When you look at a juice label, the first thing you see is the last thing you should trust, the label. Giant corporations are capitalizing on shoppers' confusion over labels' claims of healthy fiber, exotic antioxidants, and neuron-nourishing ingredients. What they don't bring to your attention are the crushed bug parts used for coloring and the carcinogenic fungicide, exotic antioxidants, and cheap fake ingredients that are lurking in the bottles.
"Juice makers, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, realize that consumers are concerned about losing weight and reducing their risk of diet-related diseases," says senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley, coauthor of a new juice review published in the Center for Science in the Public Interest's (CSPI's) Nutrition Action newsletter.
"But no juice is going to perform miracles for eyes, skin, hearts, colons, or any other part of the body. That goes for just plain juice, and it certainly goes for a juice dressed up with some combination of water, artificial sweeteners, food dyes, or fake fibers," she adds.
Bone up on these hidden ingredients and marketing tricks and never be fooled in the juice aisle again!
Recent Food and Drug Administration testing found that a banned fungicide is turning up in about 15 percent of orange juice samples tested. According to the Los Angeles Times, the administration is ramping up efforts after Coca-Cola, the owner of the Minute Maid and Simply Orange juice brands, found toxic carbendazim in samples. Most of the tainted juices are from fruit grown in Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Belize, where the harmful fungicide is still legal. Organic juice is your best bet. Even better? Just eat a whole organic orange. The fiber will help prevent a blood sugar crash related to drinking juice.
Go-To Ingredients: The Least-Nutritious Juices
According to the CSPI report, juice makers often use the cheapest juices, apple and grape, as the main juice ingredients, even if they aren't in the name of the product. For instance, Trop50's Pomegranate Blueberry variety contains more apple juice than pomegranate juice and more grape juice than blueberry juice.
The label of Welch's 100 percent Grape Juice with Fiber makes it seem like the fiber comes from unadulterated, natural sources like "whole Concord grape skins and seed." Instead, CSPI points out that the fiber comes from the processed food additive maltodextrin, a starch-like carb that actually resists digestion. V8 High Fiber, Sunsweet PlumSmart, and Prune Juice Light pull similar tricks. To get your healthy fiber fix, just eat the actual fruit. It's better for your blood sugar and diabetes risk.
Insane Sugar Content
Many parents think juices are health drinks, but that's simply not the case. Take Tropicana Tropical Fruit Fury Twister, for example. One 20-ounce bottle contains 340 calories and a whopping 60 grams of sugar. That's the sugar equivalent of giving your child two 7-ounce canisters of Reddi-wip to guzzle down. Tropicana is owned by Pepsi, and just like the parent company's soda, the juices are loaded with artificial ingredients, and the juice products often contain very little actual fruit juice. Honest Kids organic pouch drinks are much healthier choices.
Crushed Beetle Ingredients
If you're a fan of ruby-red grapefruit juice, you'd better flip the bottle over and read the label. If the product lists carmine, natural red #4, crimson lake, or cochineal extract, you're likely ingesting food coloring that comes from the crushed abdomen of Dactylopius coccus, an African beetle-like insect.
Brain-Draining Food Dyes
Tropicana Twister Cherry Berry Blast contains 0 percent berry and cherry juice, despite the name of the drink. The color of the nutritionally defunct product comes not from healthy fruit, but from the artificial dye Red #40, which has been linked to hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some kids. In many cases, it's much cheaper for companies to use petroleum-derived fake coloring than real fruit juice. CSPI recently filed a regulatory petition urging the Food and Drug Administration to require front-of-label disclosure of food colorings, a labeling move that 75 percent of the population wants, according to a 2010 CSPI survey.