Is Juice Bad for You?

is juice bad for you?
Photo Credit: Teresa Qin via Flickr

Is juice bad for you? As the New York Times reported last week, the juice craze is in full gear, with juice bars popping up all over the country. You may be hearing talk about this cold pressed juice — full of vitamins, minerals, and veggies that you would never dream of eating, but taste pretty amazing in juice form.

But there’s also talk of a more sinister side to juice. Nutritionists are claiming juice has all the sugar of soda, with none of soda’s bad reputation, and that it is contributing to America’s obesity epidemic.

is juice bad for you?
This is Mountain Dew’s “Fruit Punch.” It’s not covered under this blog’s definition of juice. Photo Credit: theimpulsivebuy via Flickr

So which of the two is it? Superhighway of vitamins or liquid sugar?

Before we dive into that question, let’s quickly define juice.

By juice we mean 100% juice with no added sugar. “Fruit Punch” beverages like the one on the left have absolutely nothing in common with fruit, and their health effects do not even deserve to be debated.

So, is juice bad for you?

Yes — even 100% juice is chock full of sugar, and as we explored in the last issue of our magazine, sugar is horrible for you.

How does it harm you? Let us count the ways: 1. obesity, 2. brain damage, 3. heart disease 4. skin aging and more. The sugar you get from juice includes fructose and sucrose — the big villains in those health issues. Sugar doesn’t become good for you just because it’s squeezed from a fruit.

A cup of Coca-Cola Classic has 30 grams of sugar in it, while a cup of orange juice has 21. Researchers are now suggesting that people exercise the same moderation around juice as they do around soda.

Then should I avoid fruit?

If juice is so bad for you, then do we have any business eating fruit? Yes — you should still eat fruit in moderation. Fruit is full of sugar, but it’s also full of good stuff including fiber, which has a tricky way of keeping that sugar in check.  It helps to slow the body’s intake of sugar, preventing insulin spikes, and also gives a feeling of fullness.

is juice bad for you?
Photo credit: You as a Machine on Flickr

The best illustration of the importance of fiber in fruit that I’ve read is a simple experiment by Travis Saunders on the number of oranges it takes to make a glass of orange juice.

After exhausting orange-squeezing, he found that it took six oranges to make the equivalent of one small bottle of OJ.

So, back to the topic of avoiding the sugar in fruit,  don’t go out and eat six oranges in one sitting, because that would be too much sugar. But you know what? You probably won’t be temped to, because by the time you get to orange number three, the fiber will be telling your brain that you need to stop eating the oranges right now.

No such signal will occur in the case of orange juice, and you could easily consume the sugar of twelve oranges by drinking two tall glasses of orange juice before your body made you quit. Twelve. That is a lot of sugar.

Bottom line? Keep eating fruit in moderation, but treat juice as you would soda. It’s fine for an occasional treat — but don’t consider it part of a healthy breakfast regimen.

At Green America, we’ve become very interested in sugar lately, and have been writing about it from a number of angles.

Tracy (our Editor in Cheif) took a look at table sugar vs. high fructose corn syrup and how salt and fat play into our sugar addiction.

I’ve shared secrets on how to kick your sugar addiction and asked, are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

Andrew (our online editor) looked at fair trade sugar.

Get information like this delivered to your inbox and sign up four our free e-newsletter at GreenAmerica.org — and keep your eyes peeled for the sugar issue of our magazine — it should be arriving in your mailbox any day now.

[VIDEO] Are Artificial Sweeteners Bad for You?

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you? In the video below, I zoom in on four artificial sweeteners — saccharine, stevia, sugar alcohols and sucralose. I’ll tell you what the research says about their comparative health effects.

But What About Aspartame and Neotame?
are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

We’ll have more information on 11 different alternative and artificial sweeteners in the next issue of the Green American. Meanwhile, keep up with new green living tips by signing up for our free email newsletter at greenamerica.org. 

Similar:

is juice bad for you?

Is Juice Bad for You? — We take a look at the health effects of juice. Is it a superfood or the equivalent of a soda?

is juice bad for you?

Table Sugar vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup — Is HFCS really that much worse for you?

How to Kick Your Sugar Addiction:

What I learned from forty days and forty nights of sweet, sugar-free living.

IMG_4966The next issue of the Green American is on sugar — the health effects of sugar, genetically modified sugar, and fair trade sugar. Tracy, our Editor-in-Chief, asked me to do some foundational research on the health effects. What I found surprised me. It was actually much scarier than I had expected.

While buried in this horrifying research,  I overheard two co-workers say they were giving up sweets for Lent. Freshly traumatized by studies linking sugar to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and brain damage, I hopped on board.

Here’s what I’d learned about sugar’s effects on health: the research is pretty solid about sugar contributing to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. We all know it makes us fat and low energy — but there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting it’s a big villain in heart disease, may cause skin aging, and likely causes brain damage. Yes, brain damage.

I’ve been guilty of telling myself, “I work out, so I can eat whatever I want.” Turns out, that’s wrong. Turns out, that’s like saying, “I work out, so I can hit myself on the head with a hammer”– the health effects of sugar go way beyond weight gain and are often not reversible with exercise.

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I’d given up chocolate for the period of Lent as a 6th grader and found that it not only cleared up my adolescent acne, but that the forty-day fast kicked my chocolate addiction. When it was over, I no longer felt a strong inclination to eat the stuff.

Could this sugar fast similarly free me from my sugar cravings? And what about the short-term health benefits? Online testimonials promised increased energy and feelings of wellness right away. I was pumped.

So Begins the Sugar Fast!

To prepare for my sugar fast, I made a set of rules:

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For more information on why I cut out juice, check out Is Juice Bad for You?

Then I told everyone around me that I was giving up sugar for 40 days. This was actually a strategic decision. I figured my horrified revulsion of sugar would wane around day #20. Once the serious temptations started kicking in, I needed to know there were people who would judge me if I broke down.

So, How Did It Go?

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True story.

I’m not going to lie. I did feel more healthy, but saying no to sugar for forty days was hard. Tracy found that after five days, her cravings were gone, and if you go on a sugar fast of any length, I hope you respond just like she did.

In my case, it was not easy. It was not easy for all forty days. I’m not going to belabor you with the the gory details of cookiecake dreams, resisting the delicious treats that coworkers brought in, or the amount of complaining my loved ones had to put up with.

Instead, I’m going to pass on some tricks I learned! The sugar fast was hard, but these five tricks are what got me through it:

Five Tips for Kicking Your Sugar Addiction!

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Can you spot the added sugar?

1. Watch those labels and cook at home: There are some incredibly delicious, organic soups out there. To my great shock, a good number of them have added sugar in their ingredient list! A treacherous stroke from an unanticipated adversary!

I don’t know about you, but if I allow a limited amount of added sugar in my diet, it had better be in the form of gourmet chocolate or cheesecake — not soup. Get in the habit of reading ingredient labels and try to cook at home, where you can control how much sugar is in your food.

2. Create good habits — keep fruit on hand, and battle stress with exercising, not eating. Do you have a regular shopping route through the grocery store? Do what you can to modify your route so that you don’t even have to look at the sweets.

3. Get rid of the temptations — they will only bring you pain. There’s some great psych research suggesting that willpower is like a muscle — the more temptations we encounter, the harder it is to resist them.

Good habits and avoidance don’t require the same kind of effort that straight willpower does. Get rid of sugary things in your house. If it’s not within arm’s reach, it’s going to be a lot easier to resist.

4. Find a no-sugar buddy. Two other people at Green America gave up sugar for lent.  “Solidarity was definitely key,” says Katie Gatlin, development and special events coordinator, “we had our little huddle of solidarity when [a coworker’s] birthday cake came out. Missing out on cake would have been a lot harder otherwise.”

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Yum yum yum.

5. Notice and enjoy the benefits! Are you feeling high-energy? Did your cold go away in a day instead of a week?

My favorite benefit centered around re-discovery of fruit. I found that when I stopped bombarding my mouth with intensely sweet things, my taste buds seemed to change. Things like fruit and vegetables started tasting sweeter and more subtly delicious. Cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and sauteed onions became pretty amazing.

But What About…

I imagine I’ve left you with a lot of questions. Fortunately, the next issue of the magazine (which should arrive in your mailboxes in late April) is chock full of sugar information. Here’s what you’ll get:

  • The Skinny on Alternative Sweeteners — we compare 11 artificial sweeteners from stevia to aspartame, and discuss the health impacts of each
  • Sweet, Seductive, and Deadly — the health research for this article was what inspired my 40-day fast
  • 9 Tips to help you kick the sugar habit
  • How to buy GMO – free and fair trade sugar — if you’re going to buy sugar, make sure you know where it comes from
  • Tracy’s story on her personal sugar fast

Not a member? You can subscribe here.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue blogging about sugar every Tuesday and Thursday this month. You can read Tracy’s blog on sugar and health here. Leave a comment or write to us at editors@greenamerica.org! We’re looking forward to hearing your stories.

Green Your Holidays: Avoiding Toxic Toys

As a new Godmother, I have a responsibility to spoil my Godson rotten with lots of toys. I also feel responsible for protecting him from the toxins found in many children’s products.

Dave Harrison's daughter teeths on a wooden ring, which he carved for her. Photo by Dave Harrison
Dave Harrison’s daughter teethes on a wooden ring, which he carved for her. Photo credit: Dave Harrison.

We’ve heard about lead in toys coming over from China, but we hear less about PVC plastics, phthalates, and bisphenol-A, which are found in a huge number of toys made right here in the USA.

The intrepid editors at Green America have written extensively about toxins in toys, what the dangers are, and how to avoid them. I’ve pulled from past articles to give you a quick and easy run-down. Here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:

PVC and Phthalates

What they are: Polyvinyl chloride plastic, known as PVC or vinyl, is identifiable by a #3 or “V” symbol. Of particular concern for children’s health are vinyl toys such as teethers, “rubber duckies,” beach balls, and bath books. These are often made of a flexible vinyl that has been softened using “plasticizer” chemicals called phthalates.

Why they’re dangerous: Studies have identified phthalates as a hormone disruptor. Phthalates may also cause liver and kidney lesions, a higher risk of certain cancers, and may exacerbate asthma and allergies in children. Continue reading “Green Your Holidays: Avoiding Toxic Toys”

Green Your Holidays: Five Tricks for Green Holiday Shopping

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You really never know what you might find on Freecycle. This family adopted backyard chickens through the network— though you’re more likely to find books, clothes and household appliances. Click on the image for more information on the joys of backyard chickens.

It’s that magical time of the year again—but is the tradition of giving gifts at odds with your feelings about consumerism? Do you worry about the environmental impact of buying a bunch of new things that might not really be used?  Do you want a fat wallet, happy friends, and zero carbon-guilt? Of course you do! Here are five tips for green giving:

1. Giving & Receiving with Freecycle

Family and gifts can combine to make your home feel a little cluttered over the holidays. Right now is the time to take a preemptive strike at mess by paring down the stuff you already own.

Joining a Freecycle network is a great way to send your unwanted belongings on to a loving home. After signing up for your local Freecycle listserv, you’ll be able to send out notices about the items you want to give to other members, allowing them the opportunity to take that stuff off your hands.

Once you’ve given to the community a little, feel free to claim other items up for grabs. “Shopping” for holiday gifts on Freecycle can have an incredibly low carbon footprint, save you money, and help you give back to your community.

2. Thrift Store Shopping!

Buying something secondhand is much more environmentally friendly than buying it new. The fact that it’s easier on your wallet is just an added bonus. In the last issue of the Green American magazine, member Nancy Madsen had this to say about thrift store shopping:

Check out this super sweet umbrella I found at my local thrift store!

“My large family didn’t want to stop exchanging gifts, but we didn’t want Christmas to break the bank, either—and we realized we were really losing the true Christmas spirit with all the stress of shopping. Probably 15 or 20 years ago, we decided to limit the amount spent to $5 per person and to encourage creativity. Many of us started resale shopping at places like Goodwill—or Value Village thrift stores, which support local nonprofits by paying them to collect used items.

“My family now spends one day shopping together in November, and we have lots of fun doing it. It has become a tradition that we all look forward to, and it has caused us to become resale shopping junkies. Now we buy most of our clothes at the resale shops as well. My sister and I have had numerous compliments on our outfits, and we often say Value Village is our clothing designer!”

3. Homemade Food & Body Care

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Tiz the season for sneezin’—check out these home-made decongestant shower disks. Click on the image for a how-to.

Are you shopping for someone who seems to have everything they need, is moving to a smaller house, or otherwise cutting down on their belongings? Homemade food can be a great gift for these people.

Another option is homemade personal body care. Body care is often chock full of carcinogens and other toxins — check out our article on poisons in conventional cosmetics and a few tips for protecting yourself.

Your homemade body care gifts will be safe for your loved ones and have a wonderful, personal touch. Plus, it will be used up, which is great for people who don’t want “more stuff.”

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Make a hollowed out book for a young kid to store treasures in. Click on the picture for a great how-to article by Heather Rivers.

4. Homemade Gifts from Recycled Materials

You can transform recycled materials into unique gifts with super-low carbon footprints.

  • A hollowed out book can be a thoughtful gift for a younger kid wanting a place to hide secret treasures.
  • Have some old jewelry and wine-corks? Check out this tutorial for making gorgeous tree ornaments (I especially love the pictures).
  • Cut out colorful little squares of used wrapping paper and holiday cards and write a few dozen things you appreciate about your loved one. Place the notes in a mason jar and decorate with recycled ribbon or a piece of colorful cloth. More on that here.
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Win a set of these rainbow soaps by tweeting about this post using the link below.

5. Buying New? Buy Green! (Also Win Some Gorgeous Soaps.) If you’re like me and think you’ll end up buying one or two gifts new this year, consider buying from certified green businesses. You’ll be supporting the green economy, which includes Fair Trade, fair wages, and green practices from recycling to sustainable sourcing. Check out businesses in our National Green Pages® holiday guide.

If you want to go the extra mile, buy from businesses certified by Green America at the gold level. This certification means that, according to our screening process, they are “operating on the highest level of social and environmental responsibility in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their offices and factories.” You can read more about it here.

Simmons Natural Body Care is one business we’ve certified at the highest level—gold. Check out these gorgeous organic rainbow soaps. They’ve donated a basket of these to us to give away to one of you.

All you have to do to enter to win is tweet about this article using the following link: http://bit.ly/Y71Y3l . If you don’t have a twitter account, just tell us about your own DIY gift traditions in the comments below, and we’ll enter you to win.

There are so many great ideas out there for greening your holidays. The most environmentally friendly ways are Freecycling, buying second hand or making gifts from recycled materials. If you’re going to buy something new, just remember that there are some wonderful green business owners who have sustainability ingrained into every level of their business.

Your money has an impact on the world after you spend it—the holiday season is a great time to make sure the impact is a positive one.

Congratulations to last week’s winner, Heather! Please email editors (at) greenamerica (dot) org to claim your Artisan Tea Blending Kit from Numi Tea.

Green Your Golf Game: An Interview with Aubrey McCormick

Aubrey McCormick

Our own Aubrey McCormick, Green America’s member services coordinator, rediscovered her passion for professional golf this spring as a contestant on the Golf Channel’s Big Break: Atlantis, where she was very outspoken about bringing her green values to her favorite sport. This reality competition pitted female professional golfers against each other in innovative golf challenges, as each competed for cash and other prizes, including a coveted spot in the 2012 LPGA KingsMill Championship.

In the opening credits for each show, viewers got a glimpse of McCormick walking into the Green America offices, and she often mentioned her work with us.

Aubrey talked with Green America editor-in-chief about her plans for the future and about being the sport’s first professional “green golfer.”

TRACY: What does it mean to you to be a green golfer?

AUBREY: In simplest form, being the first green golfer is the intersection between my passion and my profession. It allows me to professionally play the sport of golf, while carrying and advocating a concept that defines me to my very core: love and appreciation for the environment in which we live, work, and play.

Being a green golfer is a way of life—it’s about finding balance in every facet of my life, both on and off of the golf course.

I believe that each of us can practice conservation and encourage sustainability in our everyday lives, by making small tweaks in our routine, which over a longer timeline, will create a big impact. There is a gross misperception that in order to be green, you have to turn your current lifestyle on its ear and adhere to an unpleasant, stringent routine. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth—a green life is a joyful life. I want to be the walking, talking, living example of just how easy it is to have a positive impact on the environment.

TRACY: It takes a lot of water and a lot of herbicides and a lot of carbon-spewing lawn equipment to make golf courses as green and smooth as today’s golfers expect. How can all of us who enjoy the sport be green golfers?

AUBREY: There are some simple steps to move toward being a “green golfer”:

  • Bring your own water bottle, filled up at home, instead of using plastic bottles or cans. Encourage golf course owners to put out recycling containers for bottles and cans that others use. They can contact their local recycling company to start a recycling program.
  • Stay out of natural areas near the course, both on foot and in a golf cart, to keep from trampling sensitive areas.
  • Repair ball marks and replace divots to keep grass healthy.
  • Purchase environmentally friendly products for your game. [Editor’s note: For example, lostgolfballs.com sells gently used name-brand golf balls.]
  • Encourage your favorite golf courses to start the certification process with Audubon International’s Golf & the Environment Initiative. This certification process has helped 15 percent of the world’s golf courses and is allowing golf courses cut overhead costs while creating a more sustainable environment for the courses and players.

For example, the Golf and Environment Initiative helps golf course owners find and use nontoxic chemicals to maintain the grass. The run off into ponds, streams, and lakes are harmful and deadly to wildlife. The Initiative also helps golf courses owners find sustainable ways to water golf courses, such as by installing irrigation systems that use reclaimed water sources, or by limiting water usage. On average, one golf course uses an average of 312,000 gallons of water a day. Now multiply that times to over 16,000 golf courses just in the United States alone!

It’s amazing how making a course sustainable will not only cut costs, but will  also help the planet thrive.

TRACY: You had taken a year-long hiatus from professional golf before being on Big Break: Atlantis. What led you to do so?

AUBREY: There is a very big difference in the game of golf, and the business of golf. As a young golfer, you don’t have the deep sponsorship base that frees you up financially to focus solely on practicing and playing. So you’re dividing your time between cold calls and eventually office work, to create enough liquidity to be able to do the consistent level of course and range time, that’s required to play at this top, elite level. If you don’t have the money, you can’t stay on the tour, but if you work to get the money, it’s time you’ve spent away from your game so when you do step back on the course, your skills have suffered in the process.

I took a mental break from golf, moved to Washington, DC, and got my job at Green America that allowed me to explore my other driving passion: environmental conservation.

I have, and always will, love the game of golf, but at the time, I was getting burned out on the business side of the sport. I never left golf; I simply needed to step onto the sidelines for a moment. As it turned out, this was the best thing that could have happened, on multiple levels.

TRACY: Now that your time on Big Break: Atlantis is over, what are your plans for the future?

AUBREY: Being on the Big Break allowed me to find my love for the game of golf again. It never left, but somewhere along the way, it got buried.

In a sense, when it comes to golf, I almost went underground for a year, and when I came back up, I did so as a new person, and to a degree, I did so with a new purpose: to play to my true talent and potential, which means to ultimately return to full-time professional golf, and to carry with me the message, ideals, concepts, and techniques that I have learned while working at Green America.

Not many people know this, but there are an estimated 27 million people in the United States who regularly play a round of golf, and of those, nearly 50% are between 18-39 years of age, and an amazing 22% are women. Those are key, decision-making demographics.

In terms of my golf program, I will be playing some Pro-Ams through the summer in conjunction with some regional tournaments and a few Symetra Tour events. Later this year, I will pursue qualification for the European Tour, with an eye toward the LPGA in 2013. My agency and I are working together on an exciting and diverse sponsorship portfolio.

Great things are happening for me, and I am thankful, motivated, and ready to go!

For more information about Aubrey’s turn on Big Break: Atlantis, visit golfchannel.com/about/bio/aubrey-mccormick. Her personal Web site is at aubreymccormick.com

Celebrate a Plastic-Free Earth Day: Watch “Bag It” with Green America and Beth Terry

The Green America editors proclaimed our love for the documentary film Bag It in the recent “Take the Plastic Challenge” issue of the Green American magazine, and now, those of you who haven’t seen it yet can find out what all of our fuss was about. In fact, we’ll be watching it with you—along with other Green Americans from across the country!

On Earth Day, April 22nd, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Green America and Constellation TV, an online “movie theater” platform, will host a Web screening of the film Bag It. This important, moving, and often funny film follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he embarks on a global tour to unravel the complexities of our plastic world. What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into a wholesale investigation into plastic and its effect on our waterways, oceans, and even our own bodies. We see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up to us and what we can do about it. Today. Right now.

Watch the film from the comfort of your home on your computer, and then ask your questions about plastic pollution and living without plastic via a live Q&A with Green America editor-in-chief Tracy Fernandez Rysavy and “My Plastic-Free Life” blogger Beth Terry, author of the forthcoming Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can, Too (June 2012).

Tickets are $3.99 at www.constellation.tv/bagit  A portion of the ticket sales will go toward funding Green America’s green living programs.

And yes, it’s perfectly okay for you to buy one ticket and invite a bunch of friends to watch with you. In fact, we encourage it—the more, the merrier.

About Constellation

Constellation is a new online movie theater! Just like a traditional theater, audiences purchase tickets to attend scheduled show times of films.  Unlike other online platforms, watching movies on Constellation is a social experience. Movies are presented by VIP hosts, such as the films’ directors, actors, or subject experts, who appear live in the online theater to answer questions from the audience during and after the film. Sign up for a free account at www.constellation.tv.