You walk around the supermarket’s juice section and come across several boxes of juice, with labels such as “100% fruit” or “100% natural”. With the buzz going on about smoothies and juice cleanses, you may want to get a few bottles for yourself to start a fresh liquid diet. But are these drinks as healthy as freshly squeezed juices? Will they give you the same nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you would get from real fruit?
Do not pick up that box or bottle just yet. We have answered a few questions that you might have regarding fresh and commercial fruit liquid to help you make a good choice.
What Are The Benefits Of Juice?
Before comparing fresh and store bought juices, it is important to understand the benefits of fruit and vegetable juices, and why it is good to include them in your diet in the first place.
Fresh juice provides plenty of benefits for the body – they provide nutrients like vitamins, minerals and enzymes. This allows you to take in all the goodness of vegetables and fruit without having to eat them. If you are not a fan of salads or raw veggies, then juices are the best way to get all its goodness into your body. It is also a great source of nutrition if you have a poor appetite or poor diet.
As it is in liquid form, it does not contain insoluble fiber, making it easy on the stomach. This is why many people tend to drink fresh juice and smoothies when they want to give their digestive systems a rest from digesting heavily processed food. It also promotes overall health and can help kick start a healthy diet.
What Makes Store Bought Juice Any Different?
Store bought juices differ from fresh juice because of the way it is prepared. While there are some store bought juices that are made on site or prepared like fresh juices, most brands go through a very long process of preparation, manufacturing and packaging.
When manufactured, they go through the process of pasteurization or other non-heat processing to kill possible bacteria which may be present inside or outside the produce. This increases the shelf life of the product and allows it to last for months or years without fermenting or spoiling. The process also reduces the risk of food borne illnesses. While this is a safety measure that most manufacturing companies take to ensure the safety of their products, the process also destroys all the good stuff as well.
Processing the juice:
- Reduces antioxidant activity
- Denatures all the proteins
- Removes all the vitamins and minerals
- Takes away the wonderful flavor from the fruit
Do you ever wonder why a brand of fruit juice tastes the same throughout all boxes or bottles? If they’re from completely different fruits, then there’s bound to be a difference in the taste from one bottle to the next, right? But they taste the same!
The reason why fruit juices tastes so good (and the same) is because once they are pasteurized and processed, they are then loaded with flavor packs which give them a uniform flavor. These flavor packs are loaded with simple sugars, which have zero nutritional value and do nothing but increase your blood sugar levels.
Aside from this, bottled juices are often packed in cans or low-quality plastic (not all though, as some products use BPA free or glass bottles), which contain chemicals, acids and waxes that may seep into the liquid over time. Because juices are mass produced, you also can’t be sure where the fruits come from, and most of them may contain pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
Given these facts, most juices in supermarket stalls have very little nutritional value and are loaded with sugars – and they may contain traces of chemicals and other compounds as well. All in all, you are simply spending for and just drinking chemically laden, flavored sugar water. That is definitely not something you want when you are planning to go on a healthy diet.
So Fresh Juice Means More Nutrients?
If you want to get the most nutrients from your drink, fresh fruit juice is always the way to go. When you extract the juice from the produce, you get all of its important nutrients inside liquid form, allowing you to drink all the phytonutrients (plant chemicals), minerals and vitamins in one drink. The juice does not contain any fiber though, so it should still not replace raw produce and vegetables in your diet.
Aside from getting all your nutrients, you can also choose what vegetables and fruits to use giving you the freedom to make your own drink. This also means that you can decide to use organic produce to make sure that they do not contain any harmful chemicals and pesticides.
Isn’t Pasteurized Juice Safer?
What makes juice unsafe is how and where it is handled and prepared, especially when they are made in big factories where you are never sure where the fruits come from and how they are being handled. Add the fact that it has to be shipped from factory to store, and then sit in a shelf for several months. So when we talk about commercial juice, then it definitely has to be pasteurized to ensure its overall safety.
It is very rare to be infected by unpasteurized juice especially if it is made at home and drank right away, unless you have a compromised immune system. If you’re generally healthy, freshly squeezed juice should be safe to drink. If you are elderly or sick, you may want to hold off on the juice until speaking to your doctor.
How Can You Make Healthy And Safe Fresh Juice?
Going back to safety issues, fresh juice should be safe to use as long as you use organic produce which are free from pesticides and chemicals and follow proper safety procedures when preparing juice.
To safely prepare your drink, here are some steps that you should follow:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
- Use fresh fruit and vegetables and cut away all bruised and damaged areas and discard any fruit that looks rotten.
- Wash all produce properly with running water. You can opt to use sea salt and vinegar mixture, too.
- Wash all parts of the produce thoroughly. If you’re washing leaves or stems, get into every nook and cranny because you might not get all the dirt out in one go.
- Scrub firm produce like cucumbers and melons with a clean brush.
- Dry produce with a paper towel
- Make use of clean dishes, knives, cutting boards, juicers and containers.
Once you already have your juice on hand, try to drink it within the next fifteen minutes. Juicing breaks down the food and letting it stand over time exposes it to oxidation which kills of its nutrient content and increases its chance of spoiling. Drinking the juice right after making it means you still get most of its nutrients and antioxidant content. If you must prepare ahead of time, be sure to store the liquid in clean, glass bottles and store them inside the refrigerator for not more than 24 hours.
Worried About the Work?
Drinking store bought is generally easy. All you have to do is buy a bottle or a box and then pour a drink – or you can drink it straight from the container. Because it is so easy, preparing fresh, raw juice may seem much like a chore. After all, you need to buy a juicer, use it and clean it afterwards. You need to buy fresh produce, clean them and slice them as well.
When these thoughts come to mind, try to ask yourself a few questions. What’s a couple of extra minutes of juicing compared to a glass of vitamins and minerals? What’s a quick run to the farmer’s market when you a slimmer body or better health in return? When you look at the benefits that you get from fresh juice, preparing a glass no longer seems like work at all.
What’s The Verdict?
Obviously, when comparing fresh and store bought juice, the fresher option is the better choice by leaps and bounds – even when it entails some work.
If you can’t make your own juice for any reason, store bought juice is a good alternative, as long as you make the right choices. Don’t be misled by labels like “100% juice” or “concentrate” or “not from concentrate” – they may sound well, but read the labels carefully. A drink that says 100% juice may mean that it contains 100% juice on top of sodium, citric acid, preservatives and other labels.
Read the labels well, are you getting pure juice in that bottle or are there plenty of additives? The best store bought choices are organic, raw and cold pressed or those made on site. The next best options are 100% organic juices and not made from concentrate. A little reading can help you make better choices which will definitely be beneficial to your health.