Sugar Stacks: Why Eating an Apple is Better than Drinking Apple Juice

Apple juice in three glass containers surrounded by red and yellow apples and a sweater

Pop Quiz: How many teaspoons of sugar are in 8 oz of apple juice? Four. Think about that – four teaspoons of sugar. Would you ever feed your child a bowl of sugar?

Here’s a larger serving of apple juice for a visual reference:

Apple Juice Sugar Stacks

To contrast, here is the amount of sugar in the whole fruit:

Apple sugar stacks

Yes, sugar is still present. However…

The apple is a much better choice:

Fiber, vitamins and minerals

The nutrients you get from the apple are far greater than you get in a juice, even though technically the USDA classifies ½ cup of 100% juice as a serving of fruit. For example, you get about 4 grams fiber in an apple compared to 1 gram in 8 oz of juice.

Blood sugar spikes

When you drink juice, the rate at which the sugar (glucose) gets into the bloodstream is much, much faster. The fiber in the apple slows digestion down, making it easier for your body to handle the sugar in the apple. When blood sugar rapidly increases, you’ll likely notice behavior changes like hyperactivity, poor focus, and sleep issues. Then, when blood sugar rapidly drops as insulin pushes the glucose into cells, you or your child may get moody, tired and want the next sugar fix to get out of the blood sugar low.

Other detrimental effects

Sugar not only spikes blood sugar, but can worsen mood and anxiety, negatively affect sleep and bedtime routine, and cause cavities. As kids get older, sugar can impact hormones, weight control, skin health, aging, focus, and energy levels.

Causes picky eating

When kids get sweets on their palates early on, especially in lieu of vegetables (more bitter foods), they of course are going to prefer sweet foods. Humans seem to be hard-wired for liking sugar, so the more you do to lessen exposure to sugar when they are young, the more likely your child will enjoy a wide variety of foods as a young adult and on.

Suppresses inflection/immune function

A study in 1973 showed that sugar weakens our white blood cells ability to fight bacteria, allowing for overgrowth of bacteria to occur. This study also found that simple sugars were significantly more detrimental than carbohydrates that are slow burning and don’t contribute to a sugar rush and indefinite crash. [1]

There are several ways to get away from the sugar-laden options

Diluting juice with water

If your child just won’t go cold turkey, you can try diluting juice with water and then increasing the amount of water over time so their palates adjust.

Water is always best!

Did you know for a child who weighs 35 pounds, the recommended amount of water in a day is about 45 ounces? I recommend tracking intake for a few days to see how they are doing. Often, getting your child a stainless steel water bottle (in effort of avoiding plastic) that is his or her very own and creating a tracking chart with stickers or prizes can work to increase intake. If plain water is just too much of a jump right away, here are a few water add-in ideas:
Liquid stevia + fruit
Nutri-Dyn Fruits and Greens – sweetened with stevia and provides vitamins and minerals
Freezing fruit in ice cubes so as they melt they flavor the water and are fun to look at

Other juice alternatives

If your child doesn’t tolerate dairy, try out milk substitutes. Just make sure water is the first offering, and choose between the unsweetened varieties at the store. Sometimes kids get too many calories in between meals with beverages and this decreases their appetite at mealtime – avoid falling into this trap.

Fresh juice

Wait, juice? If you choose veggie juice over fruit juice, you can avoid the sugar issue. Often adding just a small amount of fruit can help mask the veggie taste (fresh ginger works well too), but keep fruit to a minimum so sugar content doesn’t creep up.

Low Sugar Juice Recipe:

  • Mint
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon
  • Ginger

Check out the easy instructions to make this recipe – I’d recommend excluding the honey.

Overall, transitioning to a lower sugar diet is beneficial for almost everyone – kids and adults. The rare exception might be an athlete who has a bit more room in his or her diet for carbohydrates to refuel after workouts, but even then a smart meal and snack composition will go a long way to a sustained, feel-good energy level over short-lived sugar spikes.

Have you noticed any differences in your child after removing some sugar from their diet? What were some substitutes your child liked?

If you are interested in learning more about sugar and the effects on behavior, body composition, or performance?

Schedule an integrative and functional nutrition session with Registered Dietician Leann Larson to dig deeper.

Related Posts