SUGARCANE JUICE: HEALTHY OR JUST HYPE?
You may have noticed that sugarcane juice is starting to become more and more popular, with it popping up at food truck festivals, farmers markets and even in some specialty supermarkets. It is also increasingly becoming added to the marketing of popular drinks in an attempt to make them appear ‘healthier’. But what is sugarcane juice? And is it actually good for you?
Sugarcane juice is the juice extracted from the sugarcane plant. Sugar cane is most commonly processed into the sugar that we know to be ‘table sugar’ and that we can readily purchase at the supermarket. Sugarcane is also used in a wide variety of other products including skin care, alcohol, tobacco and biodegradable plastics!
A quick google search may have you believe that this juice will solve all your health problems - from helping aid in weight loss to preventing tooth decay. Sounds too good to be true right? But when we take a look into more evidence-based research into the effects of drinking sugarcane juice the results are pretty much opposite. How can it aid in weight loss when you are drinking a direct supply of sugar which if not used by the body, will just be converted to fat and lead to weight gain? And tooth decay is caused by sugar left on the teeth, which invites bacteria to feed on it and in turn causes thinning of tooth enamel (1). The marketing and hype around this juice has glorified the fact that it is simply, sugar water.
Sweetened beverages such as cordials, soft drinks, iced teas, energy drinks and fortified waters have been researched for many years on the effect they play on our health. With a wide variety of flavours, their cheap cost and being easily available, these sweetened drinks are not uncommon in most people’s diets (2). They are very high in calories, have no real nutritional benefit and provide no satiety ( that’s why you can drink a large amount and not feel full). This excess of calories over a long period of time can cause weight gain, lead to obesity and obesity-related conditions. These sugar-filled drinks are particularly harmful in aiding in the development of diabetes mellitus, with research showing that individuals who consume 1-2 sweetened beverages a day having a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes (3).
While not the best choice for your health, there are some benefits. As the husks and stalks of the sugarcane are used to create the juice, as a result it is quite high in fibre. Per serve there is roughly 15g of fibre, which for adult female this is more than half of the Recommended Daily Intake (4). It does also contain the essential micronutrients iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin and calcium, but not in high enough amounts of be significantly beneficial. Other than that, there are no other research-based benefits to the consumption of sugarcane juice!
So where does all this information leave us? Everything can be had in moderation, and this can be said for sugarcane juice. Water is the best choice for a beverage however if you are looking for something special there are a variety of no added sugar flavored sparkling waters currently available in supermarkets. Before following the latest food trend make sure that you that you seek information for credible sources (e.g. peer reviewed journal articles) or if unsure, seek the help of a qualified Dietitian.