Pediatricians have known for awhile that fruit juice is not great for kids. The process of extracting juice from fruit concentrates a lot of sugar in a small quantity of drink, eliminates a lot of fruit’s healthy fiber, and leaves a substance that can contribute to dental decay.
That’s why “the American Academy of Pediatrics had advised parents to avoid 100 percent fruit juice for babies younger than 6 months,” as Catherine Saint Louis writes in the New York Times. But yesterday, the group “toughened its stance against juice, recommending that the drink be banned entirely from a baby’s diet during the first year.”
That toughened stance is a response to the fact that fruit juice has won itself a very healthy, “natural” reputation, and lots of people don’t understand just how nutritionally useless it is. I was surprised, for example, to find out that,“[i]n terms of sugar and calories, store-bought juice is similar to soda. For instance, four ounces of lemon-lime soda has 12.6 grams of sugar and 46 calories, both slightly less than apple juice.”
This is a useful reminder of just how complicated and tricky nutrition can be, and how easily fooled all of us are by marketing campaigns and the various heuristics we use to make quick judgments about what is and isn’t healthy. “Fruit juice comes from fruit, and fruit is healthy, so why not give it to my kid?” makes a certain type of sense. But like a lot of lay beliefs about nutrition, it’s wrong.