Although it’s more healthy to grab a glass of juice than a sugar-laden soda, that does not mean that all juices are created equal. Depending on the fruit type, many natural fruit juices are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that offer health benefits. Remember to be on the lookout for unhealthy ingredients listed on labels and to be aware of portion sizes that can make natural fruit juice too much of a good thing.
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The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service defines natural as a product without artificial ingredients or added color. Furthermore, natural means the food process does not fundamentally alter the product. In the case of all natural juice, the juice flavors all come from the fruits themselves and not from artificial additives.
A 4-oz. glass of 100 percent natural juice provides a full serving of fruit, along with a host of nutrients, according to a Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Baylor College of Medicine Study presented at the American Dietetic Association’s Annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. Led by Dr. Carol O’Neil, researchers used data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination survey to compare intake of those nutrients commonly under-consumed by juice drinkers and non-juice drinkers alike. The study results revealed that fruit juice drinkers were more likely to meet recommended levels of certain key nutrients than those who did not drink juice. In particular, juice drinkers were more likely to receive adequate vitamins A and C, and minerals magnesium, potassium and calcium.
Many all-natural juices, especially those that are naturally colorful, have high levels of antioxidants. According to 2008 research published in the "Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry," the study applied four tests of antioxidant potency to a variety of natural fruit juices. Results revealed that pomegranate juice has the greatest antioxidant potency composite index of those tested and contained at least 20 percent more antioxidants. Other berry juices also made it into the top 10, and include concord grape a No. 3. Blueberry, black cherry, acai and cranberry took No. 4, 5 and 6, respectively, and orange juice came in at No. 10.
Even though natural fruit juice is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, it can also be high in calories. Drinking fruit juice in moderation is key to weight management. If this is challenging, eat the fruit rather than the juice. Eating the fruit will save on calories, and you will also get the benefit of fruit’s fiber, which is absent in juice.