As a lot of kindergartners these days could tell you, fruit juice isn’t the healthy substitute for soda that Mott’s and Welch’s would like you to think. It’s sugar in a more wholesome package, as capable of passing along liquid calories as a can of Coke. Manufacturers of bottled juices have gone to increasingly hyperbolic lengths to disguise this inconvenient fact, embellishing labels with healthy buzzwords: “antioxidants,” “electrolytes,” “Omega-3s,” and that old chestnut, “fiber.”

But as the dependably adversarial folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest point out in their latest Nutrition Action Health Letter, most of those claims are emptier than the calories in a glass of Ocean Spray’s Cran Energy Cranberry Raspberry Energy Juice Drink. Methodically, the newsletter picks apart spin-heavy juices like Trop50 Orange, IZZE Sparkling Juices, and Minute Maid’s Help Nourish Your Brain 100% Fruit Juice Blend, even though you’d think the implausibility of the latter’s claim would be self-evident.

Among the more compelling, if sadly predictable, revelations? IZZE’s seemingly exotic blackberry, clementine, lime, blueberry, peach, grapefruit, and pomegranate juices are actually a combination of apple and white grape, with about the same number of calories as an identical serving of soda. Minute Maid’s Natural Energy Pomegranate Berry Enhanced Juice Drink doesn’t contain pomegranate but does contain water, pear juice, and sugar (actual “berry” content is less than 1 percent). And although V8 boasts its “essential antioxidants” and vitamins A, C, and E, so does just about any drink where vitamins are added by the manufacturer. What’s more, V8’s claim that it contains “nutrients that support the immune system” are also meaningless, as any food or beverage that contains a vitamin or mineral can make that claim without offering real evidence.

The upshot of all of this? Drink water. Or whiskey, which makes no claims to health and has probably inspired far more well-being than the methane gas emanating from the juice aisle.

Image source: Flickr member Jake Spurlock under Creative Commons

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