Can Juice Ever Be Healthy? Maybe for Cholesterol

For decades, juice was marketed as a healthy part of breakfast. It comes from the earth. It can be one ingredient. It’s just fruit. How can it be anything but good for you? But, once you separate the juice from the flesh, the high amount of sugar in fruit juice makes it have the same impact on your system as some sodas, and it’s not a great way to start your day. It’s generally better to have a whole piece of fruit in the morning to get your day started right.

So, are there ever times when juice can be beneficial? Maybe. Some juices market themselves as being heart-healthy, and it’s not just hype. They have been fortified with plant sterols. Other products like breakfast bars and margarine are also produced with the compounds. However, your body absorbs them more effectively in liquids.

Plant sterols can limit the amount of cholesterol you absorb from food by up to 10 percent. Most of your cholesterol comes from your own liver; only 25 percent of your cholesterol comes from your diet. However, limiting what you absorb is still beneficial.  

You need at least two grams of plant sterols to see an impact. Plant sterols are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and vegetable oils. So, if you eat a lot of them, fortified juice or margarine might not have any benefits. Additionally, it is available as a supplement. When you are making your decisions, you have to weigh the pros and cons. The juice may have plant sterols, but it doesn’t have fiber, and it does have a lot of sugar. Nutritional labels will list the amount of plant sterols. Be sure you pick a juice that has it added — not all of them do!    

In addition to blocking cholesterol, plant sterols can also limit the vitamins your body takes in, so be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Consuming more than two grams of plant sterols won’t give you better results, so there is no need to entirely upend your diet trying to jam them into every meal.

Nuts and nut butters are excellent sources of plant sterols. Apples, blueberries, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes are all rich in plant sterols. So, yes, juice can be heart-healthy, but this is just a short sample of the list of healthy foods that have the same benefit.

Getting nutrients from whole foods [instead of additives] is the best way to go,” said American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Keecha Harris. “Supplements that are fortified with sterols do not offer as many benefits as getting sterols… as they naturally occur.”

In the end, it’s simple. If you are going to drink juice, or use margarine or eat breakfast bars, pick one with plant sterols. It’s a way of getting plant sterols into your day! But, if you don’t already have those things in your diet, don’t start adding them in. They are not health foods; they are regular foods with healthy additives.

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May 07, 2021
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