Naked Juice is being sued by a consumer advocacy group that says the company is misleading customers about the high sugar content in its products. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says Naked’s “no sugar added” and “only the best ingredients” labels lead customers to think its products are healthier than they really are.
For example, a bottle of the brand’s Pomegranate Blueberry juice contains 61 grams of sugar—20 grams more than the sugar content in a can of Pepsi—the lawsuit says. The recommended daily intake of sugar is no more than 37.5 grams for a man and 25 grams for a woman.
Naked Juice GM Andrea Theodore tells People that the claims are “totally baseless” and points out that the sugar found in the brand’s juices is naturally in the fruits and vegetables used to make the juice. But that sugar adds up to calories (the pomegranate blueberry juice has 290 calories).
“This is a nutrient-rich beverage and that sometimes comes with a tradeoff,” Theodore says. “If I’m giving you that nutrition and it’s coming with a fruit and veggie blend, you’re going to get calories with that. And I don’t feel bad about those calories.”
Sugar has become a hot-button topic in nutrition recently, with dietitians recommending that people steer clear of added sugars in products whenever possible. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which give Americans advice on healthy eating and influence many federal and nutrition programs, also suggest that we get no more than 10 percent of our daily calories from added sugars.
There’s a difference between added sugars (sugars that are added to foods) and naturally-occurring sugars (sugars that are found in whole, unprocessed foods). But the difference isn’t so much the sugar itself as what else it’s being digested with. Naturally occurring sugars include fructose, glucose, and lactose, while added sugars are table sugar (AKA sucrose, which is a combination of fructose and glucose) and other sweeteners that are added to foods. Naturally occurring sugars are generally seen as healthier than added sugars, Jessica Cording, an R.D. based in New York City, tells SELF. “A whole piece of fruit is going to be metabolized differently in your body than something with added sugar,” Cording says.
“Juice is an exception,” she adds. When you have juice, you’re getting rid of the fiber in fruit or vegetables, which would otherwise help your body break down the sugars more slowly than if you had a load of sugar in, say, a can of soda. Without that fiber or fat to slow down the digestion, your body has to quickly figure out what to do with all of that sugar.
New York City-based certified dietitian-nutritionist Gina Keatley agrees. “The problem with Naked, and other juices as well, is that they have stripped the fiber, which makes you feel full,” she tells SELF. As a result, you may still feel hungry soon after having a juice—more so than you would if you actually ate the fruit or vegetable itself—and that can cause weight gain. What’s more, with whole fruits and vegetables your body has to work to break down the food in order to pull out and use the calories from the natural sugars. That takes energy and time. With juice, the sugars are readily available and the body quickly uses some of them—and stores the rest as fat.
Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food, tells SELF that it’s a good idea to limit your sugar intake regardless of the source. “Your body processes sugar in the same way once it’s inside the body,” she says. “Of course, it’s always good to consume natural sources of sugar like fruit, but that doesn’t mean we should be having more of it.”
It’s also a lot for your body to deal with at once. “As you eat more and more sugar, the body pumps out more insulin to clear it from the blood,” says Keatley. “Over time, the body loses sensitivity to the insulin and the sugar builds up in the blood, wrecking havoc on the eyes, kidneys, and small blood vessels.” That can increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Cording says.
Both experts say juice should be viewed as an occasional drink, rather than an everyday beverage. “I wouldn’t recommend buying high-sugar juices unless they have a good amount of fiber in them,” Keatley says. Green juices are a good alternative, Warren says, because they typically contain one type of fruit and more vegetables, which tend to be lower in sugar. But, if you do have all-fruit juice, Cording recommends keeping the portion small at 4 ounces, the amount that’s considered one serving of fruit.