When people reach for a healthy beverage, juice is likely one of their first selections. The ability to consume something that tastes good and is filled with vitamins and nutrients sounds like a perfect choice. In fact, juice boxes have become a popular “healthy” lunch box element added by many well-intentioned parents. However, not all juice beverages have the same qualities. Before you reach for a jug of brightly advertised and colorful contents, consider the following tips for determining its actual health benefits.
- Look at the ingredients. Some containers on the shelf are “fruit drinks” while others are “100% fruit juice.” The fruit or vegetable should be the first ingredient. If it begins with water and is followed by sugar or corn syrup and a list of undecipherable components it is likely to contain far fewer if any healthy ingredients.
Also, watch out for juices that may be 100% juice but contain a base of another fruit such as apple juice or grape juice. These products may promote an exotic blend (ie, “peach cranberry cocktail”) but have little amounts of the promoted fruit mixed with a grape juice base. Manufacturers do this because the grape component is less expensive to produce and adds additional sweetness (and sugar!) to the mixture.
- Check the nutritional content label for the amount of sugar. Whether naturally occurring or added during manufacturing, sugars make a beverage taste good but can have harmful effects such as tooth decay, excessive production of insulin, and weight gain.
The USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sugar intake to no more than 10% of daily caloric consumption. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 12 teaspoons per day (about 50 grams). The American Heart Association recommends that women limit consumption to 25 grams per day and men to 36 grams. It is not uncommon to find that a glass of your favorite beverage exceeds those amounts. Look for juices with 12 grams of sugar or less.
- Look for juices with natural fibers. Antioxidants bind to fiber and help our bodies digest food and process sugars. Higher fiber diets have been found to help lower risks of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, adding fiber back into a juice (“added fiber”) doesn’t provide significant health benefits. Ideally you should choose a juice manufactured with a process that allows a portion of the fiber to remain in the end product.
Is Healthy Juice Beverage Difficult to Find?
Fortunately, today’s in-person and online supermarkets contain a wide variety of products to choose from. Many large chains have organic food sections that contain products with higher natural content while niche healthy-living stores are growing in popularity across America. Today, the sky is the limit when it comes to choosing a high-quality juice you and your family will love.