There was a time when it was marketed as the ultimate health drink, a glass of sunshine packed with vitamins and energy. Generations were raised to believe orange juice fights off colds, boosts the immune system, tones the skin and protects against cancer. Yet in the topsy-turvy world of health advice, what’s good for you one day turns out to be bad for you the next.
This week an influential body of Government scientists in Britain blamed people’s love affair with orange juice and other sugary drinks for fuelling a crisis of obesity and ill health, reported the Daily Mail. The warning follows calls to remove fruit juice as one of the recommended ‘five a day’ portions of fruit or vegetables, and for parents to ban it from the meal table.
For a long time orange juice was being marketed as a health drink, but also as the key to a stylish, modern life. But while the juice in the supermarket is often sold as ‘natural’ or ‘fresh’, it is usually anything but. Concentrating juice doesn’t just remove water, it also removes the flavour. After it has been reconstituted, manufacturers add ‘flavour packs’ — cocktails of chemicals, which restore ‘natural’ oranginess.
You may think ‘not from concentrate’ juice means a more authentic product. You’d be wrong. Juice made that way is heated and stored in air-free tanks for up to a year. Again, the process strips the juice of flavour, which has to be added afterwards. But the flavour packs contain orange essence and orange oil so they don’t have to appear separately on the ingredients list.
However, what you will get from juice is sugar, lots and lots of it. The new advice this week from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition UK is that men should have a maximum of 35g of sugar a day — seven to eight teaspoons — while women should not exceed 25g — five to six teaspoons. A single 330ml glass of orange juice has eight teaspoons.
Weaning people off fruit juice may be difficult. Market research firm Mintel says 83 per cent of people in Britain drink fruit juice or a smoothie at least once a week, while 76 per cent believe fruit juice to be healthy. But if you need motivation when you sit down to breakfast, remember this, there is more sugar in a 250ml glass of fruit juice than in a large bowl of sugary cereal with milk. And that’s food for thought.
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