While the top source of added sugar in our diet is sweetened soft drinks such as soda or pop, fruit drinks and fruitades are also major sweet additions. On average, Americans currently consume over 19 teaspoons of added sugar daily.
Thanks to cracker jack labeling laws, if a beverage claims to contain juice or appears to contain juice, the label must tell all, and say how much juice is actually in the beverage.
I have a 20-ounce bottle of a “real fruit beverage” right in front of me that boasts that it “contains 5 percent juice.” If you do the math, 5 percent of 20 ounces is just one ounce — a drop in the juice bucket in comparison to the size of the bottle.
On this label, water and high fructose corn syrup (sugar) are listed as the number one and two ingredients, followed by juice and a sprinkling of vitamins and preservatives.
When sugar is listed first or second in the line of ingredients, consider it a wakeup call that the food is probably high in sugar. Other words for sugar are corn sweetener, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, and sucrose. So in this case, I have a drink that is 5 percent juice and 95 percent sweetened water, with some vitamins and preservatives swirled in.
And here’s another sweet problem: This 20 ounce bottle is supposed to pour up 2.5 servings. While the calories are listed at 110 calories for an eight ounce serving on the label, if you drink the entire bottle (not exactly a difficult task), you would be guzzling 2 1/2 times that amount or 275 calories. (BTW: I have yet to share a 20-ounce bottle of any beverage with anyone.) That’s the caloric equivalent of a little more than four oranges.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that fruit drinks with some vitamins added are nutritionally equivalent to fruit. They aren’t. The piece of fruit has fiber and naturally occurring, disease-fighting phytochemcials that are typically missing in the sweetened beverage.
Go easy with these types of drinks and look more to water to meet your daily fluid needs. You’ll do better to choose fruits and 100 percent fruit juices, such as orange and grapefruit juice, with their natural nutrition, to meet the 2 to 4 fruit servings recommended daily.
Last tip: While 100 percent fruit juices can pack more nutrition than fruit drinks, they shouldn’t be guzzled as mindlessly as water, unless you can afford the extra calories.