Are fruit juices a healthy alternative to soda?
by Scott Morefield
As significant percentages of parents wisely abandon HFCS and sugar-filled sodas as a viable beverage option for their children, corporations are capitalizing on the health-conscious trend by pushing fruit juices as a healthy alternative. Most parents who buy juices think they are making a wise choice, often because of the outlandish health claims juice makers put on the labels. In reality, however, parents should be not only be paying close attention to the murky ingredient list that lurks behind that bright, colorful, attractive front label, but should also reconsider feeding their children processed fruit juice altogether.
Some ingredients to watch out for
Sodium Benzoate – has been shown to destroy the mitochondrial DNA of yeast cells and, according to Professor Peter Piper of Sheffield University, could do the same to human cells in the long-term. Additionally, two recent British government funded studies have found that sodium benzoate adversely affects child behavior. If that weren’t enough, benzene, a known carcinogen, occurs when sodium benzoate combines with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and the preservative potassium benzoate.
Natural Flavors – or basically any combination of molecules a chemist can derive from ‘natural’ sources to make their food taste or look a certain way. Often the sources of these flavors have nothing to do with the type of juice advertised on the label.
Carmine (also called Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red #4, C.I. 75470, E120) – or powdered scale insect bodies boiled in ammonia and processed as a food additive, is certainly an example of something that comes from a ‘natural’ source that has nothing to do with what is on the label. Crushed beetles anyone?
Food Dyes – such as Red #40, have been linked to hyperactivity and other behavioral problems. Many companies use petroleum-derived food coloring over real juice to save money.
Maltodextrin – is the starch-like substance some manufacturers add to fruit juices so they can make a ‘high-fiber’ claim on the label. Why keep the natural fiber in juice when you can apparently save money by adding a cheap chemically refined sugar, made from GM corn, that has been shown to promote weight gain?
Sugar/Fructose – The adverse health consequences of sugar are well known. What many parents don’t realize, however, is that children can consume as much or more sugar in fruit drinks than in sodas and junk food.
Ingredients that aren’t supposed to be ingredients – such as lead (85 percent of child-marketed beverages contain significant lead levels) and the toxic fungicide carbendazim, recently found in 15 percent of orange juice samples tested by the FDA. Carbendazim is illegal in the US, but not in several countries that export fruit here. Additionally, non-organic fruit is laced with a cornucopia of toxic pesticides and chemicals that is not only bad for bugs, but humans as well.
Parents do their children no favors by substituting one junk beverage for another. Sweet drinks, whether sodas or fruit juices, have been solidly linked to childhood obesity. In 2005, Pediatrics reported that already-heavy preschoolers who consume a sweet beverage just once or twice a day doubled their risk of becoming seriously obese just one year later. The study found no difference between fruit juices and sugar-filled Kool-aid.
The corporations that peddle this propaganda are happy to reformat, repackage, relabel, rename, and remarket their poison, just so long as unsuspecting parents keep buying it and feeding it to their children. Things will not change significantly until the majority of consumers start reading the ingredients list on the back of the label instead of the propaganda on the front.
Sources for this article include:
About the author:
Scott received his MBA from East Tennessee State University in 1998 and married his wife, Kim, in
2002. They live in the hills of east Tennessee with their four small children. Scott and Kim blog about parenting, marriage, healthy lifestyle, nutrition, and homesteading at www.amorefieldlife.com.