Buyer Beware: "Healthy" Boosted Juice Drinks

Many bottled juice drinks on the market claim to have antioxidant, immunity-boosting or other health benefits. But are they really healthy or worth all the hype? Not necessarily.

My clients are always telling me about these new juice drinks they find at the supermarket. You know the ones that say they pack in multiple servings of fruits and veggies or they'll make you smarter, lower cholesterol or even boost your immunity. Many times folks fall for the hype and start drinking 2 or 3 bottles a day (they think more is better!). But before you take a sip, find out what these bottled beverages are really made of.

Buyer Beware

It’s a fact -- studies show that people who eat more fruits and veggies have a lower risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Although these studies mean wholesome fruits and veggies (and the fiber found in them), food companies try to outsmart folks by bottling “juice drinks” made from some juice, added sugars, vitamins and preservatives -- then they promote them as being just as good. They're not.

You might see drinks that claim they have 2, 3, 5 or more (equivalent) servings of fruits or veggies. On top of that, they sometimes promise everything from increasing energy to boosting immunity to making you smarter. The reality is that the juice manufacturing process loses the fiber and can deplete the original benefits of the whole food -- manufacturers then go back and add vitamins in again.

Studies also show that it takes longer to feel full when drinking juice (as opposed to solid foods) because the liquid calories don’t “register” in your brain as fast as food. This means it’ll take many more calories from juice to make you feel just as full as eating one fresh fruit.

With this in mind, I reviewed some popular brands and have some tips to keep in mind:

V-8 Fusion

The Claim: You’ll get a fruit, veggie and numerous antioxidants in every cup.

The Truth: Ingredients listed on the bottle are reconstituted vegetables and a fruit juice blend -- needless to say, the mix is processed. The antioxidants are listed in the ingredients, which means you’re not getting these nutrients from the fruit or veggies they used. Instead, the company has to add them in. The V-8 Splash is no better and contains high fructose corn syrup.

The Better Choice: V-8 100% Vegetable Juice
Minute Maid Heart Wise

The Claim: Drinking this may help lower cholesterol.

The Truth: Studies show that plant sterols help reduce cholesterol. However, other research has linked sugar -- like those found in juice -- to raising triglyceride levels (triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that doctors use to track heart disease risks). The label's fine print also says the plant sterols come from peanut oil and vegetable oil and there's plenty of that available in other foods.

The Better Choice: Minute Maid Original 100% Juice

Cran-Energy by Ocean Spray

The Claim: Their mix is good for boosting energy and immunity.

The Truth: The first ingredient is “filtered water” and them some juice concentrates. Lots of colorings and flavorings are added and some B-vitamins, which you can get naturally from foods like grains, chicken, eggs or beef. A sugar substitute keeps the calories low.

The Better Choice: 100% cranberry juice, or try some energy-boosting whole foods

Juicy Juice Brain Development

The Claim: The added DHA (an omega-3 fat) will help with childhood brain development.

The Truth: It looks like the DHA comes from fish oil -- tuna specifically. (Does this mean that those with fish allergies should avoid the juice?) There’s also nothing listed on the label that indicates that this drink is made from 100% juice.

The Better Choice: Juicy Juice made with 100% juice or eat some fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, for DHA

Bottom Line:

While there are worse beverages to guzzle down than juice, there are no real substitutes for the vitamins, minerals, omega fats and fiber found in natural foods. Don't get duped by hyped-up labels and, when you do pour a glass, opt for 100% fruit or vegetable juice or try making your own. Stick to a cup a day max for adults and 1/2 cup for kids.

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