Buyer Beware: "Healthy" Boosted Juice Drinks

by in Grocery Shopping, Healthy Tips, July 21, 2009

My clients are always telling me about these new juice drinks they find at the supermarket. You know the ones that say they pack in multiple servings of fruits and veggies or they’ll make you smarter, lower cholesterol or even boost your immunity. Many times folks fall for the hype and start drinking 2 or 3 bottles a day (they think more is better!). But before you take a sip, find out what these bottled beverages are really made of.

Buyer Beware
It’s a fact — studies show that people who eat more fruits and veggies have a lower risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Although these studies mean wholesome fruits and veggies (and the fiber found in them), food companies try to outsmart folks by bottling “juice drinks” made from some juice, added sugars, vitamins and preservatives — then they promote them as being just as good. They’re not.

You might see drinks that claim they have 2, 3, 5 or more (equivalent) servings of fruits or veggies. On top of that, they sometimes promise everything from increasing energy to boosting immunity to making you smarter. The reality is that the juice manufacturing process loses the fiber and can deplete the original benefits of the whole food — manufacturers then go back and add vitamins in again.

Studies also show that it takes longer to feel full when drinking juice (as opposed to solid foods) because the liquid calories don’t “register” in your brain as fast as food. This means it’ll take many more calories from juice to make you feel just as full as eating one fresh fruit.

With this in mind, I reviewed some popular brands and have some tips to keep in mind:

V-8 Fusion
The Claim: You’ll get a fruit, veggie and numerous antioxidants in every cup.
The Truth: Ingredients listed on the bottle are reconstituted vegetables and a fruit juice blend — needless to say, the mix is processed. The antioxidants are listed in the ingredients, which means you’re not getting these nutrients from the fruit or veggies they used. Instead, the company has to add them in. The V-8 Splash is no better and contains high fructose corn syrup.
The Better Choice: V-8 100% Vegetable Juice

Minute Maid Heart Wise
The Claim: Drinking this may help lower cholesterol.
The Truth: Studies show that plant sterols help reduce cholesterol. However, other research has linked sugar — like those found in juice — to raising triglyceride levels (triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that doctors use to track heart disease risks). The label’s fine print also says the plant sterols come from peanut oil and vegetable oil and there’s plenty of that available in other foods.
The Better Choice: Minute Maid Original 100% Juice

Cran-Energy by Ocean Spray
The Claim: Their mix is good for boosting energy and immunity.
The Truth: The first ingredient is “filtered water” and them some juice concentrates. Lots of colorings and flavorings are added and some B-vitamins, which you can get naturally from foods like grains, chicken, eggs or beef. A sugar substitute keeps the calories low.
The Better Choice: 100% cranberry juice, or try some energy-boosting whole foods

Juicy Juice Brain Development
The Claim: The added DHA (an omega-3 fat) will help with childhood brain development.
The Truth: It looks like the DHA comes from fish oil — tuna specifically. (Does this mean that those with fish allergies should avoid the juice?) There’s also nothing listed on the label that indicates that this drink is made from 100% juice.
The Better Choice: Juicy Juice made with 100% juice or eat some fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, for DHA

Bottom Line:
While there are worse beverages to guzzle down than juice, there are no real substitutes for the vitamins, minerals, omega fats and fiber found in natural foods. Don’t get duped by hyped-up labels and, when you do pour a glass, opt for 100% fruit or vegetable juice or try making your own. Stick to a cup a day max for adults and 1/2 cup for kids.

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Comments (10)

  1. Alicia says:

    Thanks for sharing! I was always skeptical about those so called "healthy juices".

  2. Arline says:

    Thank goodness there is some one out there who is looking out for us and understands where we may not. Thank you.

  3. Eve says:

    My clients ask me the same thing! Marketing can be deceiving. Thanks for the review.

  4. Bianca says:

    Thanks for saving me a lot of time and money!!! I was actually gonna buy that stuff for my daughter :)

  5. V C J says:

    Isn't it better to buy this for my family if they don't eat fruit? Aren't they receiving some benefits?

  6. I just bought some Cranenergy. I wish I would of read the ingredients first.

  7. LeaAnne says:

    As always something that seems to be to good to be true is not really the whole truth. Another great example of marketing savvy

  8. Darlene says:

    I drink v8 juice and/or tomato juice daily. Almost 1/3 of a can a day and I also eat 1 piece of fresh fruit every day. Grapefruit, banana, orange, apple or grapes. I did not eat or drink fruit for most of my life except for an occasional banana but since going through chemo a few years ago I almost crave it. Comments??

  9. Helen says:

    the only juices I ever drink are cranberry or V-8, occasionally prune if needed. I just bought a bottle of the cran-energy but it's screwed on so tight, I can't open it!

  10. tamidor says:

    Hi VCJ,
    If you'd like to drink these beverages the recommendation is 1 cup max per day for adults and 1/2-cup for kids. Many people tend to overconsume these beverages and the liquid calories add up quickly (much quicker than eating a fruit or veggie). Other options are canned fruits (canned in water or in its own juices) or dried. Remember fruits naturally contain many vitamins, minerals and phytocemicals–these are special plant compounds that fight off disease. You can't find all of them in juices since many have yet to be discovered.

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