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Nutritional adequacy and fruit juice: Striking healthy balance

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Let us begin this series with this comparison. A man walks into a restaurant during lunchtime, calls the waiter and orders fried rice, meat, spaghetti and a bottle of fizzy drink. A few minutes later, his colleague walks into the same eatery and orders beans and plantain, fish, vegetable salad and a pack of 100 per cent fruit juice. Thereafter, there is an intense argument, which centres on who eats a more balanced diet.

Within the social circle, the focus had been on balanced diet. Over time, the trend has shifted to nutrition adequate diet or healthy diet.According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “a healthy diet helps to prevent malnutrition in all its forms as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer”. It states, “Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity are leading global health risks.”

Generally, a healthy diet contains adequate proportions of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, along with the recommended daily allowances of all essential minerals, vitamins and health-promoting nutrients. While carbohydrates and fats mainly provide energy, protein is a structural component of body cells.

The question is: how do you know the quantity of nutrient your body needs daily to achieve optimal efficiency and productivity? What is required is to know your recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
RDA is the estimated amount of nutrients (or calories) per day considered necessary for the maintenance of good health as defined by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences. RDA is periodically updated to reflect new findings in medical and nutritional sciences. Fruit has become very essential in the discussion of RDA.

Here comes the most important question: how much fruit do you need daily? According to Fruit Juice Matters, one glass of 100 per cent fruit juice per day could increase compliance with fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations in Europe by 51 per cent. WHO recommends 400g per day, and this has recorded varied compliance levels across the globe.

Right portions of fruit juice
Juice is a drink made from the extraction or pressing of the natural liquid contained in fruit and vegetables. It can also refer to liquids that are flavored with concentrate or other biological food sources, such as meat or seafood, such as clam juice.

The amount of fruit you need to eat depends on your age, sex and level of physical activity. Interestingly, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines put fruit and fruit juice in the same category. It states that 50 per cent of the daily fruit requirement could come from fruit juice.

The RDA of 100 per cent fruit juice is equivalent to 62-kcal or around three per cent of daily energy based on a 2,000-kcal diet. This differs from region to region. In Italy, the recommended juice portion is 200ml while in the United States; the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines use a “glass-equivalent” which equals 237ml. As a benchmark, a woman needs about 1.5-2 glass of 100 per cent fruit juice every day while a man needs minimum of two glass daily.

Misconceptions around fruit juice consumption
Unfortunately, there are myths, and sensational fallacies associated with fruit juice consumption, which act as a barrier to the benefits associated with it. Many of the misconceptions have been exhaustively addressed and demystified in previous editions of this publication. Lately, Ignatius Onimawo, a past president of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria and professor of Human Nutrition, at the 47th AGM and Scientific Conference of NSN held in Ibadan also lent his voice to clarify some of these mistaken beliefs prevalent in our societies.

Onimawo, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the Ambrose Alli University, noted that the sweetness of fructose in fruit has no negative effect as the body has the ability to metabolize it adequately.

My personal definition of balanced diet is that which is rich in fruits (or fruit juice) and vegetables. I know that this helps to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. It is important to note that fruit juice, just like whole fruit, is directly linked with body fluid. The amount of fluid we need depends on how active we are and how warm it is. 100 per cent fruit juice, however, is suitable for people of different nutritional needs. However, this comes with a caveat: you are only safe with a trusted brand.
*Malomo is a clinical dietitian (@malomoolusola)


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