Monday, August 22, 2011

Should you drink your fruits and veggies?

This summer, my immersion blender is getting a workout making green smoothies as a breakfast option. My favorite blend includes yogurt, mango, spinach, orange juice, and milk. Ignoring the generous serving of homemade yogurt and splash of milk, would it be just as healthy to pop open a container of a fruit and vegetable drink, like V-Fusion? Should you drink your fruits and vegetables? I went searching for answers.

Pure fruit or vegetable juice (no sugar added) in moderation is a good thing. Real juice is full of vitamins, minerals, and health-protecting phytochemicals, and it's often fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and occasionally eye-, brain-, and heart-healthy DHA. But you do have to watch that you really are getting the twofer that you expect. For an example, I'll keep picking on V-Fushion—mostly because I have V-Fushion Light in my fridge right now. The manufacturer claims that an 8-ounce serving “gives you a full serving of vegetables plus a full serving of fruit.” The label states that an 8-oz serving contains ½ cup of vegetables and ½ cup of fruit, which is the equivalent to one serving each, per USDA. (The Light version contains only one combined serving of vegetables and fruit, not two.)

V-Fushion is made of 100 percent fruit and vegetables juices, but there is a difference between reconstituted juices (juice concentrate) and freshly squeezed. The vitamins C and E do allow the manufacturer to put an “antioxidant” label on the packaging. However, peach juice is not a peach and carrot juice is not a carrot. Even high-pulp juices can't make up for all the fiber and nutrients that get discarded with the skin and pulp during juicing. These are the components that help keep your appetite, blood sugar, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure down.

That said, vegetable-infused juices are better than no vegetables. At least it's a sweet beverage with fewer calories and more nutrients than soda or fruit punch. Drinking fruity, sweet drinks will not help turn my son into the veggie lover of my dreams, but neither will my beloved smoothies. That said, my immersion blender won't get a rest in the near future. We aren't going to turn into Popeye, but at least I know that we are getting good fiber and nutrition in our morning smoothies.

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