Fruit juice is often seen as a healthy alternative to fruits and vegetables. That’s understandable, since statements on labels and in marketing lead you to believe it’s a quick and easy way to get your daily vitamins and minerals. Is it good for you? There are better choices. What most people do not realize is that it is loaded with added sugars. Keep in mind that the marketing on the front label can be completely different from the detailed ingredients on the back.
In some cases, juice has even more sugar and calories than a soft drink. Eight ounces of soda has 26-31 grams of sugar. Take a look at the label in the photo: this product contains 29 grams of sugar in an 8 ounce serving from a blend of six fruits listed in this order: apple, pear, aronia berry, grape, pomegranate and blueberry. Note that the name of the juice is Blueberry Pomegranate, but they are the last two ingredients listed!
What the label claims and what it actually means can be confusing. Let’s break it down:
• 100% fruit juice – This is pro
bably the most misleading statement. Food companies are allowed to claim 100% juice on the label even though their juice contains other additives, flavorings or preservatives.
• Citric acid – This is added to extend the shelf life of the juice. It acts as a preservative and flavor enhancer. Most people think citric acid comes from citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges. This is not always the case. When mass-produced, it may contain hidden genetically modified (GMO) ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions in those who are sensitive.
• Flavoring – When flavoring is listed as an added ingredient, you don’t know what it is or where it came from.
• Made from concentrate – Juice concentrates are made from fruits and vegetables that are cooked down into a syrup. Most of the natural flavor is lost during this process, so flavoring must be added back
• Not from concentrate – This starts out with real fruit, but the longer it is stored, the more flavor is lost. Added, sometimes artificial, flavorings are added to restore the flavor.
• Water – This can be the number one ingredients on some labels. Apple juice is a good example of this. You are paying a high price, while the manufacturer has diluted the juice with water to save cost.
Here is a good example using a Juicy Juice label. It clearly states “All natural 100% Juice,” but the smaller print says “flavored juice blends from concentrate with other natural flavors and added ingredients.” We suggest you just put it back on the shelf!
Look at the facts, not the marketing, because some fruit juice companies are more about marketing than they are about nutrition. Watch out for the added sugars. There are over twenty different kinds of juice boxes and pouches available in groceries stores. They target kids and parents alike with everything from pictures of real fruits to bright colors. They promise great flavor and great nutrition. Some even “sneak in” portions of vegetables to make parents feel better about giving them to their kids. Yet, many are filled with high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors and colors.
Even brands that promise organic ingredients may still contain high amounts of sugar and other unwanted ingredients. Reaching for juice instead of whole fruit is certainly convenient and tasty, but keep in mind the added sugar is not healthy. When you or your children eat an apple or an orange, you are getting not only the naturally occurring sugar, but also other nutrients and some fiber, which will slow the absorption of the sugar. Added sugar leads to mood swings and actually feed inflammation.
When looking to fulfill your fruit intake, whole fruits are your best bet, with fresh-squeezed juice a second choice. In an ideal world, thirsty kids would drink water along with a banana, orange slices or cut up berries.