A juice box for lunch, a fruity drink at dinner or even an entire meal replacement for breakfast is how most people consume juice in Mzansi. The endless options in the juice aisle has often left me staring at the colourful cartons trying to figure out it’s sugar content or whether to go natural or organic, fresh pressed versus concentrated.
Juice enthusiast Liovian Anderson says in today’s fast paced lifestyle we tend to opt for convenience and this usually means unhealthy food and beverage options. For this raw natural health fanatic, reading labels and becoming more knowledgeable about what we consume is essential to living a healthy life.
Incorporating healthy living in her household is what inspired Anderson to start her own raw juice business in 2017. Her company, Raw Squeeze, based in Paarl in the Western Cape, produces cold pressed juices made from fresh vegetables and fruit containing no preservatives or additives. She left the corporate life as a business administrator to get her hands dirty and pursue her passion.
When buying juice, Anderson encourages consumers to read the labels. “Look out for the natural juice separation, ingredients and sugar content. Check the preservatives like sodium benzoate or citric acid and 100% does not always mean 100%. Make sure that you buy quality, and raw is best because what you put in you get out,” says Anderson.
Food For Mzansi’s resident nutritionist, Andrea Du Plessis, recommends that you make your own juice, as much as you can. “Extracting juice from fresh fruit and vegetables is guaranteed to benefit your health. The fresh, raw juice extracts of fresh fruit and vegetables is a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes that benefit various bodily functions.”
Du Plessis agrees that not all juices are equal. She explains that most fruit juices available in supermarkets are heated to destroy yeasts and other microorganisms that could result in the spoiling of the juice products over time. This heating process destroys valuable vitamins and enzymes that are present in raw juice extracts. Sugar in various forms is often added to fruit juices, further changing the nutritional value.
Your top 10 juicing questions answered
To understand how we get this delicious liquid from the fruit tree to carton or bottle, the South African Fruit Juice Association (SAFJA), offers some helpful facts. (SAFJA is a voluntary body representing the processing and packaging companies that produce fruit juice and other juice products.)
1. How is fruit juice made?
SAFJA explains that fresh fruit goes through a series of foundation steps. Undamaged ripe fruit is selected, sorted and washed, followed by the extraction process. The latter can include various methods, but generally involves a pulveriser or press. The juice is then filtered to obtain a clear juice. The last step can be omitted if a cloudy juice is desired. The final step is a heat treatment called pasteurisation, which ensures the product is safe for consumption.
- How is the juice extracted from the fruit?
The method used to extract the juice depends on the type of fruit:
- Citrus, apples, pears and grapes are naturally juicy, which enables them to be mechanically pressed and then filtered;
- Melon and papaya are steamed in order to release the juice;
- Fruit like Mango, guava, pineapple and strawberry must be pulped to extract the juice. When fruit is pulped, it is either pushed through a perforated metal plate that crushes it to a pulp or it is pulped in a liquidizer. The pulp is then filtered to remove the bigger fruit pieces.
- Does fruit and vegetable juice ferment or deteriorate when it is being extracted from the fruit?
Fruit juice starts to deteriorate as soon as it is extracted from the fruit as a result of enzyme action and bacterial spoilage. Extracted fruit juice that is left to stand for long periods out of a fridge will start to ferment and discolour. To avoid fermentation, deterioration or discolouring, the best quality fruit juice is made by minimizing the time between the extraction of the juice and bottling or canning.
- How is fruit and vegetable juice preserved? Why doesn’t it spoil when it is stored on the shelf in the supermarkets?
Fruit juices that are aseptically packed are pasteurized to preserve them. The heat processing destroys the enzymes that are naturally found in the fruit, which can cause the juice to spoil and discolour. The heat also kills any spoilage micro-organisms and pathogens that may be found in fruit. These products will typically have a shelf life of 12 months.
In the case of chilled juices, preservatives are needed to prevent spoilage by microorganisms, thus maintaining product quality and safety for the required shelf life of the product. These juices normally have a shelf life of two to three months at most.
- Why is some fruit juice cloudy while other fruit juice is clear?
The juice extracted from the fruit in the process of making fruit juice is naturally cloudy, but it can be clarified by filtering the juice. The extracted juice or pulp is filtered by means of dedicated filters. In some cases enzymes are used to clarify and stabilize the juice.
Fruit juice like apple, pear and grape juice is generally clarified because of consumer preference.
Clarified apple and grape juice is also used extensively as a base for making juices with other pulpy fruit ingredients like mango or guava.
- Does the heat treatment of fruit and vegetable juice destroy the vitamins in the juice?
Heat-sensitive nutrients such as vitamin C and the B vitamins may be partially destroyed during the heat treatment used to preserve the fruit juice, but these nutrients are legally allowed to be restored to the product, as long as they are correctly labelled. The benefit of microbiologically safe fruit juice, which is the purpose of the heat treatment, outweighs the partial loss of some of the vitamins.
- Does fruit juice contain sugar?
Yes, all fruit juice contains sugar because fruit itself naturally contains sugar. The natural sugar content of fruit is between 8% and 12%, but the actual levels vary from fruit to fruit and with the stage of ripeness of the fruit as well as the geographical location where the fruit was grown.
Some form of sugar, based on the amount already present in the juice, is also added to the fruit pulp when making commercial fruit juice and serves two main purposes. The first is that clarified apple, pear or grape juice is added to fruit pulps such as guava and mango to obtain a drinkable fruit juice. This is because these fruits generally contain so much pulp, that they are too thick to drink and so need to be diluted.
The second reason for adding clarified apple, pear or grape juice, is because many consumers demand a sweeter product than the natural juice sweetness. Sucrose, usually in the form of a sugar syrup, is used instead of clarified juice to obtain a cheaper beverage such as a nectar or fruit drink. The regulations have a set sugar content for the different types of fruit juice.
- What is 100% juice?
In terms of the South African legislation, a 100% juice will consist of the natural juice of the named fruit(s), with the possibility of permitted preservatives, citric acid, ascorbic acid, carbon dioxide, natural essences or aromas. It does not contain added sugars derived from any other source like sugar beet or cane, invert sugar etc.
- What is organic juice?
These juices are prepared from fruit grown without the use of pesticides and not derived from genetically modified crops. All manufacturers are independently certified before they are able to use the term organic.
- What is natural juice?
This does not contain food additives (unless they are natural components) or have any part removed or changed. The word “natural” and “pure” is highly regulated by the SA labelling regulation and may only be used under specific circumstances.