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A team of scientists from Britain, Singapore, and the Harvard School of Public Health have found that while eating fruit lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, drinking fruit (in the form of juice) actually increases itFruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies. Muraki I., Imamura, F. et al. British Medical Journal, 2013 Aug 28; 347:f5001..

The study, which surveyed nearly 190,000 Britons over 24 years, found that blueberries were the best option, with three servings per week cutting the risk of diabetes by 26 percent. Grapes and apples also substantially lowered the risk of diabetes, while bananas, plums, and peaches had a negligible effect. Three weekly servings of fruit juice, on the other hand, upped the risk by eight percent.

Despite its convenience, juice is a far less healthy option than a real piece of fruit. Not only does the juicing process destroy a number of fruits’ beneficial compounds and antioxidants, it removes nearly all of the natural fiberDeconstructing a Fruit Serving: Comparing the Antioxidant Density of Select Whole Fruit and 100% Fruit Juices. Crowe, K.M. & Murray, E. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013 Jun 26. pii: S2212-2672(13)00514-5.. All the sugar with none of the fiber? No, thanks — fiber carries a myriad of digestive benefits and is crucial for slowing the absorption of the fruit’s sugar and keeping its glycemic index low. This, the scientists hypothesized, may be why juice increases the risk of diabetes, and why a high intake of fruit juice has been linked to childhood obesityReducing childhood obesity by eliminating 100% fruit juice. Wojcicki, J.M. & Heyman, M.B. American Journal of Public Health, 2012 Sep;102(9):1630-3.Potential nutritional and economic effects of replacing juice with fruit in the diets of children in the United States. Monsivais, P. & Rehm, C.D. School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, USA. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2012 May;166(5):459-64..

It’s important to note that while it’s often marketed as healthy and natural, juice is not a low-calorie beverage. Just eight ounces of regular orange juice, for instance, contains over 110 calories, the equivalent of almost two oranges. However, you won’t feel as filled up, because the juice doesn’t contain any fiber. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the calories are worth the vitamins — a single orange provides well over the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and without as high a spike in blood sugar.

Many juices on the market are also a lot less natural than they appear. Some “100 percent juice” products, such as those of Tropicana and Minute Maid, undergo a decidedly unnatural manufacturing process wherein the juices are squeezed and stored inside giant vats while the fruit’s in season. When oxygen is removed to help with preservation, the flavor vanishes with it, and companies that specialize in synthesizing fragrances are hired to add in “flavor packs” before the juice gets sold — up to a year later.

It’s probably better to just grab an apple. A bottle of juice can be a more portable source of vitamins than, say, a half-eaten banana. But whenever both are viable options, pick the fruit. The fiber will fill you up, the nutrients are intact, and it still tastes like nature’s candy. Nom.

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