Most of us know about the health dangers associated with consuming soda. From empty calories to actually compromising the body’s ability to stay healthy and fight off disease, soda is a well known health culprit. But there’s another drink on the market that many of us unknowingly not only consume, but give abundantly to our kids!
So what is this dangerous drink that the average American child consumes more than forty liters of annually? Fruit juice! Yes, that’s right, the fruit juice you’re giving your child may be doing more harm to their developing bodies than any good at all.
The United States, as well as most other Western nations, look to fruit juice as a healthy drink option for children. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fruit juice is not a healthy drink choice for your child for a number of reasons I want to explore with you here.
Let’s first begin with taking a look at the Western world’s dangerous addiction to sugars, specifically fructose.
Are You Feeding A Fructose Addiction in Your Child or Self?
We hear about high fructose corn syrup and how it’s an unhealthy (and unnecessary) food ingredient in many of our processed and refined foods. In fact, it’s a challenge to find a boxed, bagged, or otherwise processed food product in the supermarket that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. From the obvious pancake syrups to the less obvious fruit juices, fruit chews, and cereals, high fructose corn syrup is found in abundance in processed foods.
In fact, I challenge you to take a trip to your local supermarket and try to find at least five foods that don’t have high fructose corn syrup on the label. You may think, “Dr. Axe, that doesn’t really seem that challenging. I’m sure I can do that.”
But seriously, try to do this and see what you find. Although eventually you’ll probably be able to find a few products without high fructose corn syrup it will really help to open your eyes to just how many products contain this dangerous additive. (On a side note, I’d wager that unless you’re in the fresh produce section or organic aisle, those foods that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup contain other ingredients like hydrogenated oils that are equally harmful to your health.)
So what’s the big deal with not just high fructose corn syrup but fructose in general in the foods we consume on a daily basis?
Fructose is a naturally occurring, simple sugar found in certain ripe fruits, a few root vegetables, and honey. So if it’s all natural, then what’s the problem you want to know?
Well first of all, when fructose is found naturally in whole foods such as fruits and root vegetables it comes with fibers, enzymes, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and other important nutrients that help the body to properly assimilate the fructose. However, even too much of these whole food sources of fructose can present a problem, particularly in certain groups of people who are more sensitive to sugar than others.
Today’s typical Western diet involves an extremely high consumption of sugar, particularly fructose, mostly from highly processed food sources not whole food sources. Research clearly is showing a link between sugar (fructose) consumption serious health problems.
Diets High in Sugar can Lead to:
- Certain chronic diseases
- Kidney problems
- Weakened immune system
- Hyperactivity (particularly in children)
- Certain mineral deficiencies
- Many more health issues
Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, mineral deficiencies, and a weakened immune system open the door to a host of chronic diseases and health issues. If I listed all the adverse health conditions that research shows are associated with a diet high in sugar it would take up several pages. But there’s simply no denying it, mounds of evidence shows clearly that a diet high in fructose, which is sugar, encourages serious health issues in both children and adults.
One of the most alarming revelations on sugar in the body is that the consumption of fructose elevates uric acid levels. The chief of the Division of Kidney Disease and Hypertension at the University of Colorado, Dr. Richard Johnson, has been involved in extensive research into fructose, uric acid levels, and overall health. He urges the public to re-consider their consumption of fructose to stabilize their uric acid levels.
According to his research there seems to be a strong link between fructose consumption and increased uric acid levels; there also is an undeniable connection between uric acid levels, toxicity from fructose, and cardiovascular disease.
Americans Consume a Whopping 150+ Pounds of Sugar on Average per Year
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Americans consume an average of between 150 to 170 pounds of sugar annually. That’s a lot of sugar – in fact, that’s way too much sugar to consume and not fall victim to any number of health issues.
It’s vital that you take a serious look at your own sugar consumption and that of your family. Remember in the beginning of this article when I mentioned fruit juice being as harmful as soda? It really is and if you’re drinking it and giving it to your family on a regular basis you should re-evaluate this product as a healthy drink choice as it simply is not.
Dr. Johnson has spent years researching the dangerous health impacts of consuming too much sugar. He urges the American people to save their lives, and heath, by eliminating fructose from their diets. I am doing the same.
Too much sugar from any source, whole foods or processed foods, is simply a bad idea. We must learn to live and eat with balance. Of course eating a whole food, such as an apple, is far superior to consuming apple juice. However it’s vital to keep track of just how much fructose you and your loved ones are consuming per day.
We forget that sugars are found abundantly in fruits and some vegetables. This sugar intake coupled with fructose from processed foods is what creates the scary, deadly statistic of annual sugar consumption in America. If you suffer from any form of insulin resistance it’s even more vital to cut back on your total intake of fructose.
Take a look at the following chart to see just how much fructose comes along with some popular whole fruits.
|Dates (1 medium)||2.6 grams|
|Cantaloupe (1/8 of melon)||2.8 grams|
|Blackberries (1 c.)||3.5 grams|
|Strawberries (1 c.)||3.8 grams|
|Cherries (10)||3.8 grams|
|Blueberries (1 c.)||7.4 grams|
|Watermelon (1/16 of melon)||11.3 grams|
Now I really want to emphasize here about fruit juice consumption. It’s virtually an epidemic in America that most are completely oblivious to its dangers for our children.
Fruit Juice, Fructose, and Children
Many parents with only the best intentions have been lured in by clever marketing and advertising executives to think that fruit juice is a healthy, smart, and nutritious drink choice for their child. If you’re one of these unknowing parents listen up!
It’s vital that you remove fruit juice from your child’s diet. When you give your child a juice box or glass of juice, it is highly processed, refined, and devoid of the nutrients that the original, ‘real food’ fruit contained that enables the body to properly use it. It’s like dumping heaps of teaspoons of sugar into a glass of water, adding a few food colorings, and serving it to your child. While this example is a bit of an exaggeration, it’s not that far from the truth of the matter.
The body gets mostly sugars with fruit juice and very little or none of the other nutrients that help it to slowly assimilate the sugars. Seriously, look at it like handing your child (or yourself) a glass of water, sugar, and food dyes.
I urge you to eliminate fruit juices, truly a fake food, from your life and your child’s. Take a look at labels and start noticing fructose on them. Think about the fruits you eat on a daily basis, reference the above chart and see just how many grams of fructose your family is consuming everyday. I really think you’ll be (unpleasantly) surprised.
Make the change now. Do it for your child’s health today and down the road. Encourage consumption of whole foods such as fruits that are balanced with other whole foods low in fructose.
Dr. Axe's Action Steps
- Take the challenge I presented in this article. Try to find five common items at the grocery store that don’t contain any form of fructose.
- Open your pantry. Read the labels. What surprising products contain fructose?
- Step up to the plate and eliminate fruit juice from your life.
- Replace fruit juice with pure, unflavored water. Sure, you may meet resistance but no one said being a parent was easy. You can do it!