What Does 100% Juice Really Mean? How to Make the Healthiest Choice
The true nutritional benefits of fruit juice have long been debated among people in health-conscious circles.
You may have heard people bemoan the fact that the purchase of “juice” does not guarantee you a glass of freshly squeezed apple juice or orange juice, but rather a concoction that is more similar to sugary soda.
The sheer number and variety of choices in regards to fruit or vegetable juice can be overwhelming for consumers.
To help you sort through the marketing jargon and find the healthiest option, let’s look at what “100% juice” means and whether it really is “100%.”
What Does 100% Juice Mean?
Of course, 100% juice seems like the ideal choice for those who want the healthiest option and freshest flavor. It comes straight from the orange or apple, with no additives. But is it really “100 percent juice”?
Yes. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), any product that claims to be 100% juice must actually contain 100% juice.
It does not, however, mean that all of the juice comes from the same fruit. Pomegranate juice, for instance, may claim to contain 100% juice, that doesn’t necessarily mean all of the ingredients in that bottle comes from pomegranates. As long as all of the ingredients are a blend of fruit or vegetables, it can be labeled as 100%.
Is 100% Fruit Juice Good For You?
Sometimes fruit juice gets a bad rap, but there are definitely some benefits to consuming 100% juice.
For one, it is an easy way to add fruit to your diet. Many fruits are good sources of vitamins and antioxidants, and a single glass of fruit juice counts as one full serving of fruit.
One reason you may still want to moderate your intake of 100% juice is that it is high in calories. While one medium orange contains 65 calories, one cup of orange juice (usually made from about three medium oranges) is 111 calories. Additionally, it is naturally high in sugar and can be bad for your teeth because the citric acid eats away at the enamel.
Consuming fruit juice is different from eating a whole fruit in one important way: fiber. The juicing process reduces the fiber content.
Both the skin and the pulp, the parts usually not included in the fruit juice, are an excellent source of fiber (and other nutrients). When that fiber is lost, one of the best benefits of consuming fruit is also lost.
When we consume fructose, the natural sugars of the fruit — through eating an orange, for instance — the chemical is less impactful on our health because it is consumed along with the fiber. Fiber slows the absorption of the fructose and makes us feel fuller faster.
Because the fiber has been removed, fructose is absorbed immediately and thus impacts our bodies differently. This effect is similar to consuming other sugary drinks.
On a side note, if you are wondering whether vegetable juice is a healthier option, keep in mind that it also loses its fiber during the juicing process. If you want to incorporate the nutritional value of fiber, you should go for the whole fruits and vegetables.
What’s the Difference Between 100% Juice and Other Types?
100% juice means all of the ingredients were extracted from a fruit or vegetable (just maybe not the same one pictured on the front of the bottle). The FDA requires producers to label the correct percentage, so the words “less than 100% juice” warrant a glance at the ingredient list to determine what else is in your drink.
Per FDA standards, producers can’t simply label it as “juice” if it contains other ingredients. Companies get by this by tagging on words like “cocktail,” “beverage” or “drink.”
If you see those words, that’s a potential red flag. It means the product may contain small amounts of juice — as little as 5%. Then the recipe is filled out with water and unhealthy sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup.
Check the ingredients to find out which fruits or vegetables are included. Because apple and grape juice concentrates are cheaper and have a somewhat bland flavor, they are used to add sweetness to tart or bitter fruit juices, such as pomegranate and grapefruit, without overpowering the taste.
Even so, if you want to make a healthy choice, you need to avoid anything less than 100% juice at all costs. Although naturally sweet, they don’t contain added sugar or sneaky (and unhealthy) additives found in fruit cocktail mixes or punch.
You may also see fruit juice products labeled as “light,” which may seem like a healthier option because their labels proudly proclaim them to have less sugar and fewer calories.
But here’s the deal: all that means is that water was added. So, if you prefer a lighter option, you can save yourself some money by buying 100% fruit juice and diluting it yourself.
What to Look for on the Product Label?
You want to be sure to purchase high-quality fruit juice products, so here are some terms you may want to know:
- “From concentrate” means water was removed initially and then re-added to the concentrate.
- “Flash pasteurized” means a process was used to heat the juice and kill bacteria, giving the product a longer shelf life.
- “Raw” means, essentially, “freshly squeezed.” It has not been heated, pasteurized or processed in any way. Because raw juice can develop bacteria, it needs to be consumed quickly.
- “Cold-pressed” means the juice has been obtained via grinding or blending.
Again, always look at the ingredients list rather than just taking the product name’s word for it. Find out what else is included in your 100% juice (if any). Even if it is 100%, check the sugar and calorie content to be sure it is a good fit for your diet. You can always dilute it as needed.
If you’re concerned about added flavorings or preservatives, check the product label.
Five of the Healthiest 100% Juices
1. Pomegranate: is a powerful antioxidant, even more so than green tea. It can prevent cell growth, making its cancer-fighting properties the subject of ongoing research.
2. Cranberry: commonly known to be beneficial in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs), but new research suggests that may not be the case. However, cranberry juice is still one of the healthiest options you can find due to its antioxidant properties. Studies have shown it may even possibly improve heart health.
3. Prune: works as a natural laxative and research has suggested it can lower colon cancer risk.
4. Orange: gives you the full recommended Daily Value for vitamin C in an 8-ounce glass. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) works as an antioxidant, boosts your immune system and helps the body’s absorption of iron.
5. Red grape: may offer the same health benefits as red wine, according to new research. Experts say that consumption of red grape juice a glass a day can help reduce the risk of blood clots and help you maintain healthy blood pressure. Keep in mind that other types of grapes, such as white grapes, do not offer the same benefits when it comes to health and nutrition.
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