There’s nothing like making fresh raw vegetable or fruit juice at home with your own juicer. But let’s be honest, it takes time, energy and a commitment to keep up the routine at home. The availability and the variety of store-bought juice concoctions have absolutely exploded on the market and tempt us with convenience, fancy marketings and a bunch of healthy buzz words. Here’s the scoop on how tricky understanding juice labels can be at the grocery store and how to choose the best store bought juices for you and your family.
“100% Juice” Doesn’t Mean Anything
What does 100% juice really mean? Not much. Food companies are allowed to say 100% juice on the label even though their juice contains additional additives, flavorings or preservatives. In the case of V8, they add sodium (salt), flavoring, vitamin C and citric acid to preserve the juice for a longer shelf life. All of these added ingredients do nothing for your body and in some cases could harm you. This isn’t exactly a healthy dose of juice after considering the flavoring on the label could be made from petroleum that is often contaminated with carcinogens. Also, flavoring could have hidden MSG in it – which increases cravings and addiction (so food companies profit more). Companies that use flavoring won’t tell you exactly what’s in it either, they’ll say their formula is proprietary and keep you guessing.
“Concentrate” Is Just A Fancy Name for Syrup
Another way juice companies sabotage you, is by using shelf-stable juice concentrates instead of real juice. Juice concentrates are made from fruits and vegetables that are heated down to syrup and then have water added back in. The concentration process involves both adding in and subtracting chemicals and natural plant by-products in order to condense the juice. During the concentration process, fruits and vegetables lose flavor and this is one of the reasons why companies have to re-add “flavoring” to make the juice taste fresh.
The concentration allows juice companies to keep their juice shelf stable, preserved longer and allows them to save money during fruit processing. In other words, juice companies sell you an inferior product while making more money.
“Not From Concentrate” Could Be Flavored
What if the label explicitly states “not from concentrate.” Does that mean that the product has no added flavors? No. Actually, that’s a big fat no! When most commercially available orange juices are made, according to the book Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice, the juice is stored in giant tanks and the oxygen is removed from them, which allows the liquid to keep for up to a year without spoiling. This storage makes the orange juice lose mega flavor. So the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the juice. Even if your juice says “100% juice” or “premium” on the ingredient label, it can still have these flavor packs, because they are not required to be listed on the ingredient label because technically they are derived from orange essence or oil. Sneaky, huh? Ever wonder why store-bought juice can achieve that consistent “trademarked” taste, bottle after bottle? Now you know! (Please note: Uncle Matt’s is a brand that is 100% juice, not from concentrate that specifically does not use flavor packs.)
Many juice companies use an ingredient called citric acid to extend the shelf life of their product. Most people would think this citric acid comes from, well, citrus like lemons, oranges and limes, but it doesn’t. The ingredients most food manufacturers use to create citric acid are genetically engineered corn and sugar beets, by synthetically fermenting the glucose from these crops in a laboratory.
Also, some juice companies go as far as adding sugar (that could be from GMO sugar beets), high fructose corn syrup (from GMO corn) and/or other ingredients that could contain GMOs. Tropicana, Ocean Spray and Minute Maid are huge offenders of this – so it’s no surprise they were some of the companies who gave millions of dollars recently in Washington to stop GMO labeling. They don’t want you to know their juices are full of GMOs.
Remember GMOs have never been tested long term on humans, and are linked to the rise in allergies, infertility and auto-immune disorders, not to mention they have increased the use of toxic pesticides in the environment by 500 million pounds.
It is absolutely critical we get GMO labeling in this country. We deserve the right to know what we are eating and the companies fighting against this basic fundamental right do not deserve our money.
The sneakiest of ingredients that can show up in juice are in the form of synthetic ingredients that seem natural but are actually man-made and created in a laboratory.
Naked Juice (owned by Pepsi Co) was recently sued because they claimed their juices were 100% All Natural but really contain these synthetic ingredients:
- Fibersol-2 — a proprietary synthetic digestion-resistant fiber produced by Archer Daniels Midland and developed by a Japanese chemical company.
- Fructooligosaccharides — a synthetic fiber and sweetener.
- Inulin — an artificial and invisible fiber added to foods to artificially increase fiber content.
This example is just one of the reasons why it’s incredibly important to look at the ingredient list rather than the marketing lingo on the front of the label. (FYI – The Wall Street Journal just reported, Pepsi plans to drop the “All Natural” label on Naked Juice)
Also, make sure to watch out for other harmful ingredients like artificial food coloring. I was shocked to see that so many innocent looking juice brands use petroleum based dyes to color their juices, like Ocean Spray’s Red Ruby Grapefruit Juice.
Here’s the real killer, no pun intended. Most juice companies use traditional pasteurization or flash pasteurization to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, molds, and other microorganisms to safeguard our health by heating the juice (this would be the second time your juice is heated if you are drinking juice from concentrate). But during this process, pasteurization also kills raw enzymes, minerals and vitamins – the reason that we are drinking the juice in the first place. Heat kills the bad stuff and good stuff, making the juice pretty much worthless to consume.
Juice companies sometimes even replenish the lost vitamin content with synthetic vitamins because there is barely any nutrition left after processing. In the book Pandora’s Lunchbox, Melanie Warner questions what happens during processing and determined “like vitamins, phytochemicals are being destroyed or removed in manufacturing and therefore aren’t particularly abundant in processed juices. Adding them back in wouldn’t work from a biological point of view, meaning they don’t function effectively when isolated from their natural fruit and vegetable habitat.” Furthermore, most companies create vitamins by chemical manipulation and synthesis, not from actual fruits and vegetables.
Choosing The Best Juice
So you must be wondering, are there any store-bought juices that are nutritious to drink? I created this chart below to help you navigate the juice aisles more clearly and choose the best store-bought juice. Thankfully, there are lots of options for us!
It is absolutely critical that you choose organic juice first and foremost. The amount of pesticides that you could be consuming could be astronomical otherwise. We know that increased exposure to pesticides is linked to birth defects, nerve damage and cancer. The President’s Cancer Panel has urged us not to consume food sprayed with pesticides and doesn’t believe any amount is safe.
In an ideal world, you would always be able to consume a juice raw straight out of a juicer. Enzymes, vitamins and minerals start to degrade over time, so timing is important. If your juice is fresh, it’s important to drink it as soon as possible.
Cold-pressing is the most nutritious way to obtain juice. First, the produce is ground into a fine pulp. Then a press applies thousands of pounds of pressure to the pulp extracting every ounce of juice that the fruit or vegetable has to give. This process gets all the vital nutrients from the pulp into the juice. Cold-Pressed juices have a longer shelf life than centrifuge or slow juicers. Juice Press, Organic Avenue, and Luna’s Living Kitchen (One of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte!) all have raw organic cold-pressed juice available for purchase in their stores. Health food stores like Whole Foods sometimes makes their cold press juices in advance or carries brands like Suja, that are found in the refrigerator section.
The next best thing to raw in-store cold pressed juice is HPP or High Pressure Processing. This method retains food quality, maintains freshness, and extends microbiological shelf life without the addition of heat. After juices are bottled, a high level of cool pressure is applied evenly to destroy any pathogens and ensure the juice is safe to drink while preserving all of the vitamins, enzymes and nutrients. Grocery stores like Whole Foods likes selling HPP juices because they safeguard the consumer from foodborne illnesses more effectively than raw juices. Suja is a popular organic juice brand that uses HPP, but also cold-presses their juice (and gave money in support of GMO labeling – yeah!). Their Twelve Essentials is one of my favorites. They also recently developed a line called “Suja Elements” that is more like a smoothie. It’s the type of product you’d choose over Naked Juice, Odwalla, or Bolthouse Farms Smoothies – since all of those are traditionally pasteurized with heat and can contain additives. See this smoothie comparison chart below for details:
Finding Organic Pressed Juice Near You
My friend Max Goldberg created the world’s first Pressed Juice Directory, where you can find organic juice wherever you are. He created this directory because he (like me) tries to eat 100% organic whenever possible and wanted the ability to find quality juice on the road while he traveled. I can’t thank him enough for this amazing tool! It makes finding organic juice and traveling so much easier.
If you have any questions about choosing the best store-bought juice, let me know in the comments below.
Also, if you know someone in your life that is still drinking a juice that’s on the “worst” side of the chart above, please share this post with them. Spreading awareness about how our food is produced and which companies we should support will change the marketplace!
I’ve seen this with my own eyes 🙂
346 responses to “Don’t Fall Victim To These Tricky Juice Labels”
Looks like eating or juicing fresh fruit is best…… If it is organic or home grown. Thanks
I’ve started making my own gummy treats using an organic, grass fed, kosher beef gelatin. The original recipe used home made juice, but I found that the beef flavor came through. I bought concentrated organic OJ at Whole Foods, and used it undiluted, and they taste great. Is there any other way I can make my own concentrated juice?
RE: Coment that FRUCTOALIGOSA CHARIDES ARE SYNTHETIC:
J Physiol Biochem. 2009 Sep;65(3):315-28. doi: 10.1007/BF03180584.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are oligosaccharides that occur naturally in plants such as onion, chicory, garlic, asparagus, banana, artichoke, among many others. They are composed of linear chains of fructose units, linked by beta (2-1) bonds. The number of fructose units ranges from 2 to 60 and often terminate in a glucose unit. Dietary FOS are not hydrolyzed by small intestinal glycosidases and reach the cecum structurally unchanged. There, they are metabolized by the intestinal microflora to form short-chain carboxylic acids, L -lactate, CO(2), hydrogen and other metabolites. FOS have a number of interesting properties, including a low sweetness intensity; they are also calorie free, non-cariogenic and are considered as soluble dietary fibre. Furthermore, FOS have important beneficial physiological effects such as low carcinogenicity, a prebiotic effect, improved mineral absorption and decreased levels of serum cholesterol, triacylglycerols and phospholipids. Currently FOS are increasingly included in food products and infant formulas due to their prebiotic effect stimulate the growth of nonpathogenic intestinal microflora. Their consumption increases fecal bolus and the frequency of depositions, while a dose of 4-15 g/day given to healthy subjects will reduce constipation, considered one of the growing problems of modern society, and newborns during the first months of life.
Where dose Floridas Finest fall on your chart?
This is why my wife & I just do fresh fruit salad. We buy fresh fruit, dice it up, mix it up, put it into glass serving containers in our frig. This was we get the pulp and fiber and know what goes into our bodies!
Wow, i thought all i had to do is to stay away from “made from concentrate” !
Trader Joes, sells 2 juices “Not From Concentrate “. Tanjerine juice, and a Pineapple. Juice. Should i be concerned? The Pineapple juice taste so good!
Thank You in advance for all you do.
Re: Suja. I was under the impression that cold pressed juices are only good for a 3ish days before they lose their nutritional value. How does Suja maintain it’s integrity with a shelf life much longer than 3 days? Thank you for all your thorough research, Vani!
You can make your own fruits and vegetable concentrate. For e.g. Carrots. Use a food processor machine and strain or grate the carrots and strain. We can all live healthy. We just have to make the products that our bodies need suitable for our consumption.
The best thing is to not consume juice at all, period! Just eat the whole fruits/vegetables and drink a couple quarts of water per day.
Do you have any recommendations for pre-packaged drinks for children’s lunch boxes?
I drink Kiju juice, it’s organic and based in Canada. I asked them about their “natural flavor” mention in the ingredients and they said its fruit added back in after pasteurization. They’re also labelled non-GMO..is this a good juice??
Obviously, according to this excellent article and your description of Kuja….this juice isn’t a good one. :o(
Ceres brand is great 100% juice nothing added.
So your only debate is that because it’s not organic, it’s not good for you? Good job. Like your, “O MAH GED DERS SODIUM”, yeah, that’d show up on the nutrition facts. You need sodium, and if you work out, sodium intake is important then.
HPP is NOT ok. Yes, it’s a method that doesn’t use heat but that doesn’t mean the enzymes are left intact. It’s a massive amount of pressure – enough to destroy pathagenic microorganisms by disrupting cellular functions. HPP gives juices a shelf life of a few days but most of the nutritional value of real, raw, fresh juices is predominantly lost in less than 24 hours.
it says bolthouse in red and then bolthouse in green, please explain….why is it in both sides? is it beneficial or not? thank you
First, it’s really sad how the food industry takes advantage of people who people who are trying to make smart, healthy choices. But also I’m a bit confused because your chart lists Bolthouse Farms has being bad because it’s from concentrate and has added flavors. And it’s a brand that’ve been drinking and I have a bottle in front of me that I just drank and it says not from concentrate and that it has no artificial colors or flavors. Also under ingredients it just lists carrot juice. It’s confusing. Is it good or bad?
The second chart isnt saying bolthouse is good for you. It’s on the comoarison xhart that shows the best at the top and the worst at the bottom.
I wasn’t saying the chart was saying Bolthouse was good. I was saying things listed on the chart for the reasons it’s bad weren’t on the actual bottle of Bolthouse juice I was drinking. So I was confused why my bottle said one thing and the chart said another. But maybe that’s why on the first chart it’s both in the second column and the last.
Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand of Orange Juice is not from concentrate and specifically does not use the flavor packet (or deareation) process. Their juice tastes so unusual to people unfamiliar with the taste of fresh squeezed orange juice that many don’t like it initially.
Don’t let the fact that its bottled in milk cartons throw you off, its super good.
The nutritional benefits are in the pulp and not the juice. I don’t understand why people think cold press is healthier.
I have had Suja and it is the nastiest stuff I have ever drank. Some even taste and smell like vomit. Do they have any juices that actually taste good? Also, it would be great if you could name the organic and non-gmo drinks from Bolthouse/Naked, both of those are readily available in Kansas City MO.
POM grows their own pomegranates in the San Joaquin Valley, they use ORGANIC pesticides (Suterra) and filtered water in a drip system. They harvest and then press juice out of the fruit. How is that not organic? Worse, how is that “bad”?
It’s juice, nothing but juice. No single ingredient added to it. Please explain.
I have the same question… I’m sure there’s much value in all this, but with a grain of salt
I saw Naked and Santa Cruz on a picture in your article saying they are companies that block GMO labeling, yet Santa Cruz organic juice has the official non GMO label on it and certain Naked juices have the non GMO label as well. I’m assuming you put down Santa Cruz Organic as bad because they use to have GMO?
On a side note on rare occasions when I buy the Suja orange carrot juice is actually really good.
Also even though I disagree with some things in your articles it is good to make people aware of reading labels carefully. I’m a huge fan of your website. 🙂
Id love to know if i can use my nutrinullet for juicing. I have a feeling that its a NO because if purees all the fiber. I am going on a juice feast for 3 days using tools from the holykale.com miracle kidney cleanse book. Id love some feedback.
Haha, you really want all GMO foods to be labeled? Be prepared to never shop at a grocery store again let alone never eat meat, corn, and many other products. 95% of the nation’s sugar beets, 94% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton and 88% of the feed corn are made from genetically engineered crops. In grocery stores, 40-75% of all products contain GMOs. Hope you’re also okay with being naked/finding clothes made without cotton. It must be a sad life living as a person in hysterics over an incredible mechanism that has allowed the human race to feed more of its people and increase crop output by thousands if not millions. Unless you honestly believe everyone manufacturing food is out to get you, in which case your mind probably already is tormenting you more than any food you eat ever could. I hope you get better soon.
Well our way of conventional farming, GMO’S, chemicals and over tilling is destroying the majority of usable farm land and were on borrowed time until it eventually collapses, there are many long term studies that have been completed showing organic farming far superior in the long run vs gmo farming. These companies only care about profits and money at the end of the day and do not care who they harm or how much of the planet gets destroyed. It seams that your fully drunk on the “GMO’S aRe gOoD” kool-aid I bet you believe that flouride is good for your teeth aswell lol. One more point if the government/companies truly carred for our health and “gOiNg gREeN” why are we not fully utilizeing hemp and bamboo as hemp products can replace most petroleum products, grows back 4 times quicker than trees, products are biodegradable, fuels can be made. Most everything that we have been told are lies and it’s a sad pathetic world out there.