Healthy Fruit Juice for All

What makes for a healthy fruit juice?

Picture: Apple juice from tart wild apples

Fruit juice in a box or a bottle is wonderful stuff, especially for convenience and portability. But it’s pretty clear that many of the packaged kinds do not really cut it as health foods. OK, they may be better than cola or soda. But they can hardly compare with real fruit or with fresh fruit juice extracted from real fresh fruit!

So what is the problem with packaged fruit juices?

Only that most of the valuable enzymes are long gone. And some “pure” juices actually contain a proportion of sugar. In the EU it is accepted policy for prepared commercial juice to contain up to 150 gm of sugar for every litre of juice. This is done so that the manufacturer can make the juice less tart and more appealing. There are also other processing methods that make packaged fruit juices less appealing and healthy than fresh fruit just juiced.

Classifying packaged fruit juices

Juices tend to be classified depending upon whether they have been concentrated and then re-hydrated or “reconstituted”. In Britain orange juice is called “pure” if non of it has come from concentrates. Concentrates may have been stored for some time – a year or more, even and may also contain parts of the fruit such as pith and skin. This has to be an increased concern when juice is made from fruit which contains small amounts of pesticide residue.

These parts of the fruit are also used in “pure” juice, as they contribute to flavour. Unfortunately, a lot of flavour (and nutrition) flies out once the juice is frozen, transported, pasteurised and so on. Typically “flavour packs” are added to the juice just before bottling or packing in order to restore something of what has been lost.

Pure juice?

Pure juice is pasteurised to prolong its shelf life and may have elements added back in to help the flavour.

Maybe the better brands such as Tropicana produce a healthy fruit juice. These types of fruit juice are certainly more palatable than the cheap brands. But they still cannot compare with freshly squeezed juice from real fruit. Real fruit juice has a special zing about it that is hard to fake.

Nevertheless, pure fruit juice is probably the best of the packaged fruit juices on offer in most supermarkets - and the price usually reflects this. Some health food shops and delicatessens stock "freshly squeezed" fruit juice which is rather better than most pure juice.

Juice from concentrates

Cheap fruit juice is usually made from concentrate and is consequently lacking in flavour and subtlety. It’s almost certainly lacking in nutritional value, too – unless it has added vitamins or minerals. You are mainly buying calories. The main justification for using reconstituted concentrates is to lower transportation costs.

Fresh, healthy fruit juice from real fruit does deteriorate quite rapidly. A lot of the methods which fruit packaging companies use are developed in order simply to preserve the fruit juice over long periods. The packaged fruit juice that you drink today might come from fruit which was picked over a year ago.

Fruit juice drinks

Fruit “juice drinks” are even worse as they are made up with water, sugar and other ingredients, including a small percentage of real fruit juice to mimic fruit juice. There is often around 30% added sugar in these drinks and they have very little health benefits beyond providing re-hydration in a convenient pack!

Also worth avoiding are the fruit nectars and fruit cocktail drinks which are at best fruit juice with added stuff - flavourings and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), for example. HFCS is well worth avoiding because it has been linked with Type 2 diabetes. It's a high sugar hit that your body just does not need.

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Healthy fruit juice - the best option

For a really healthy fruit juice the very best option is to squeeze it or press it yourself. Fresh homemade apple juice is a delight and if you organise your orchard well you can be enjoying real fresh juice for many months in the year. I usually manage to still be crushing apples well into the new year.

See How to make apple juice at home.

Modern juicers are efficient and quick and do not use inordinate amounts of energy. Of course, you could opt for the old-fashioned way of pressing or squeezing by hand. A mechanical orange squeezer is a worthy piece of kit which might be worth the investment if you enjoy orange juice regularly. For me, It is not worth the cleaning time and I’d sooner use a simple glass juice squeezer.

An electric juicer is a worthwhile piece of kit if you have access to liberal quantities of quality fruit.

Nutritional benefits of fruit juice

Good quality fruit juice is undoubtedly beneficial. It helps provide fibre and some vitamins and minerals (vitamin C and potassium, for example). It will help prevent elevated cholesterol levels and is generally anti-inflammatory* in its effect upon the metabolism.

*Too much sugar has an inflammatory effect and some fruit juices are high in natural sugars. Moderation is the key - and a preference for the less intensely sweet fruit juices.

How much fruit juice should you drink?

Packaged fruit juice manufacturers are keen to get us to think of their product as one of our "five a day" portions of fruit. Drinking too much fruit juice can be bad on several counts. Briefly these are too much sugar (even fruit sugar can be bad for you in excess), too many calories and possible damage to tooth enamel. Some fruit juices tend to be high in natural sugars and acids which can erode the protective enamel of teeth.

Modern packaged fruit juices are undoubtedly a wonderful thing, offering as they do convenience and refreshment in a hygienic and portable form. But they are always going to be second best for those of us looking for a healthy fruit juice with plenty of enzymes and nutritional benefits.

But if your diet is nutritionally good and already high in calories, you may well be best off just sticking to good old pure water!

Visit Amazon's Buyer's Guide - Juicer 101 Some of these juicers are usually on special offer.

Fruit juices and green living

What has all this to do with green living?

Just that, in order to avoid the processing and transportation of packaged fruit juices, it makes sense to use fresh fruit and freshly prepared fruit juice whenever possible. This is another way to help reduce the carbon cost of our activities, something we all need to do whenever possible.

A healthier life may well be a greener life in that we are less likely to draw on expensive and carbon-intensive resources if we keep ourselves fit and healthy.


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Healthy Fruit Juice for All

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All Types of Fruit for Good Nutrition

The Nutritional Value of Fruit

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