Ever looked at the back of your orange juice carton and wondered what the phrase “made from concentrate” means? You’re not alone; plenty of people also ask the same question, and even wonder if their juices are healthy.
What Does “From Concentrate” Mean, Anyway?
A liquid concentrate is liquid that is, well, concentrated. In other words, concentrated liquids have most of their solvents, or something that dissolves something else, removed. When applied to juices, concentrate means that most of the water is removed.
A highly concentrated extract that typically has a longer shelf-life. Additionally, this extract is much lighter than it was before the concentration process took place, which means it’s more economical to ship and easier to stock.
How Do You Get Juice Concentrate?
In the United States, it’s common to use a machine called a Thermally Accelerated Short-Time Evaporator, or T.A.S.T.E., to concentrate juices. T.A.S.T.E. essentially works by:
- Heating the juice via steam
- Using evaporation and pressure to remove water from the juice
- Flash-cooling the juice extract
Manufacturers may add water to the concentrate after they pasteurize and package this extract.
Are Juices Healthy?
The answer to this question will vary based on what kind of juice you’re drinking.
For example, pure, 100% fresh-squeezed orange juice is much healthier than OJ from the store that’s packed full of artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, most commercially available fruit juices in the United States are loaded with added sugars, sweeteners, and more, which significantly reduces their nutritional value. This low nutritional value (specifically, the high amounts of sugars and low amounts of fiber) is why the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against giving infants and babies any kind of fruit juice. Parents should severely restrict how much fruit juice they give their children between 1 and 6 years of age.
Comparing the Nutritional Values of Oranges and Orange Juices
Let’s take a look at another example. Below are some of the nutritional stats of various forms of orange juices. These values are based on 100 grams of the food or drink in question, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
|Food||Vitamin C (Total Ascorbic Acid)||Total Dietary Fiber||Water||Energy||Total Sugars, Including NLEA|
|Oranges, raw, Florida||45 mg||2.4 g||87.14 g||46 kcal||9.14 g|
|Orange juice, canned, unsweetened||30.1 mg||0.3 g||87.72 g||47 kcal||8.76 g|
|Orange juice, frozen concentrate, unsweetened, undiluted||144.8 mg||1 g||60.57 g||148 kcal||29.68 g|
|Orange juice, frozen concentrate, unsweetened, diluted with 3 volume water||36.2 mg||0.2 g||90.07 g||37 kcal||7.42 g|
|Orange juice, chilled, includes from concentrate||33.6 mg||0.3 g||87.22 g||49 kcal||8.31 g|
As you can see, raw oranges are the best sources of dietary fiber on this list. With the exception of the third entry, all of the fruit juices and concentrates list also have a lower amount of vitamin C than raw oranges.
It’s important to note, though, that this third entry’s high concentration of vitamin C isn’t necessarily “better.” Why? Because healthy adults generally only need about 75 mg to 90 mg of vitamin C a day. That’s not all that’s concerning about this option, either; it has roughly three times as many calories and total sugars as the equivalent serving of raw oranges.
Whether or not your fruit juice is healthy—from concentrate or otherwise—depends largely on both production method and whether or not the manufacturers add extra ingredients like sweeteners. The best way to find out if your fruit juice is healthy? Read the nutrition label, so you can see exactly what your beverage contains.