Catching the super juice wave

Chilled or not, juices are hot! They’re attractive, they’re tasty and they have alluring names: tropical passion, wildberry, pomegranate bouquet, magic mango… What’s more, their health benefits are proven. A wave of fruit juices has arrived to tempt our taste buds. We look at four of the most popular.

Pomegranate juice

To what does pomegranate juice owe its high profile? Its novelty, its brilliant red colour or the ingenious marketing of a California juice company? While your guess is as good as ours, there’s no denying that Oprah put pomegranate juice on her O List of food favourites in 2003 and that November has been declared National Pomegranate Month in the United States.

Pomegranate’s recent surge in popular¬ity is evidenced by the many juices and juice drinks made with the fruit, not to mention iced teas, sherbets and even Popsicles. From a nutritional standpoint, the juice’s main interest is its high concentration of polyphenols—more than any other drink, it is claimed. Poly¬phenols are natural compounds that act as antioxidants and combat free rad¬¬i¬cals, by-products of degradation that damage our cells and whose production increases as we grow older. Antioxi¬dants help slow the premature aging of cells and prevent cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer.

But pomegranate juice doesn’t hold exclusive rights to these desirable compounds. Many juices, including those made from berries (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries), purple grapes, oranges and mangoes, are also packed with antioxidants, though not always the same ones. The idea is to drink some every day and to vary the types in order to reap the greatest number of benefits. However, we’ll need to wait for the results of other clinical studies involving many participants before reaching any conclusions about pomegranate juice’s miraculous effects on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and even our longevity—all claims the POM Wonderful company makes on its chic designer bottles.

A small glass (125 ml or 1/2 cup) of juice is equivalent to one serving of fruit. You should eat five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Be sure to choose a 100% fruit juice, regardless of whether it’s made from a single fruit or a blend.

Cranberry juice

For the last decade or so, cranberry juice has been seen as a valuable tool for helping to prevent urinary infections, especially in people susceptible to repeat infections. Proanthocyanidins, compounds present in cranberries’ tannins, make it difficult for bacteria to adhere to the lining of the urinary tract, where they can multiply. One large glass a day is thought to be sufficient.

Also, a study led by Dr. Charles Couillard of Laval University’s Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods Institute and reported on in the British Medical Journal demonstrated that cranberry juice increases the levels of “good” cho¬lesterol (HDL) in the blood. And flavonoids, the pigments that give the small red berries their colour, reduce the adherence of fat to artery walls. In other words, the more antioxidants there are in your blood, the fewer layers of fat there will be in your arteries.

Purple grape juice

For several years now, scientists have been studying what is commonly called the French paradox: why the rate of cardiovascular disease in countries such as France is among the lowest in the world, despite a traditional diet high in saturated fat and the daily consumption of wine. Could it be that wine is good for your health? Several studies have attempted to answer the question. All signs point to resveratrol, a chemical compound found in grape skins and pips that is another member of the large polyphenol family of antioxidants. And not only is resveratrol thought to be beneficial for the cardiovascular system, it may also help prevent cancer. Purple grape juice also contains resveratrol. But which of the two beverages is more effective, juice or wine?

In reality, purple (Concord) grape juice contains ten times less resve¬ratrol than red wine does. So, wine is the clear winner of that match. But grape juice also contains other active molecules with antioxidant properties that may help prevent cancer. The bottom line: research confirms that the lode of antioxidants found in purple grape juice is good for your health. The same is true for red wine, provided you drink moderately, of course.

Noni juice

A miracle cure dating back nearly 2,000 years in Polynesia, the noni plant has begun generating interest in the West. Its concentrated juice sells for a small fortune ($50 a litre!) in natural foods stores and is said to relieve any number of problems, from senility and hypertension to various infections and even cancer.

Noni is the name of a pulpy, white-fleshed, egg-shaped fruit known to botanists as Morinda citrifolia. On ripening, the fruit gives off a putrid odour that is also found in its juice, which is often mixed with other fruit juices. The strong smell, which some liken to Parmesan cheese, combines with a grape-like flavour. Not surprisingly, one popular name for this tropical shrub is cheese fruit. Another is Indian mulberry.

Morinda citrifolia is a rich source of several substances, including a colloid (proxeronine) that reportedly helps activate various immune system processes in the body. That, for example, is the main reason why some cancer sufferers religiously take 30 ml (two tablespoons) of noni juice every morning on an empty stomach. The hitch is that the conspicuous lack of studies involving humans currently makes it impossible to guarantee the existence of the claimed bene¬fits of noni juice.

Enriched and fortified juices

While all juices naturally contain a range of nutrients, some are also enriched with ingredients (like yogurt powder or flaxseed oil) or vitamins and minerals (like vitamin D or calcium). The goal is to increase their nutritive value and help prevent certain diseases, such as osteoporosis. The following table (page 18) will help you determine whether these products are useful for you.

Juice with calcium and vitamin D

What is it for? The calcium added to the juice provides as much calcium as a glass of milk. One 250-ml (1-cup) glass delivers 30% of the daily requirement of calcium.

An example: Tropicana Essentials® Orange Juice with Added Calcium.

Useful for...? People who don’t drink milk and eat few dairy products. However, as this product contains no vitamin D (unlike milk, which has vitamins A and D added), a source of vitamin D should be added to the diet. This juice is also useful for the lactose intolerant, as it is lactose-free.

Juice with calcium

What is it for? Besides the added calcium, this juice is fortified with vitamin D in the same concentration as milk: 250 ml (1 cup) provides 45% of the daily requirement. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption.

An example: Minute Maid Orange Tangerine with Calcium & Vitamin D.

Useful for...? People who do not drink milk and eat few dairy products.

Juice with OMEGA-3

What is it for? Enriched with flaxseed oil, this juice is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. A 250-ml (1-cup) glass provides 0.3 grams or about 23% of the daily requirement.

An example: Oasis Health Break Strawberry–Kiwi.

Useful for...? People who eat few marine foods. However, more research is required to determine the health effects of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids.

Juice with probiotics

What is it for? Adding yogurt powder and two active bacterial cultures (bifidum and acidophilus) to the juice provides between 10 million and 100 million “good bacteria” (probiotics) per 250-ml (1-cup) glass. The probiotics remain alive for up to 90 days.

An example: Oasis Health Break with Probiotics.

Useful for...? As the packaging provides no details on the bacterial strains used, the juice’s usefulness in improving health or relieving specific problems is unclear. Nonetheless this blend of ten juices is appealing because of the nutrients it contains and its pleasing flavour.

Hélène Laurendeau

A nutrition and health enthusiast who loves to share: this description fits Hélène Laurendeau to a tee. She has been active for more than 25 years in the media and communications field. Nutritionist, host, columnist, author and speaker, Hélène holds a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and a Master degree in Epidemiology. She has spread her knowledge alongside Ricardo every week since 2005, as part of his daily show broadcast on ICI Radio-Canada Télé, as well as in Ricardo magazine, where she pens the Bien se nourrir (Eating Well) column.