Are Fruit Juice Concentrates a Healthier Sweetener?
The USDA reports that Americans ingest an average of 20 teaspoons of sugar (caloric sweeteners such as table sugar and corn syrup) per day-twice the suggested limit. Huge increases in sugar consumption in recent decades can likely be linked to the proliferation of corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup as sweeteners. (Nearly all processed foods contain at least one of these, largely due to their cheaper cost than table sugar and their ease of use in the food manufacturing processes.)
As public awareness of the harmful effects of sugar and corn syrup has increased, we have begun to look for ways to cut back on the sugar and corn syrup. However, we are a culture that loves our sweets. We still want to have our cake and eat it too, so to speak. Artificial sweeteners enjoyed popularity for awhile, but as evidence has mounted regarding their dangers, consumers are looking for healthier natural sweeteners.
Health-minded people often turn to fruit juice-sweetened products (such as juices, jams, and cookies) as a "healthier" alternative to those sweetened with sugar or corn syrup. It is generally assumed that if it's from fruit juice, it must be healthier, and that's an image food manufacturers aren't likely to argue with. However, what you see on the ingredient list is not necessarily what you get. In fact, much of the commercially used fruit juice concentrate (apple, pear, and white grape being the most popular) should hardly qualify as such.
Fruit juice concentrates come in different forms. Most people are familiar with frozen juice concentrates that people buy for reconstitution at home. Additionally, most juices you find on the shelves are reconstituted from concentrate. Juice concentration involves evaporating most of the water out of the juice, leaving most of the flavor, color and nutrients behind. Water is then added back in to reconstitute the juice. Concentrated juices are easier to store and have a longer shelf life as well. Not much to argue with there.
However, to make fruit juice concentrate into a production-friendly sweetener, it has to go through a lengthy and expensive process called "stripping". As the name implies, everything is stripped out of the juice: vitamins, minerals, color, flavor, etc. Then it goes through a deionization process similar to the one that turns cornstarch into corn syrup.
What's left is essentially glucose syrup-sugar water that looks and behaves a lot like corn syrup. It is sweet, but it is colorless, flavorless, and doesn't alter the pH of whatever is being sweetened, all of which are highly desirable in the manufacturing process. Although it no longer resembles anything close to a fruit juice concentrate, thanks to loopholes in the FDA's guidelines it is still considered a fruit juice concentrate. Marketers can still put "100% juice" or "no sugar added" on the package.
How can you tell if the product you buy has stripped juice concentrate or not? Manufacturers are not required to disclose how much of their juice concentrates are stripped, so there really is no effective way to know. However, a good rule of thumb is this-if you can't taste the fruit it has been concentrated from, then the concentrate has probably been stripped. The next time you reach for that raspberry juice blend, whose primary ingredient is pear juice from concentrate, you can pretty much guarantee that the pear juice has been stripped to remove the pear flavor.
If you buy fruit juice-sweetened products thinking that they won't affect blood sugar like table sugar does you are wrong. Stripped concentrates are nothing more than sugar syrup and have the same effect. They are absorbed just as quickly into the bloodstream and metabolized the same way. Add to that the complete lack of nutritional value and you've leveled the playing field with table sugar.
Are you really doing yourself a favor by choosing fruit juice concentrates over other sweeteners? Probably not. Sugar is still sugar, even if it goes by a healthier name.
Eric Thorn, a successful businessman, highly recommends the Zija Moringa Beverage as an all-natural healthy beverage. Visit http://www.zijapower.com to learn more about Zija.
Related Tags: sugar, moringa, zija, corn syrup, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, artificial sweetener
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