In general, whole fruit is healthier than fruit juice.
Fruit contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that, together, have the power to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as help protect the body against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and inflammation. But many of those benefits start to shrink or disappear when fruit gets squeezed.
“From the standpoint of nutrient density and caloric provision, whole fruit is more nutrient dense,” wrote Dr. Kristi Crowe, an assistant professor in the University of Alabama’s Department of Human Nutrition, in an email. “Whole fruit provides beneficial antioxidants and fiber with approximately 35 percent less sugar than fruit juice.”
In a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dr. Crowe found that whole apples, oranges, and grapefruits have 23 to 54 percent more antioxidants than their name- and store-brand juices. And fruit juice’s high sugar content can have negative consequences; researchers believe drinking more than three servings of fruit juice a week is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, while three weekly servings of fruit, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, may lower risk of the disease.
Furthermore, pectin, a fiber found in fruit that plays an essential role in fruit’s ability to lower cholesterol, is often absent in fruit juice.
That’s not to say fruit juice is entirely evil. Pomegranate juice, for instance, still has anti-inflammatory and anti-ulcer effects. And people eating apricots, melons and cherries specifically for beta-carotene, an antioxidant thought to reduce the risk of breast cancer, among other things, may fare better with juice. Researchers believe the fiber in whole fruit may actually inhibit beta-carotene absorption.
The bottom line: Eat the fruit, don’t squeeze it for the highest dose of antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber.