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When you peruse the juice aisle at your local grocery store, you’ll find an overwhelming range of options. But of course, not all juices are created equal when it comes to nutrition. Whereas some may pack a lot of vitamins from real fruit, others are essentially just glorified sugar water. What’s more, many bottled juices contain other questionable ingredients like artificial sweeteners and colorings, preservatives, and other additives.
“When buying pre-made juices the first thing to look for is that they are made with 100% real fruit juice, and not a mix of fruit juices with water and sweeteners,” says Eva De Angelis, RD, a registered dietitian at Health Canal.
Next time you’re at the supermarket, be sure to skip over these six juices with the lowest-quality ingredients. And while you’re at it, check out the 7 Best ‘Healthy’ Juice Brands & Which To Avoid at All Costs.
While this juice contains no artificial flavors or preservatives and a decent dose of vitamin C, Brenda Peralta, RD with Purely Cookware notes that the second ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup. This sweetener, which can often be found in processed foods, is believed to be a key driver of today’s obesity epidemic, and has been linked to many serious health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.
“High fructose corn syrup may also contribute to inflammation and fatty liver disease,” says Peralta.
Not only is high fructose corn syrup one of the top ingredients, but so is table sugar—which is listed fourth on the label. There are a whopping 34 grams of sugar in one serving of Welch’s Passion Fruit Juice—that’s about the max recommended daily intake for men according to the American Heart Association, and 9 grams more than the recommended daily limit for women.
While the carton indicates that this punch is made with “100% natural flavors,” a closer look at the nutrition label will reveal a couple of concerning truths.
First of all, Minute Maid’s Watermelon Punch is only 5% juice. Secondly, after water, the top ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup. What’s worse is that this juice also contains sucralose, a highly controversial sweetener that may raise blood sugar and insulin levels, and negatively impact your gut microbiome. You’re much better off just eating a slice of watermelon, which is ultra-hydrating and naturally low in sugar.
Here’s a rule of thumb to follow, says Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements: any time a juice contains the word “cocktail” in the title, you can bet it’s probably loaded with sugar.
While this brand prides itself on using all-natural ingredients—and you won’t see high-fructose corn syrup on their labels—the Simply Cranberry Cocktail contains a whopping 34 grams of sugar, and 29 grams of that is added sugar.
“This is particularly concerning because many people will buy cranberry juice to help with urinary tract issues, like infections,” says Best. “This added sugar will not only fail to help with this issue but may actually exacerbate any current infection.”
That’s why, when shopping for cranberry juice, Best recommends opting for one that doesn’t contain added sugar.
You might think this juice is healthier for you since it only contains 10 calories per serving and no sugar, but think again. Whereas the brand’s regular strawberry kiwi drink at least contains some actual kiwi juice and strawberry juice, Snapple’s Zero Sugar Strawberry Kiwi juice contains no fruit juices whatsoever—and is mostly made up of water, citric acid, potassium citrate, aspartame, and acacia gum.
Aspartame is another controversial artificial sweetener. While it’s been deemed safe for the general population, research has shown that there may be a link between the consumption of aspartame and the development of diabetes, obesity, and glucose and insulin intolerance.
With 21 grams of added sugar, this is another juice you’ll want to avoid. But that’s not even the worst part: after tea, high fructose corn syrup is the second ingredient. Additionally, this beverage also has two different kinds of artificial sweeteners: sucralose, and acesulfame potassium—also known as “Ace K.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has raised concerns over Ace K, suggesting that there may be health concerns associated with this sweetener—including cancer, hormone disruption, and potential risks for pregnancy.
Fuze Pineapple + Mango also contains a slew of preservatives and other additives, like sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium benzoate, and calcium disodium.
A quick glance at the nutrition facts on this bottled juice will reveal that it contains a jaw-dropping 54 grams of sugar per serving. By the way, all of that is added sugar, since Calypso’s Kiwi Lemonade contains very little actual fruit (about 7% juice).
The ingredients mainly consist of water, sugar, and lemon juice—but that’s not all. This juice also contains multiple artificial food colorings and additives, like modified food starch.