinks, with 37 mg of sodium per serving versus juice’s 20 mg, and 29% of soda containing caffeine, versus 1% of juice brands. (This study also found higher sugar and calorie content in regular sodas versus fruit drinks in general.)
Artificial Colors: The same study states that 85% of sodas contain artificial colors, compared to 34% of fruit drinks.
The numbers vary by study and some beverage manufacturers have updated the contents of their products since the above studies were released, but the bottom line is that juice is not necessarily a healthy choice. While some nutritionists recommend watering down your kids’ juice to cut down on sugar intake and dilute the acid level, our doctors recommend replacing it with water altogether or better yet, having them eat their fruit versus drinking it!
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