Considering that fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients and should be a large part of any sound diet—for weight loss and protecting health, consuming juice (fruit and vegetable) seems like a “no-brainer.” However, most “commercial juices” are high in calories and low in fiber—the opposite of fruits and vegetables in their natural complete states. Worse, these beverages are high in sugar and contain very little of the fruit or vegetable they are supposedly derived from, which means that their nutritional value and purpose are suspect.
The naturally occurring sugar (fructose) found in fruit and some vegetables like carrots and beets is not at issue (excluding diabetics and those sensitive to sugar); it’s the extra refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as well as the preservatives and additives—ingredients used in most commercial juice and vegetable drink recipes. And have you been down the juice aisle lately? Companies are making juice out of “everything but the kitchen sink.” Consequently, at this juncture in our beverage expedition, we’ll just analyze a few to make a larger point.
Let’s take for example the kid-pushed Capri Sun drink, which was labeled as “All Natural” when the ingredients were (are) water, high-fructose corn syrup, small amount of juice, and flavoring natural—an additive best avoided. That was until a lawsuit erupted in 2007, forcing them to rethink and withdraw their “All Natural” claim. Since, Capri Sun has undergone a makeover, embracing drinks without high-fructose corn syrup, but they still use refined sugar and other additives. To confuse the issue, Capri Sun, owned by Kraft Foods, has a marketing strategy that touts “25% less sugar” (6-ounce pouch equals 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar) and a deceptive slogan of “wholesome.”
On the other hand, in an eight-ounce cup of Minute Maid orange juice (Home Squeezed Style + Calcium and Vitamin D), the ingredient list is much purer (NO added sugar and the like); still you’ll drink 110 calories and 24 grams of sugar. Furthermore, even though there is no fat and a minimal amount of sodium in Minute Maid beverages, they do lack the fiber found in fresh fruit, which is vital for a healthy diet and helps with fat loss. In contrast, a large orange has the advantage of 4.4 grams of fiber. The same can be said for apple juice—and most commercial fruit juice for that matter. For the same amount of calories (around 100) you get five grams of fiber with a large apple vs. zero in a cup of apple juice.
Commercial vegetable drinks (juices) are a little trickier to decipher, and there are decent choices on the market these days. Even though veggie drinks do contain vegetables, many add fruit, sugar, and additives to make it more palatable as well as preservatives to extend shelf life. Some like Bolthouse Farms contain Spirulina (a blue-green algae, offering “nutrients, amino acids, and health benefits,” yet not without its “skeptics and cautions to consider”) to their Green Goodness—AKA “green drink.”
This brings us to the familiar V8 veggie drink, invented back in the 1930′s by W.G. Peacock, and acquired by Campbell Soup Company in 1948. Over the years, it became popular with its infamous marketing line, “I could’ve had a V8″—still used today, even popping up on an episode of Family Guy. V8 has evolved, adding many other so-called healthy beverages to their product line. While some of the V8 fruit juice blends contain high-fructose corn syrup, their 100% Vegetable Juice is not bad—it’s low in calories (50 for 8 oz.), yet high in sodium (420 mg in 8oz.). Maybe that is why they developed a low-sodium version with 140 mg.
So, when it comes to health and fitness, the real question must be preemptive and without the “regret head bang”—”Should I have a V8″ or any commercial fruit juice or veggie drink? It all depends. Read labels; skip the ones with added sugar and sugar derivatives like HFCS, or too much sodium, and carefully analyze preservatives and additives. Try to choose fruit and veggie drinks that are freshly made or better yet, “juice it” yourself. Here is a quick and simple veggie drink recipe: Take one beet, two carrots, and one cup broccoli, blend in your Jack Lalanne’s Power Juicer, and enjoy! Nutritional Value: 200 calories, 8.8 grams protein, 39.6 grams carbs, 0.8 grams fat; 12 grams fiber, and 220 mg (natural) sodium.
While natural and fresh juice, for the most part, serves as a thirst quencher or a beverage with a meal, they are also an immense aid when you are sick or fasting for health or spiritual reasons. But for those counting calories, beware: juice calories add up quickly. Even so, veggie drinks are a positive alternative to “fast food,” an avenue for those lacking vegetables in their diet, an awesome way to boost nutrient intake, and a substitute for any meal of the day—but only if you choose the right one or make your own. And for those eager for more “meal replacement” ideas (protein shakes, smoothies, and green drinks), stay tuned—it’s our next STOP in our journey toward health, wellness, and a fit physique.