News Feed: Sugar in Juice, Chocolate and Exercise, and the Benefits of Japanese Diet Guidelines

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The truth about juice

Sure, “100% fruit juice” sounds healthy, but guess what? Just one serving of many kid-targeted fruit juices, juice drinks or smoothies contains a full day’s worth of sugar, or more, according to new research published in BMJ Open. “Most people assume, wrongly, that fruit juice is healthy and contains little free sugar,” study author Dr. Simon Capewell, of the University of Liverpool, told Time, referring to added sugars, including glucose, fructose, sucrose and table sugar as well as honey and syrup.

However, many of the products Capewell and his colleagues tested “contained up to six teaspoons of sugar in a standard 200 ml serving, twice the daily recommended limit for a young child,” he said. Smoothies were often even worse, containing as much as eight teaspoons of sugar — three times the U.K.’s recommended daily amount — in the standard serving. Whoa.

Chocolate a performance enhancer?

It sounds almost too good to be true, but a new sports-nutrition study indicates that if you want to give your workout a little extra oomph, a bit of dark chocolate may be just the ticket. Researchers at Kingston University, in England, studied the effects on cyclists of dark chocolate — which contains a nutrient, epicatechin, that prompts the body to release more nitric oxide, which affects the body in many ways, including improving blood flow and cardiac function.

They found that the cyclists performed better in a variety of physical tests after two weeks of integrating a modest amount (40 grams per day) of dark chocolate into their diets than they did when supplementing with white chocolate. In light of these findings, “recreational athletes who would like to improve their performance” may want to try eating a square or two of dark chocolate, lead researcher Rishikesh Kankesh Patel told The New York Times. Well, if we must …

Follow Japan’s advice and live longer

Following Japan’s dietary guidelines could launch you on a path to a longer life, lowering your risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to a new study in the BMJ. Researchers found that the mortality rate of men and women who stuck closely to the Japanese guidelines, which stress a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, was 15 percent lower over 15 years.

“Our findings suggest that balanced consumption of energy, grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, soy products, dairy products, confectionaries, and alcoholic beverages can contribute to longevity by decreasing the risk of death, predominantly from cardiovascular disease, in the Japanese population,” the researchers concluded.

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.