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What you should know about fruit and veggie juices.

In this hurried day and age, I've had quite a few people tell me that they don't have time to eat fruits or snack on veggie sticks. And in North America, veggies are not the main feature of a meal, meat is. So it is no wonder that few of us are able to get in the required 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A possible solution is to augment your intake with some fruit and vegetable juice.

What are the nutritional benefits of juice? The disadvantages?

Juice provides many, but not all of the benefits you'd obtain from eating whole fruit or vegetables. Nutrients in juices vary, depending on what was added to make the juice. Many fruit juices contain plenty of potassium (which can lower high blood pressure), vitamins like A & C, and antioxidants like polyphenols, quercetin, anthocyanins, which aren't listed on the labels. Unfortunately, many vegetable juices also contain quite a bit of sodium and fruit juices tend to be high in sugars, whether they're natural or artificially sweetened. The increased sugar also results juices having more calories than the actual food. One serving (1/2 cup) of grapes contains 31 calories -- a fraction of the 116 calories found in a serving (6 ounces) of grape juice. What's more, the average individual juice bottle size is 16 ounces. One 16-ounce bottle yields 2.6 servings and 308 calories total.

The number one disadvantage of ingesting juice versus the whole fruit or vegetable is the fiber content. The fiber found in the whole fruit helps to control cholesterol & blood sugar levels and aids in the digestion process. It also helps your satiety levels, making you feel fuller after eating. Also, when fruits are pressed to extract the juice, some antioxidants are left behind - like those found in the skin and seeds of fruits.

What kind of juice should I be looking for?

Look for 100% juice with no added sugar. Check the label to find out how much juice each product contains. The ingredients are listed on the label in order of volume. The lower a juice appears on the ingredients list, the less there is of it in the drink.

What does "from concentrate" mean and how does it affect the juice's nutrient profile?

Juice made from concentrate is essentially the same as the original juice. The water has been extracted from the juice thereby reducing its volume and weight, making it easier to transport. Water is added back to the concentrate after shipping and the product is labeled "made from concentrate" and some food scientists claim that it has the same nutrition profile as the original juice. I'm a little bit skeptical about this because when products are exposed to air, they begin to degenerate unless it's neutralized by antioxidants. In the case of juice, there is plenty of antioxidants, but I'm sure that some of it is lost compared to freshly squeezed juices.

Why is apple, pear, or grape juice often the first ingredient in juices that aren't apple, pear, or grape?

Naturally sweet juices like apple, pear, and grape help make tart or acidic juices more palatable. Essentially, it's a way for the manufacturers to add sugar without having to put additional sweeteners into the product. For example, pure cranberry juice is extremely tart and must be sweetened. The antioxidants is what makes it tart. The more antioxidants you have in a product, the more bitter, acrid, or astringent it is going to be. Think of green or black tea with its astringent properties. The reason: Antioxidants are meant to protect the plant by making it taste bad to predators.

Caution: Some juices and some meds don't go well together.

Grapefruit juice interferes with the metabolism of a number of prescription drugs. Sometimes, it will decrease the effectiveness of the drug and with other drugs, it can lead to an overdose. Be careful about consuming grapefruit if you're on meds such as
cholesterol-lowering statins, antidepressants, Viagra and much more.

If you're on blood thinning medication such as warfarin (Coumadin), avoid taking cranberry juice & goji berries as this too may interact. Please consult your health care practitioner with regards to interactions.

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