Dear Earth Talk: So many juices are labeled “natural.” Which ones are most healthful? — Zenas Lu, Boston, Mass. The most healthful juice you can drink is one that’s made fresh, right before you drink it, preferably from organic fruits or vegetables with nothing added. The beneficial enzymes, vitamins, and minerals are at their peaks, and some health practitioners say that the water that comes from fruits and vegetables is the purest kind. Juices, which pack a nutritional punch, are a good way to get part of your daily requirement of fruits and veggies. The American Dietetic Association calls orange juice a “nutrition powerhouse.” But when juices are packaged and pasteurized, they lose some of their nutritional value. Obviously we don’t always have the time or money to drink fresh juice, and that’s when bottled juices are a good choice over soda or sugary iced teas. But buyer beware: Widely popular commercial “fruit drinks,” with little or no real fruit juice, are largely artificially colored sugar water and contain minimal amounts of fruit juice. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, many fruit “drinks,” “beverages,” “ades,” and “cocktails” are nothing more than noncarbonated soda pop. Fruitopia Real “real fruit beverage” and Sunny Delight “real fruit beverage,” for example, each contain only 5 percent juice. V8 Splash is about 25 percent juice and 75 percent sugar water. CSPI says that, even though Fruitopia has “100 percent vitamin C per serving” in such flavors as Strawberry Passion Awareness, the product contains only about 5 percent strawberry juice — and 95 percent high-fructose corn syrup. Similarly, Mystic Mango Mania Fruit Drink has mangoes pictured all over the label, but the product doesn’t contain any mango, except perhaps a small amount included in the “natural flavors.” You’re getting roughly 3 percent white grape juice and 97 percent sugar water. The health Web site Lifeclinic.com argues that juice in such limited amounts has no health benefits. Reading the label is the best way to ensure that you are buying what’s best for you. If you’re buying off the shelf, try to avoid juices with artificial ingredients or preservatives and, quite simply, anything with less than 100 percent juice. A warning to those watching their weight: Many bottled juices are high in calories as a result of the natural fruit sugars they contain. Drink water and eat whole fruit, which provides fiber along with all of the nutritional benefits. For more information, contact the American Dietetic Association, 800-877-1600, www.eatright.org; the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 202-332-9110, www.cspinet.org; or Lifeclinic.com, 800-543-2850, www.lifeclinic.com.
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