When it comes to nutrition, nothing can replace whole fruits. But the next best thing is their juice, in moderation. Choose wisely from the ever-expanding options.
Some juices have more nutrients than others. Orange juice is rich in vitamin C, folate, potassium and phytochemicals called flavonoids. Juices with deeper color (such as pink vs. white grapefruit juice) tend to have more carotenoids and other antioxidants. But even nutrient-poor apple and white grape juice contain potentially beneficial phytochemicals. If the whole fruit is used (or the juice is pulpy), the juice will provide a little fiber. Vegetable juices are also good choices, but canned and bottled tomato and vegetable juice blends are high in sodium.
Calories in fruit juice range from 100 (grapefruit) and 110 (orange juice) to 150 (grape) and 180 (prune) per 8-ounce cup. Vegetable juices have fewer calories. Ounce for ounce, fruit juice has more calories than whole fruit because its sugars are concentrated. Since juices are less filling than whole fruit, it’s easy to drink a lot of calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, limit yourself to one cup a day, which counts as more than one serving toward your nine-a-day goal of fruits and vegetables.
Anything called juice “drink,” “beverage,” “punch,” “ade” or “cocktail” is typically fruit juice, water and lots of sugar (usually high-fructose corn syrup)—high-calorie junk food with little actual fruit juice. For example, a “tropical punch” may be only 10 percent juice. The percentage of juice must be disclosed on the label—but that doesn’t stop exaggerated advertising. Look for juices labeled “100% fruit juice” (or close to it), or check ingredients to make sure there are no added sweeteners.
Manufacturers often add cheap filler juices to expensive juices. Many tart juices, like pomegranate and cranberry, are also often cut with sweeter juices. The juice is still “100% fruit juice,” but it may contain little of the one you think you are getting. So, an item labeled blueberry or cherry juice (which are expensive) is often mostly cheap grape or apple juice. Check the ingredient list. Juices are listed by their amounts in descending order.
Juices fortified with calcium and vitamin D are a good way to get these much-needed bone nutrients, especially for people who don’t consume a lot of dairy foods. One cup typically has as much calcium and D as a cup of milk. Sterol-fortified orange juice (e.g., Minute Maid’s Heart Wise) may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. But don’t pay a premium for juices with added vitamin E and C, B vitamins, zinc, and herbs—there’s no evidence they will protect your heart, boost your immunity, or have any other health benefits, and most people can get enough of those nutrients from foods.
It has similar amounts of nutrients as fresh. Frozen juice concentrate is also economical and its packaging less wasteful than cartons or bottles. All juices lose some nutrients after opening, though. Once you reconstitute frozen juice concentrate, store it in a tightly closed container below 40°F (4°C) to protect the vitamin C and other nutrients, and drink it within one week. Purchase ready-to-drink orange juice 3 to 4 weeks before the expiration date and use it within a week of opening.
No. Unpasteurized juice carries a risk of bacterial contamination. Foodborne illnesses, with fatalities, have been traced to it. Young children and people with weakened immune systems should especially avoid it. Most U.S. juice is pasteurized, but some sold in health-food stores, farmers’ markets and roadside stands may not be. Unpasteurized bottled juice has a warning label; fresh-squeezed juice by the glass is exempt. Ask. Refrigerate juices once opened.