Fruit Juice Concentrate
Fruit Juice Concentrate
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What is Fruit Juice Concentrate?
Fruit juice concentrate is highly processed fruit that has been dehydrated to a powder or thick, sugary sludge. Because concentrating the fruit juice reduces the total volume and weight, transportation is cheaper and easier, and the fruit can be rehydrated and bottled once it meets its final destination. But, unsurprisingly, this processing affects the nutrients in the fruit.
You’ve probably seen fruit juice ‘from concentrate’ in stores as a cheaper alternative to fresh squeezed juice. You may avoid it because you know it’s lower in nutrients and more sugary or because it doesn’t taste as good as fresh alternatives.
We tend to choose whole fruits over fruit juice anyways because without the fiber of the whole fruit, fruit juice can cause a sugar rush that overwhelms the body’s normal processing of sugars. Fruit juice concentrate isn’t just used for juice, though. It’s also a sneaky added sugar that slips into gummy vitamins, baby formula, Big Food uses to get around labeling guidelines and mislead their customers.
Fruit juice concentrate is not a terrible ingredient, but it is often one that is assumed to be healthier than it is, and companies use that assumption to their advantage.
Fruit Juice Concentrate is an Added Sugar in Disguise
Seeing “lemon juice concentrate” or “apple juice concentrate” on a label may seem like a good sign. After all, it’s fruit! But in reality, these concentrates contain fewer nutrients and none of the fiber of the fruits they once were – and all of the sugar. They’ve undergone an intense heating process that’s rendered them as low-nutrient as any other sweetener.
However, juice concentrate is still considered a natural source of sweetener! The FDA dictates that “added sugars do not include fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100 percent juices sold to consumers, e.g.frozen orange juice concentrate.” This means that products containing juice concentrate can label themselves as having “no sugar added”.
Though the FDA doesn’t consider juice concentrate as an added sugar, the Added Sugar Repository does. They see it for what it is: another fancy name for a low-nutrient, sugary additive.
Products Containing Fruit Juice Concentrate
This Gerber’s baby food is a prime example of a product that proudly boasts “no added sugar” but then sweetens with lemon juice concentrate. Looking at the packaging, it’s easy to think this baby formula is a minimally processed fruit and vegetable puree.
However, a closer look at the ingredients shows that the sugar content is boosted with lemon juice concentrate. Because of this manipulative marketing strategy, many parents are accidentally giving their children baby food that is way more sugary than it needs to be!
Naked Smoothies proudly advertises their product as having no added sugar, with a big text bubble on the front of their package. However, a peek at their nutrition facts shows that a single bottle contains a shocking 48 grams of sugar! They managed to pack 200% of the recommended serving of sugar into this smoothie thanks to apple, carrot, and blueberry juice concentrate. They also sneak in some ‘natural’ flavorsl.
Outshine’s No Sugar Added pops look like a great, fruit-based treat for a hot day. But it isn’t the natural sweetness of strawberries that make these popsicles taste good. Instead, grape and strawberry concentrate is used, alongside artificial sweetener sorbitol. Shockingly, there’s only 2 grams of sugar in these bars – less than a handful of strawberries!
Here’s the good news!
Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to scope out products using fruit juice concentrate as a misleading marketing tactic. As we’ve learned from zero calorie sweeteners, “low sugar” claims don’t always make a food healthy. The same goes for “no sugar added”. Look at the ingredient list and overall sugar content to see if a product really lives up to its claims.
Where Does Fruit Juice Concentrate Fall on the Sugar Spectrum?
We’d put fruit juice concentrate with cane sugar on our sugar spectrum. It’s in the middle–not terrible, not great. It’s a form of added sugar that is often overlooked, so it’s good to be aware of, but it’s not necessarily something you need to avoid at all costs.
We try to create awareness and choice around sugar, not demonize it. But recognizing all the different forms of sugar out there can be challenging! Keep reading labels, staying curious, and doing your best. We got this.