Should I Drink Fruit Juice?
If my blood glucose goes low, drinking orange juice can help raise it. But how about drinking orange juice when my blood sugar level is normal? I’m concerned that it will raise my sugar too much. So I’ve been staying away from fruit juices and just eat the fruit itself. Joanne Rogers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Meghann Moore, RD, CDE, MPH, responds:
An 8-ounce glass of orange juice has 28 grams of carbohydrate, compared with 14 to 18 grams in a whole medium orange. So it’s reasonable to expect that your blood sugar will rise considerably more with the juice.
What to Know
Orange juice is digested rapidly and raises blood sugar quickly, which is exactly why it’s sometimes recommended as a treatment for hypoglycemia. The best way to know whether the juice raises your blood sugar too much is to test your blood glucose before and again one to two hours after drinking it. Then compare the numbers. The bigger the spread, the greater the impact on your blood sugars.
Find Out More
You can also compare your post-juice blood sugar to the American Diabetes Association target: blood glucose of less than 180 mg/dl one to two hours after the beginning of a meal (or to your own target suggested by your health care provider). When drinking juice, it may be a good idea to pair it with a meal that contains protein and fat. A combination of food and juice will digest more slowly and may not raise your blood sugar as quickly or as much as the juice alone.
Eating whole fruit instead of fruit juice offers you better nutrition and blood sugar management. A whole medium orange contains 3 to 4 grams of fiber, compared with barely 1 gram in 8 ounces of juice. Fiber slows digestion time (so a whole orange won’t raise your blood sugar as quickly as juice), increases fullness, contributes to normal bowel function, and is associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases. Not a bad way to get a healthy dose of vitamin C, folate, potassium, and vitamin A!
If you choose to drink orange juice when your blood sugar is normal, do so only if it does not raise your blood sugar out of your target range, and consider drinking it with other foods. Better yet, choose the whole fruit instead.