It is great that more light has been shed on the dangers of consuming too much refined sugar in recent years. Overconsumption of some added sugars can have seriously harmful effects such as weight gain, cardiovascular issues, negative impacts on the skin, increased sugar cravings, mental health-related problems like anxiety and depression, liver disease, pre-diabetes, and more.
There is no lack of science to illustrate the damaging effects of consuming too much sugar. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined a positive association between the regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the rising obesity epidemic. A 2008 study strengthened the argument that sugar may be addictive when its results showed that rodents who were given unlimited access to sugar exhibited multiple signs of addiction.
Another study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in 2014 acknowledged the potential connection between consuming high glycemic foods and skin issues. Evidence shows that inflammation can have a negative impact on stress levels, and it is known that consuming too much sugar can increase inflammation. Basically, we can all agree that eating too much sugar is bad for your overall health.
However, it is important to understand what type of sugar you are consuming because all sugar is not created equal. These days, it is not uncommon for people to avoid different fruits because of their high sugar content. But natural sugars are not the enemy and, unless you are prediabetic or have a fruit allergy, there is no need to avoid them.
Fruits contain fructose, a form of sugar that is only harmful in high amounts. It is difficult to consume too much fruit, especially since most fruit contains fiber. Fiber slows down the digestion process, allowing the fruit to be an efficient form of energy. Other forms of sugar warrant more of a concern.
Harmful added sugars typically take the form of sucrose (think table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup which is commonly found in ultra-processed foods. Both of these forms of sugar are a blend of fructose and glucose and are often associated with high fat, high sodium food products that contain lots of unnecessary additives and preservatives. These types of sugar should not be put in the same category as the sugar found in fruit.
In my book Eat to Beat Disease, I discuss the impressive powers of pomegranate juice. Pomegranate juice is high in ellagitannins, which are bioactive polyphenols that have been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. Pomegranate juice has also been shown to encourage the growth of Akkermansia – a beneficial bacteria that can help to manage the immune system, improve blood glucose metabolism in the body, decrease gut inflammation, and combat obesity. So, pomegranate juice is not only free from the harmful forms of sugar, but it has opposing beneficial effects that combat many of the damaging consequences of ‘bad’ sugar.
If you were to pick up a bottle of 100-percent pure pomegranate juice at the grocery store, you may notice that a standard 8-ounce serving contains upwards of 30 grams of sugar. But look closer and you will see that there are 0 grams of added sugar. That is the key. I do not recommend downing half a bottle of pomegranate juice (or any type of sweet beverage) in one sitting, but it is completely safe and even beneficial to have a serving of it multiple times per week.
With that said, just as all sugars are not created equal, neither are all 100-percent juices. Some fruit juices, like orange juice, do not contain as many health benefits and are not as worth their calories and high amounts of sugar – even if it is natural.
Next time you are at the grocery store, take a quick look at the levels of sugar in the different 100-percent fruit juices. Think twice about buying juices that are high in calories or have more than one or two ingredients. Be sure to avoid any products that describe “juice cocktail,” “juice drink,” or “juice-flavored beverage” as those are clear indicators that the product contains added sweeteners.