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Should You Eat or Drink Your Fruits and Veggies? An Experiment.

Monday, January 11, 2010 Posted by Travis Saunders

In the past year or so I've seen lots of online discussion about the nutritional value of juice, and the role that it may play in obesity and weight management.  Although there are a lot of good nutritional arguments against juice consumption, they are all a bit abstract (for a quick review of the main arguments, click here).  We can tell people again and again that orange juice is the nutritional equivalent of Coke, but when they look at at a glass of orange juice, it still looks like a glass of healthy sunshine.

I've started to realize that as good as those nutritional arguments are, they don't always overcome the emotional attachment that many people have for juice.  But recently I realized that there actually isn't that much juice in a single orange or apple.  So I started to wonder just how many oranges it takes to make the equivalent of one bottle of juice.   This led me to try a little experiment, and if you have a friend or family member who refuses to give up the "juice is healthy" mantra, this might be fun for you to try at home.

To do this experiment at home, you need a few things:
  • 1 measuring cup
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 knife
  • 10 oranges
  • 1 bottle of orange juice

The experiment itself is pretty simple. I measured out the amount of juice in 1 bottle of orange juice (450 ml or 15.2 fluid ounces), and then saw how many oranges it took to create that volume of juice (ok, so I used the term "experiment" pretty loosely).

For anyone who is curious, here is the amount of orange juice in one organic navel orange.

Pretty pathetic, no?

So I pushed on, until I had 450 ml of juice.  In the end it took six oranges to equal one bottle of orange juice.  Here is the proof:

I'd like to point out that I juiced all those oranges by hand, which is a surprisingly good workout!

To me, this is by far the most intuitive reason to try to limit the amount of juice you consume.  You would never consider sitting down and eating 6 oranges in succession - that is obviously far more orange than anyone needs in the entire day, let alone a single sitting.  But when you drink a bottle of orange juice, that is essentially what you're doing.  You are also missing out on all the fibre that is in those oranges (even the "Lots of Pulp" style has 0 grams of fibre per serving, compared to 1.2-2.4 grams in a regular sized orange).  And last but not least, liquids are pretty much always less filling than solids.  If you want a nutritional mantra, "don't drink your calories" is a pretty good one, and that definitely includes juice.  Of course you're probably not going to cut juice completely out of your life (I certainly haven't), but keeping it in moderation, and swapping it for water whenever possible, is a good step in the right direction.

Travis Saunders

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15 Response to "Should You Eat or Drink Your Fruits and Veggies? An Experiment."

  1. Chris Laning Said,

    One thing that has worked very well for me is to dilute my fruit juice with water. (I don't usually like drinking plain water because our local water doesn't taste very good and I refuse to buy bottled water.)

    I started out with about 2/3 juice and 1/3 water, and as time went on, kept decreasing the proportion of juice. My taste really has changed -- I'm now at about 1 part juice to 3 parts water, and I can't stand to drink full-strength fruit juice any more -- it's so sweet it's like drinking a candy bar.

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 1:20 PM

  2. Travis Saunders Said,

    @ Chris,

    That is a fantastic idea, thanks for sharing. I have also placed a slice of lemon, or even cucumber (that idea came from Darya Pino of in my water bottle, which really freshens up the water and gives it that little bit of flavour. Thanks for the helpful comment!

    Anyone else have personal strategies for getting by with a bit less juice in their day?


    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 4:07 PM

  3. Dave Munger Said,

    I drink V8 rather than fruit juice. Yes, it's pretty high in sodium, but it has a lot more fiber and way fewer calories than most fruit juice.

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 4:26 PM

  4. Travis Saunders Said,

    @ Dave,

    The original V8 seems like one of the better juices (sodium aside), but there are quite a few new V8 brands that seem to be emulating Tropicana and going for the sweeter fruit juices. As you mentioned, the sodium in original V8 is also a real concern, and I would be willing to bet that it still has less fiber than if you consumed the equivalent veggies in solid form. And of course anything in a liquid is less filling than its solid form. So in my mind there are still some pretty good reasons to go for the real thing (or plain water) rather than the V8. Now if it's V8 versus no fruits or veggies at all, then that's probably a different story, but that would seem to be a diet with greater problems than just the V8.

    Anyone else have thoughts on V8 or other juices?

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 4:42 PM

  5. Dave Munger Said,


    Agreed, it's probably better to just eat the veggies, but one benefit is that by drinking a small glass in the morning (probably about 6 oz) I assure myself of at least one serving of veggies in a busy day. For me it's definitely more filling than the equivalent amount of fruit juice.

    To me the much greater evil is slurping down 12+ ounces of fruit juice a day in the belief that it's "healthy." But if I ever have a blood pressure problem, like you say, I'll need to figure out a different solution.

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 4:51 PM

  6. Dr. Sean Wharton, MD, PharmD, FRCPC Said,

    Travis, this is a sweet experiment, maybe you should have calculated the amount of calories you expended squeezing and then tell people they can only drink juice if they squeeze, could work out energy negative, or at least neutral. Love the blog site bro.

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 5:15 PM

  7. Matt Said,

    Great article! I am fruit juice junky so I'll try and cut back. However, I do have a few questions before I go cold turkey.

    Does fruit juice with no sugar added contribute to obesity or any health risks? Your point is made that one cannot replace eating actual fruits with simply drinking juice. However, is it harmful to consume large amounts of juice or is it simply just not a good meal replacement?

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 7:34 PM

  8. Travis Saunders Said,

    Good question, Matt. Even 100% juice contains a lot of sugar. So in general, the more juice you consume, the more sugar and calories you are consuming. Whether natural or not, consuming too much sugar is still a very bad thing. So whether it's replacing fruit in your diet or not, drinking too much juice is not in your best interest.

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 7:58 PM

  9. luke Said,

    "You would never consider sitting down and eating 6 oranges in succession - that is obviously far more orange than anyone needs in the entire day, let alone a single sitting. But when you drink a bottle of orange juice, that is exactly what you're doing. "

    what is the calorie comparison between 6 oranges and the juice that 6 oranges provide? I don't think your usage of the term "exactly" is appropriate here.

    your experiment puts things into perspective though. nice job!

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 11:15 PM

  10. Travis Saunders Said,

    @ Dr Wharton,

    A "sweet" experiment indeed. Even squeezing the oranges by hand, I'm willing to bet that it was far onto the positive side of the energy equation (e.g. energy in>energy out). If only someone would lend me a GoWear Fit Armband then we could be certain!

    @ Luke,

    Touché :) I have changed the post to "essentially", which I think gets the message across without straying into semantic difficulties.

    According to, 1 navel orange has 50-70 calories, suggesting that the juice from my 6 oranges (I removed almost all the flesh down to the pith) had somewhere in the neighbourhood of 300-400 calories. The Minute Maid that I compared it to had just 216 calories. I have no idea why there would be such a massive discrepancy. Minute Maid is made from Valencia oranges (among others), which seem to contain roughly the same number of calories as the navel oranges that I used. So somehow they get the same amount of liquid, with fewer calories (although it is still more calories than in a similar volume of Coke).

    I'm not sure what to make of this discrepancy, let me know if you have any thoughts.

    Posted on January 11, 2010 at 11:36 PM

  11. julie Said,

    This time of year, I commonly eat one or two navels, two or three satsumas, sometimes an apple or kiwi, and I'm well aware how high sugar this up (though I'm not stopping). I have a friend with brand new juicer, and his juice is ~75% veggies, 25% fruit. He's absolutely under the impression that if 5 servings of veggies is good for you, than 25 is REALLY good for you. Meanwhile, fruit is too sweet and acidic, but fruit juice is okay, and water is bland and nasty?

    I don't understand his logic, nor do I think this is good for him. I am pretty much strictly water and coffee, except for the occasional fruit juice with vodka, or glass of wine.

    Posted on January 12, 2010 at 6:04 AM

  12. dckc Said,

    Good advice that i ve been following to almost 90% cut from juices considering the way they are made these days. I prefer an orange or apple with the bitting and chewing involved...i m more satisfied as well.

    Posted on January 16, 2010 at 1:04 PM

  13. Katkinkate Said,

    I drink mostly filtered water and teas these days. Both are good at all temperatures and there is a lot of variety in flavors and I don't need to add any sugars.

    Posted on January 17, 2010 at 11:50 PM

  14. Anonymous Said,

    Use the same analogy with corn on the cob and a coke. A medium ear of corn "on the cob" has six grams of sugar and a soda has 45 grams of corn syrup. Thats 7.3 cobs!

    7.3 cobs of corn has 23 grams of fiber to help steady the sugar. The coke, zilch.

    Posted on January 18, 2010 at 6:52 PM

  15. Anonymous Said,

    though oranges are pretty much entirely juice by the looks of your pic!?!

    Posted on July 17, 2010 at 9:41 PM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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