The Skinny on Juice Drinks

Food, Hometown Cooking
on June 10, 2012

Not all juice drinks are created equal. A juice drink’s label can showcase a picture of luscious fresh fruit, but the actual contents of the drink may contain a very small amount of real fruit juice. Some fruit juice drinks contain as much or even more sugar per serving than a candy bar. A juice drink loaded with sugar and empty calories is not a healthy option for kids or adults.

When shopping for the healthiest options in juice drinks, look for five key facts found on the ingredient/nutrient label.

1. Sugar content. The sugar found in a whole apple is naturally occurring and healthier than the processed sugars added to many common juice drinks. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar for the average female and no more than 150 calories a day for the average male. These amounts equal about six teaspoons for females and nine teaspoons for males. One popular grape juice drink contains the equivalent to 15 teaspoons of sugar in each 12-ounce serving, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

2. Amount of actual juice. Some juice drinks contain very little real fruit juice. Always check the ingredient label before purchasing a juice. Opt for products that contain 100 percent real fruit juice. While some manufacturers are increasing their juice content, several varieties still contain as little as 5 percent fruit juice.

3. Added coloring. A vibrant red fruit drink may look enticing and even somewhat healthy when served over ice. However, check that ingredient label. Look for words such as Red 40 and Blue 1. If you see either, this indicates dyes have been added to the juice drink to make it that vibrant color. Ingesting dyes on a regular basis may have harmful health effects, including causing allergic reactions in some people.

4. Type of juice. Some juice drinks labeled as a specific fruit such as strawberry or cherry may contain juice from other fruits as well. These additional fruit juices may include pear juice or apple juice. If you are paying for and expecting cherry juice, make sure your label reads 100 percent cherry juice.

5. Calorie count. Many juice drinks are high in calories. As a label-watcher, you can determine if a specific juice drink contains more calories than you would like to consume simply by drinking a juice. Not sure how many calories your body needs each day? Check out the easy-to-use calorie counter offered by the Mayo Clinic.