Because vegetable juice is raw, it is not predigested the way cooked vegetables are. It is also not a whole food, because the fiber is stripped out, and drinking the juice alone is more concentrated than eating the whole vegetable. However, carrot juice, with the naturally sweet taste of carrots, makes a delicious vegetable juice, either alone or combined with another vegetable juice. Raw vegetable juice can be a refreshing and healthy treat occasionally, especially in warmer weather. You may wish to make your own vegetable juices with an electric juicer. As an alternative to extracting the juice, you may want to use a high-powered blender to create a thicker, smoothie-like juice that includes the fiber, rather than stripping it out—this would be closer to a whole food.
When your child eats a piece of whole fruit, such as an apple or an orange, he gets fiber, water, antioxidants, and other nutrients along with the fruit’s sugars, which break down in his intestines and digest slowly. Typically, it takes six to eight whole apples to make one cup of apple juice, which is made by extracting the liquid and leaving out the fiber. The remaining juice has a concentrated fruit sugar content, which can be absorbed rapidly into his bloodstream and elevate his insulin levels. High blood sugar and insulin levels are known to cause mood swings and contribute to many serious illnesses, including diabetes and obesity.
Drinking apple juice can reduce your baby’s appetite for other nourishing foods and desensitize his palate, so that he wants all of his foods to be as sweet as the juice. While your child can still absorb calories from apple juice, they will mostly be calories from sugars or carbohydrates, instead of calories from proteins or fats. This can lead to cravings, or an addiction to sweets, and it can cause other imbalances.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drinking too much juice can contribute to obesity, the development of cavities, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.
American Academy of Pediatrics Juice Recommendations
- When you give your child juice, it should be 100% fruit juice that has been pasteurized or flash pasteurized, and not fruit drinks with added colors or sweeteners.
- Infants under 6 months of age should not be given juice, although many pediatricians do recommend small amounts of juice for children who are constipated.
- Infants between 6 and 12 months can drink up to 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day, but should do so only from a cup, not a bottle as drinking sweet beverages from a bottle can cause early tooth decay.
- Younger children aged one to six years should have only four to six ounces of juice a day, if at all.
- Older children should be limited to eight to 12 ounces of juice a day.
- Instead of juice, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits.
Recent studies have found arsenic in apple juice in amounts that surpass the FDA’s recommendations for heavy metals in juices. To be safe about arsenic in juice, choose juice that is organic and from a country of origin that has high safety regulations. Read labels to make sure the juice does not have added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, food coloring, or chemical ingredients.
On the positive side, fruit juice is a refreshing drink and can be diluted with water or tea to reduce the sugar content per serving. It can be used as a sweetener in gelo or other desserts. It is also helpful for constipation, and fruit juice can help your baby relax if he is tense.