December 8, 2011

To juice or not to juice?

One of the first things we cut out when started eating more whole, natural foods was juice. Not necessarily because I disapproved of juice in general, but more because I couldn't find any that I DID approve of when I read ingredient labels in the store. And while they often don't contain nearly as many confusing, chemical-sounding ingredients that other items that come in a box at the store, the simplicity of the single ingredient "orange juice" is almost as disconcerting as the long, chemical laden lists.

Have you ever juiced a real orange yourself? Tastes incredible, right? And different, depending on the size, ripeness and type of orange. (Sorry for picking on the orange, but it's the easiest example. The same applies to other fruits). Ever wondered why when you buy a carton of Tropicana, Minute Maid or Simply Orange that they all taste EXACTLY the same? Here's why:

"The technology of choice at the moment is aseptic storage, which involves stripping the juice of oxygen, a process known as “deaeration,” so it doesn’t oxidize in the million gallon tanks in which it can be kept for upwards of a year.  
When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor. Mexicans and Brazilians have a different palate. Flavor packs fabricated for juice geared to these markets therefore highlight different chemicals, the decanals say, or terpene compounds such as valencine.
The formulas vary to give a brand’s trademark taste. If you’re discerning you may have noticed Minute Maid has a candy like orange flavor. That’s largely due to the flavor pack Coca-Cola has chosen for it. Some companies have even been known to request a flavor pack that mimics the taste of a popular competitor, creating a “hall of mirrors” of flavor packs. Despite the multiple interpretations of a freshly squeezed orange on the market, most flavor packs have a shared source of inspiration: a Florida Valencia orange in spring." {SOURCE}
Mmmm...sounds delicious. I know I love drinking flavor packs.....ICK! So why are "flavor packs" not listed in the ingredients? Because they're made from by-products of the original orange. Nevermind that the by-products are so checmically altered that they don't resemble anything that occurs naturally in nature. I'm going to blame that one the US's messed-up food labeling system.

So what can you do instead if you aren't comfortable with giving your kids (or yourself!) flavor packs with their breakfast? The answer to this question is the same as it is for a lot of questions in the "real food" world.....make it yourself. The taste is far superior to the carton anyway, especially when juicing Valencia oranges in the Spring. And you get pure, fresh juice. Nothing taken out, nothing added.

The best way to accomplish this is of course, to buy a juicer. Not a small investment, unfortunately. But, a very healthy one, and, if you purchase the right juicer, one that would allow you to be ultra-healthy and juice veggies too. Ever had fresh carrot juice? It's amazingly good! And so unbelievably healthy! While I haven't had the privilege of purchasing my own juicer, my brother owns one and willingly shares with me. It's really pretty fun to come up with new juice combinations, and (somewhat to my surprise) my kids love it!

If you're interested in getting a juicer, PLEASE do your research! There are many different types and there are pros and cons to each, depending on what qualities you're looking for. Because high-quality juice and maximum nutrient preservation are important to me, I prefer a masticating juicer. If speed is more important to you than nutrient content, you'd probably want a centrifugal type.

And of course, even if you juice your own fruits, limiting intake is important. Fruits still contain lots of natural sugar, and drinking several glasses of fresh juice is still going to give you a sugar overload. But fresh carrot juice with just a slice or two of apple?...Now that might be a good place to start!


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