Sugar overall has gotten a bad rap. But there is a big difference between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars.
From a health standpoint, sugars found in fruit and veggies (fructose) and in dairy (lactose) are housed in foods that have tons of benefits. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy provide important nutrients such as protein, fiber, calcium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and D.
On the other hand, added sugars—which can come under such monikers as high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sugar, honey, corn syrup, evaporated cane sugar, and molasses—only provide calories. These are the sweeteners you need to watch out for.
“Expert advice to limit sugar refers to foods with added sugars, such as soft drinks, not the kind present naturally in foods, such as 100-percent fruit juices,” says Elizabeth Ward, R.D. “Unlike nearly all foods with added sugars, naturally-sweet foods such as fruit are rich compounds to help you stay well all year round.”
And since the average American isn’t eating nearly as many fruits and vegetables as she should, I recommend consuming two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables each day (the USDA recommendation) in whatever nutritious ways you can. And if that means fruit juice and smoothies, go for it—just be picky about your ingredients.
Bottled or made fresh, select drinks that are 100-percent fruit and vegetables. When I’m on the go, I like Jamba Juice, which serves only 100-percent natural beverages, such as their Carrot Orange Fusion. This blend of fresh orange juice, mangos, bananas, chia seeds, soymilk, and Greek yogurt provides protein, fiber, and omega-3s, plus an entire serving of vegetables—nothing non-nutritious here.