Are juices and smoothies any better than fizzy drinks?

Smoothie

I always thought that pure fruit juices and smoothies were a healthy drinks choice but when I looked at the traffic light labels recently I noticed that they are high in sugar. Are they any better than fizzy drinks?

BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:

Drinks such as fruit juice and smoothies that contain naturally occurring sugars have the advantage that they tend to contain additional nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. They can also help you towards your 5-a-day. Drinks with added sugar, on the other hand, tend to only provide us with energy (calories) and few other nutrients, if any.

New guidance on 5-a-day in light of changes to recommendations on sugars, means that a 150ml glass of juice or smoothie counts as one portion once a day. This enables us to benefit from the vitamins and minerals but without consuming too many free sugars and the energy that comes with them. A glass of cola has a similar amount of energy to an equal-sized glass of juice and a smoothie can have even more. Too much energy, from any source, will lead to weight gain.

Juices and smoothies are fine as a once-a-day addition to your diet, but it’s better to drink water and other sugar-free drinks on a more frequent basis

As well as naturally occurring sugars, watch out for added sugars too. Fruit nectars and ‘juice drinks’ often contain added sugars, especially the more exotic fruit juices such as peach, mango or lychee juice.

Smoothies also often come with additional sweetness in the form of honey, syrups or nectars – whichever name is used, it is still added sugar.

So if the choice is between a sugary fizzy drink and a fruit juice/smoothie, then pure fruit juices and smoothies can be a more nutritious choice. A small glass (150ml) is fine as a once-a-day addition to your diet, but it’s better to drink water and other sugar-free drinks on a more frequent basis.

In terms of colour coded labels, you might have noticed a change on your fruit juices and smoothies as some of the amber colours for sugars might have turned red. This isn’t because the amount of sugar has increased, but because the newer labelling format means that all sugars are now treated equally, wherever they come from.

Previously, foods and drinks with only naturally occurring sugar would have only had an amber colour coding, while drinks with the same amount of added sugars would have been red.

Victoria Taylor Meet the expert

Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with more than ten years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. At the BHF she advises on diet and nutrition.

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