Whole apples are an extremely healthy food, but apple juice has pros and cons.
When apples are juiced, their hydrating quality is maximized, and some plant compounds are retained.
However, juicing reduces other benefits of whole apples, including fiber and the ability to satisfy hunger.
Here are 4 benefits and 5 downsides of drinking apple juice.
Apple juice is 88% water and tastes good. This makes it easy to consume — especially for those who are sick and at an increased risk of dehydration ().
In fact, some pediatricians recommend half-strength apple juice — a mix of half juice, half water — for sick kids who are mildly dehydrated and at least one year old (, ).
In a study of mildly dehydrated children with diarrhea and vomiting, those offered diluted apple juice were 6.5% less likely to need fluids delivered via their veins than those given a medicinal electrolyte drink ().
Though electrolyte drinks are specially formulated to rehydrate, some children don’t like the taste and won’t drink them. They’re also relatively expensive.
Diluted apple juice is a practical and pleasant alternative for kids, as well as adults ().
Be sure to drink diluted juice to rehydrate, as the high sugar content of full-strength juice can draw excess water into your gut and worsen diarrhea — particularly during recovery from illness (, ).
In more severe cases of dehydration, medicinal electrolyte drinks are still advised. Though the amount of potassium in apple juice is similar to electrolyte drinks, it has little sodium, which is also lost via bodily fluids when you’re sick (, , ).
Summary Apple juice is high in water and tastes good, making it a good choice for hydrating. To avoid side effects, dilute to half-strength when using it to rehydrate after an illness.
Apples are rich in plant compounds, particularly polyphenols. While the majority of these compounds are in the peel, some from the apple flesh are retained in the juice ().
These plant compounds may protect your cells from inflammation and oxidative damage. Both of these processes are underlying factors in chronic conditions, including certain cancers and heart disease ().
In one study, healthy men drank a 2/3 cup (160 ml) of apple juice, then scientists drew their blood. Oxidative damage in their blood was suppressed within 30 minutes of drinking the juice, and this effect continued for up to 90 minutes ().
For more polyphenols, opt for cloudy juice — which contains pulp — rather than clear, which has the pulp removed ().
One analysis found that cloudy apple juice had up to 62% more polyphenols than clear juice ().
The majority of store-bought apple juice is clear in appearance, meaning you can easily see through it. Organic varieties are more commonly available in the cloudy form.
Summary Apple juice contains plant compounds called polyphenols, which may help protect your cells from disease-promoting oxidative stress and inflammation. Cloudy juice with pulp is higher in polyphenols than clear juice.
Plant compounds — including polyphenols — in apple juice may be particularly beneficial for heart health.
Polyphenols may prevent LDL (bad) cholesterol from becoming oxidized and building up in your arteries. Higher levels of oxidized LDL are linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke ().
One study observed that when healthy adults drank 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of clear apple juice daily for 6 weeks, their LDL (bad) cholesterol was 20% more resistant to oxidation compared to the start of the study ().
Additionally, when healthy women drank 1 1/4 cups (310 ml) of clear apple juice, the antioxidant activity of their blood increased nearly 11% within 1 hour of drinking the juice, compared to a placebo drink ().
This boost in antioxidant activity means more potential protection from heart disease. Still, more human studies are needed to confirm these heart health benefits.
Summary Human studies suggest drinking apple juice may increase antioxidant activity in your blood and help protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation. This may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Preliminary studies suggest that apple juice may support brain function and mental health as you age.
Some of this protection may be due to the antioxidant activity of the polyphenols found in the juice. They may shield your brain from damage by unstable molecules called free radicals (, ).
In a series of studies, older mice were given daily apple juice that was equivalent to 2‒3 cups (480‒720 ml) for a human. When the mice consumed the juice for one month, they:
- performed significantly better on maze-based memory tests, compared to a control group that didn’t receive the juice ()
- maintained brain levels of acetylcholine, a nerve messenger that’s important for memory and good mental health and that tends to decline in aging — as was the case in the control group in this study ()
- suppressed an increase in beta-amyloid protein fragments in the brain, which are associated with brain damage in Alzheimer’s disease ()
Additionally, when people with Alzheimer’s disease drank 1 cup (240 ml) of apple juice daily for 1 month, their behavioral and mental symptoms — like anxiety, restlessness, and false beliefs — improved by 27%. However, memory and problem solving didn’t improve ().
Further human studies are needed to confirm the benefits of apple juice for brain function and clarify how much would be needed for this purpose.
Summary Animal studies observe that apple juice may help protect memory and other aspects of brain health in aging. Preliminary human research suggests that it may improve behavior and mental health in Alzheimer’s disease.
Juicing apples results in the loss of some benefits and creates potential health risks.
Here are the top 5 concerns related to drinking apple juice, along with ways to overcome some of them.
1. May contribute to weight gain
If you drink apple juice, portion control is essential. A 1-cup (240-ml) serving has 114 calories, while a medium-size apple has 95 calories (, ).
The juice can be consumed faster than a whole apple, which can cause you to take in a large number of calories over a short period of time.
Additionally, juice isn’t particularly good at satisfying hunger or helping you feel full. This may lead you to consume excess calories ().
In one study, adults were given a whole apple, applesauce, or apple juice in equal amounts based on calories. Whole apples satisfied their hunger best. Juice was the least filling — even when fiber was added to it ().
For these reasons, the risk of taking in too many calories and gaining weight from drinking juice is greater, compared to eating whole apples. This is true for both adults and children (, , ).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following daily juice limits:
|1–3||1/2 cup (120 ml)|
|3–6||1/2–3/4 cup (120–175 ml)|
|7–18||1 cup (240 ml)|
One cup (240 ml) is also the recommended daily limit for adults (, ).
2. Low in vitamins and minerals
A 1-cup (240-ml) serving of apple juice is not a good source of any vitamins or minerals, meaning it doesn’t supply at least 10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for any micronutrient ().
That said, vitamin C — or ascorbic acid — is commonly added. In many cases, apple juice is fortified to provide 100% or more of the RDI for vitamin C per serving ().
If not fortified, apple juice provides around 2% of the RDI for this vitamin per serving. For comparison, one medium apple averages 9% of the RDI ().
If you eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, you can easily meet your quota for vitamin C without drinking fortified juice.
3. High in sugar — low in fiber
Choose 100% juice varieties rather than drinks that are a blend of apple juice, added sugar, and water.
Still, virtually all of the calories in 100% apple juice come from carbs — mostly from fructose and glucose, two naturally-occurring sugars ().
At the same time, a 1-cup (240-ml) serving of juice — whether clear or cloudy — supplies only 0.5 grams of fiber.
For comparison, a medium apple with the peel has 4.5 grams of fiber — or 18% of the RDI — for this nutrient (, ).
Fiber, as well as protein and fat, helps slow digestion and promotes a more moderate rise in blood sugar. The combination of high sugar and low fiber in the juice can spike your blood sugar.
If you drink apple juice, pair it with something that contains protein and healthy fat to reduce its impact on your blood sugar ().
For example, when healthy adults ate a breakfast of apple juice, bread, and peanut butter, their rise in blood sugar was 30% less compared to the same meal without peanut butter ().
4. Encourages tooth decay
Drinking fruit juice is linked to tooth decay. Bacteria in your mouth consume the sugars in juice and produce acids that can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities ().
In a test-tube study that assessed the dental effects of 12 different types of fruit juice, apple juice was found to erode tooth enamel the most ().
If you drink apple juice, avoid swishing it around in your mouth. The longer your teeth are exposed to sugar, the more likely you’ll get cavities. Using a straw may also reduce your risk of tooth decay (, ).
5. Contaminated with pesticides
If you drink nonorganic juice, pesticide contamination is another concern. Pesticides are chemicals used to protect crops from insects, weeds, and mold.
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture tested 379 samples of nonorganic, 100% apple juice, about half of them contained detectable levels of at least one pesticide (30).
Though these residues were below the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, children are more vulnerable to pesticide exposure than adults. If your child regularly drinks apple juice, it’s probably best to choose organic (30, , ).
Organic juice is also preferable for adults, as it’s uncertain how long-term exposure to small amounts of pesticides may increase your risk of certain cancers, fertility problems, or other health concerns (, ).
Summary You should limit apple juice in your diet because it isn’t very filling, is high in sugar, encourages tooth decay, and is low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Nonorganic juice is also commonly contaminated with pesticides.
Apple juice can be useful for rehydrating when you’re sick. Its disease-fighting plant compounds may also protect your heart and brain as you age.
However, apple juice is not very filling compared to whole apples, nor does it offer much fiber, vitamins, or minerals.
Still, if you really like it, choose cloudy, organic juice with the pulp to get more beneficial plant compounds and avoid pesticide contamination.
Due to its high calorie content, be sure to enjoy this juice in moderation.