Eat the Orange, Skip the Juice

Juice is not a great choice unless you need to raise your sugars rapidly. Do you want to spike your blood sugars? Probably not. Not if you want to conserve your insulin and reduce your risk of developing diabetes. When I was a kid, my doctor used to keep orange juice in the office to treat patients with low blood sugar. 

Imagine you’re watching a movie, and the main character is diabetic. Let’s call him Jack. Suddenly, Jack breaks into a cold sweat. He drops into a chair. Maybe he begins to have trouble finding his words. His blood sugars are low, really low. What does Jack need? Something to raise his blood sugar levels quickly. Jill returns with a cup of orange juice and, in a minute or two, Jack is doing better. Juice isn’t food, it’s medicine.

What’s the problem with juice? It’s made from fruit, so it should be good for you, right? Not exactly. The problem with juice is that it’s been stripped of its fiber. Fruit without its fiber turns out to be a highly efficient system for delivering large amounts of sugar directly into your bloodstream. That makes your blood sugar levels spike, which is exactly what makes it a problem. Whenever you absorb sugar rapidly, your pancreas has to release a bucket of insulin to escort that sugar into your cells. If you don’t have enough insulin, the blood sugar just floats around waiting for some insulin to show up and take it to all your cells. If you are drinking juice every day, you’re wasting a lot of insulin. The very first day you are unable to produce enough insulin to meet the demand is going to be the very first day your blood sugars rise a little too high — and stay there a little too long.

A little bit of juice is often fine (unless you already have trouble keeping your blood sugars normal), but a big glass every single day is not. Decreasing your juice intake makes a gigantic difference in your energy and waistline. And the more you drink, the truer that turns out to be. If you drink juice regularly, you can count on the fact that you’re getting a significant percentage of your daily calories from sugar. This means that when you stop drinking juice, you will probably feel the absence of those extra calories. It’s a good idea to plan ahead on how you’re going to replace them with calories from real food.

Therefore, when you get ready to stop drinking a big glass of OJ every morning, you should plan to add a snack or two until you figure out how much more food you really need. Your hunger level should drop to a more normal level in a few days once your insulin levels drop to a more normal level. You just need to be prepared.

What if you really love orange juice and you still want to be able to drink it regularly? If you look forward to drinking orange juice, maybe more than you care to admit, try this: Buy a small plastic orange juicer, the kind with the fat cone in the middle that sticks up straight about 4 inches. Then, on the weekends, slice open a few oranges and make yourself a cup of homemade juice. Kids love this project, by the way, and they also love to eat the pulp that’s left in the juicer. That pulp is where most of the fiber is, and fiber slows down your absorption of the sugar in the fruit juice, so it’s all good.

Why is this better? First of all, and most importantly, it adds up to just 5 ounces of juice over the course of a week instead of 70. Ten ounces every day for seven days a week adds up to 70 ounces. That’s 93% less juice every week! And it’s even more if you’re drinking twelve ounces. This is a good example of the fact that a few small changes here and there really do add up to make a huge difference. Ninety-three percent in this case. Even if you make yourself some homemade orange juice every single day, you’re still going to decrease your juice intake by a whopping fifty-sixty percent. Secondly, it tastes incredibly delicious, way better than anything store-bought. There is really no comparison.

What else can you drink? Unsweetened tea. Water, with or without a slice of lemon or cucumber or peach or strawberry (get creative). Milk, whether from nuts or soybeans or cows. As you like. Pick from the things that great-great-grandma Sadie drank. If it was invented in the 20th century, pick something else. 

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