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The sad, surprising truth about the juices you buy in grocery stores is that many of them are mostly water or apple juice — no matter what picture is on the bottle or carton. Based on loopholes in the Federal Trade Commission’s advertising regulations, juice marketers can put a large picture of a pomegranate, acai berry, cherry or any other fruit on the label, along with the name of that specific fruit or berry, even though the juice contains almost none of that ingredient.
Knowing what to look when shopping for juices for will help you pick the best ones for yourself and family.
Some “juices” contains as little as 10 percent of any type of juice. You can tell by looking directly above the nutrition label, where sellers are required to post the percentage of juice that’s in the bottle. Look for “100% Juice” if you want the highest juice content in your drink. If the drink contains words such as “drink,” “ade,” “beverage,” “punch” or “cocktail,” you’re probably not getting a very healthy drink.
WHAT TYPE OF JUICE ARE YOU REALLY GETTING?
Just because the label reads a “100% Juice” doesn’t mean you’re getting 100 percent of the juice pictured on the label, or even close to that. Once you’ve determined how much juice is in the bottle you’re holding, the next thing to do is to read the list of ingredients. By law, juice marketers must list their ingredients based on the amount of each ingredient, starting with the highest content first. You’ll probably be shocked to see how many blueberry, pomegranate and cranberry juices list water or apple juice as the first ingredient, often followed by grape or pear juice.
CALORIES, VITAMINS AND MINERALS
The nutrition label on fruit juices will also tell you the number of calories per serving, as well as the amount of specific vitamins and minerals. Check labels to make sure you’re getting the micronutrients you want and know which drinks have the most calories.
JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE
Did you hear the one about the not-too-bright shopper who was seen staring at the orange display for quite some time? The cartons said, “concentrate.”
OK, seriously, you’ve probably seen juice containers (especially orange juice) that read “not from concentrate,” while others might read, “100% juice from concentrate.” Juice from concentrate has had the water removed, the fruit content processed, and then the water added back, such as during the pasteurization process. Juice from concentrate isn’t something to avoid. In some cases, “not from concentrate” drinks can be unhealthier than those made from concentrate.
Some juices have other healthful ingredients added to help you meet your recommended daily servings for them, such as vitamin D or calcium. Because many other commercial food products (such as cereal and dairy products) are also fortified, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about whether or not you need fortified foods, especially if you’re taking a supplement.
In addition to buying mostly apple juice all these years, you might also have been buying juice drinks loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colorings, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and other chemicals. Read ingredient labels to spot drinks with these additives.
WHOLE FOODS OR FRUIT JUICE?
When you eat a piece of fruit, you consume it with its fiber and you don’t consume as much sugar as you do when you drink the same amount of juice. Eating whole fruit results in consuming less sugar and more fiber, and the sugar you consume gets into to your liver more gradually than if you drink juice. When possible, eat, rather than drink your daily fruit servings.
SHOULD YOU HOME JUICE?
Juicing is a very healthy way to get the most nutritious juice, including more vitamins and minerals without the artificial ingredients. When you juice, however, you remove most of the fiber and get more sugar per serving. Juicing every day means you’ll get lots more sugar than eating a piece of fruit or two each day, so add juicing to your diet, rather than making it the main way you get your daily nutrients.
A DIETITIAN’S PERSPECTIVE
“The important thing to think about nutritionally with juices is that most of these are not equivalent to real fruit, but do have some nutritional value when they contain some real fruit, such as Vitamin C and other important antioxidants,” advises registered dietitian Page Love, owner of Nutrifit Sport Therapy in Atlanta. Be aware these products are often more caloric than you may realize. Whenever possible, choose the real fruit or vegetable – the fiber content helps with natural fullness without the extra calories in many of these products,” Love said.
THE SKINNY ON FRUITS AND JUICES
Fruit is a healthy nutrient you should eat every day for optimal health. If you want 100 percent, all-natural juice, plan on paying more and not getting the same sweet taste you’re used to (because some fruits, such as cherries and cranberries, are naturally tart). However, like most other foods, too much fruit can wreak havoc on your health, specifically because of the high sugar content. Get your fruit from whole, canned or frozen sources, if possible, using juice as a healthy supplement to, but not replacement for, whole fruit.
This article was written by Sam Ashe-Edmunds, contributor for The Daily Clutch.