Are fruit drinks good for your kids?

My kids have discovered they like fruit drinks made at home from scratch. Should I be happy or worried?

Dear Reader,

Daily servings of fresh fruit are a good idea at any age and certainly beneficial for kids. Fruit is high in fiber and carbohydrate and has practically no fat, except for coconut and avocado (yes, that is a fruit too). The greatest benefits come from vitamin C and beta carotene and also from plant chemicals found in citrus fruits, berries, watermelons, grapes and apples.

Potentially negative side-effects of blenderized fruit drinks may be caused by the high sugar and calorie content. High quantities of fruit sugar can increase blood sugar levels to a degree that insulin secretion becomes elevated. This, in turn, may cause a “rebound drop” of blood sugar to a new low. The result is more intense craving for sugar. Overindulgence in high sugar drinks is one of the leading causes of obesity today. My advice to you: Everything in moderation – even the healthy stuff.

What about those Juice Smoothies?

Same thing. Made with fresh ingredients, smoothies are nutrient-dense and high in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. The downside is that when you blenderize fruit this much, you do essentially the stomach’s digestive work in advance by breaking down the fiber and the chemical structure of the fruit. Therefore, the nutrients become more readily available for absorption. If the digestive process is cut short, a higher concentration of sugar from the fruit reaches the blood stream and elevates the blood sugar level quickly. The same effects occur that I described above.

Also, most smoothies contain additional ingredients other than fruit, such as milk or soy. Typically, they are 20 to 32 ounces in size and can contain as many calories as a full meal. Some have a high fat level from added milk or yogurt. Read the ingredients list carefully before you buy commercially produced fruit drinks and smoothies and watch the serving sizes.