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Americans aren't drinking very much juice these days — here's why

Americans are consuming fewer sugary beverages these days.
/ Source: TODAY

Americans have put down the OJ and picked up the orange ... and a bunch of other fruits.

According to a recent Bloomberg report analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumed 5.2 gallons of fruit juice annually in 2017. That's the lowest number on record since the USDA began tracking fruit juice consumption data 49 years ago.

Image: Juice Shot Variations
More Americans are starting to skip the fruit juice and just eat fresh fruit instead. Burcu Atalay Tankut / Getty Images

Instead of sipping juice, Americans are now turning to fresh fruits like avocados and pineapples in droves. It's as if that little voice from a dental hygienist railing against sugary, acidic drinks is ringing in our collective ears.

Consumer Reports recently tested two dozen juice brands in four flavors — apple, grape, pear and fruit blends — and found that almost half of the samples contained what it considered “elevated levels” of arsenic, cadmium and lead.

Even the chain formerly known as Jamba Juice, which has previously gotten a bad rap for its sugary drinks, announced in June that it was dropping the word "Juice" from its name. (The chain said it wanted customers to focus on its expanded menu with savory food items, instead of just smoothies.)

In 2013, Americans consumed more fresh fruit than caloric sweeteners like syrups and honey, marking the first time that had happened in 43 years.

As Bloomberg notes, now that more shoppers in all parts of the U.S. have access to fresh avocados, pineapples, grapes and strawberries year round, consumption of fresh fruit has been rising. Consumption of both orange and grapefruit juices in particular has declined, according to USDA figures.

Orange juice was once a breakfast staple, but as more health experts have pointed the finger at sugar (in all forms) as being responsible for rising obesity rates and heart disease, people are turning toward diets that favor more healthy fats and protein.

Meanwhile, many nutritionists have noted that people aren't getting enough fiber in their diets, which has consumers pouring out the juice and picking up a piece of pineapple.

Image: Variety of fresh fruit
More Americans continue to go for a snack of a few grapes and some strawberries rather than drink a glass of fruit juice. Alamy Stock Photo

If you think grapefruit is just that big yellow thing your parents ate for breakfast in the 1980s, you're probably right considering Americans went from eating 9 pounds of it per year in 1976 to just 1.9 in 2017, according to the USDA. Grapefruit juice consumption has also fallen 89% from its heyday 41 years ago.

Also knocking grapefruit from its former pillar of popularity? Consuming grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking medications for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other health conditions may make them less effective (and in some cases may cause harm), so that has taken the sour fruit off the menu for many older Americans.