Juice concentrate is fruit juice from which most of the water has been extracted. Depending on the type, it may offer some essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.
However, concentrate is more heavily processed than raw fruit juice, leaving many people to wonder whether it’s good or bad for their health. This article tells you everything you need to know about juice concentrates, including whether they’re healthy.
What is juice concentrate?
Water can comprise as much as 90% of juice. When most of this liquid is removed, the result is a thick, syrupy product known as juice concentrate.
Extracting the water reduces bacterial growth, meaning that concentrate doesn’t spoil as easily as juice. This process likewise cuts packaging, storage, and transportation costs. Still, processing methods differ. Most concentrates are filtered, evaporated, and pasteurized, but some may also include additives. Juice concentrates are sold at room temperature or frozen and meant to be diluted in filtered water before consumption.
How it’s made
To make juice concentrate, whole fruits are thoroughly washed, scrubbed, and crushed or blended to produce a pulp. Most of the water content is then extracted and evaporated. Because the fruit’s natural flavor may become diluted as a result, many companies use additives like flavor packs, which are artificial compounds made from fruit byproducts.
What’s more, sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are frequently added to fruit juice concentrates, while sodium may be added to vegetable juice blends. Artificial colors and aromas may be added as well. Some concentrates are also treated to remove harmful microbes, thereby enhancing shelf life.
Types of juice concentrate
There are several types of concentrate, some healthier than others.
100% fruit concentrate
Concentrates made from 100% fruit are the healthiest option, as they pack the most nutrients and are only sweetened with natural fruit sugars — not added sugar. However, they may still harbor additives. If you’re concerned about flavorings or preservatives, be sure to check the ingredient list.
Concentrated fruit cocktail, punch, or beverage
Products sold as concentrated fruit cocktail, punch, or beverage are made from a blend of juices. These often include added flavors or sweeteners to compensate for a lack of whole fruit.
Again, reading nutrition labels is key. If the first ingredient is an added sugar, such as HFCS, cane sugar, or fructose syrup, you may want to steer clear of this product.
Powdered juice concentrates
Powdered juice concentrates are dehydrated by methods like spray- and freeze-drying. This removes all of the water content and allows these products to take up less space. Many studies show that concentrated powders of mixed fruits and vegetables are associated with decreased markers of inflammation and increased antioxidant levels.
While inflammation is a natural bodily response, chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases, including cancer and diabetes. Thus, anti-inflammatory compounds found in foods like some juice concentrates may help prevent this condition. Keep in mind that many powdered juice concentrates pack added sugar, so you’ll want to read labels carefully.
Potential health benefits
Orange, pineapple, and apple juice products — including concentrates — are increasingly popular, with orange juice accounting for over 41% of the global fruit juice market.
Concentrates can be appealing because they’re cheap and easy to store. They may offer several health benefits, too.
Rich in important nutrients
Fruit and vegetable juice concentrates are healthiest if made from 100% fruit or vegetables — without additives like added sugar or salt. For instance, a 4-ounce (120-ml) glass of orange juice prepared from concentrate provides 280% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C. This nutrient plays an important role in immunity and wound healing.
Carrot juice from 100% vegetable concentrate is a rich source of provitamin A, offering a whopping 400% of the DV per 8-ounce (240-ml) serving.
Packs beneficial plant compounds
Juice concentrate contains beneficial plant compounds, such as carotenoids, anthocyanins, and flavonoids. These are associated with many health benefits, including improved heart health and decreased inflammation.
The flavonoids in orange juice may help fight chronic inflammation associated with obesity. In one study, people with obesity who drank orange juice after meals for at least seven consecutive days experienced reduced markers of inflammation.
Another study in 56 adults with obesity found that supplementing with a mixed fruit and vegetable juice concentrate for 8 weeks reduced inflammation and LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing lean body mass.
May promote skin health
Many juice concentrates are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which may promote skin health and slow the effects of skin aging.
For example, the beta carotene in carrots and tomatoes has been shown to reduce skin inflammation.
Shelf life and affordability
Juice concentrates can be an affordable alternative to freshly squeezed juice. What’s more, frozen or shelf-stable varieties don’t spoil easily. As such, they’re convenient for those who don’t have access to fresh fruits or vegetables.
Juice and juice concentrates may not be best for everyone. Overall, they lack the fiber that whole fruit provides and can be loaded with added sugars.
Some have added sugars and preservatives
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you get less than 10% of your daily calories from added sugars. A diet high in added sugars is linked to chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. Notably, many juice concentrates harbor added sugars, as well as unhealthy preservatives.
As such, you should opt for concentrates without added sugars whenever possible. For vegetable juice concentrates, choose low-sodium options or concentrates with less than 140 mg of sodium (6% of the DV) per serving.
Lacking in fiber
If you buy juice concentrates solely for their nutrients, you’re better off eating whole fruit. That’s because concentrate lacks the fiber that whole fruit provides.
Thus, these products trigger larger spikes in blood sugar than whole fruits do, as fiber helps stabilize your blood sugar levels. In addition, concentrates often pack more carbs and calories per serving than whole fruit.
For instance, a medium orange (131 grams) has 62 calories and 15 grams of carbs, while an 8-ounce (240-ml) glass of orange juice made from 100% concentrate has 110 calories and 24 grams of carbs. That’s because juicing requires more fruit than would normally be eaten whole. Additives like sweeteners also contribute calories.
Even the healthiest juices from concentrate should be consumed in moderation. It’s worth noting that a large population study linked daily intake of sugary drinks, including 100% fruit juice, to an increased risk of cancer.
Although further research is needed, it’s a good idea to limit your intake of any sweetened beverage — even 100% fruit juice.
The bottom line
Juice concentrates are cheap alternatives to juice that don’t spoil easily and may provide some vitamins and antioxidants. However, they’re highly processed and often loaded with sweeteners and other additives.
If you buy juice concentrates, look for ones made from 100% juice. However, whole fruit is always a healthier option.
Source: Health Line