“Euchre!” My roommate exclaims as he decisively throws down the right bower on the mattress. We hear a few sighs from the opposing team as that euchre gave us just enough points to win the game.
“Alright fellas, time to head back,” says “Bossman,” the foreman of the furniture crew. I glance at my phone, it’s about 3:30pm… time to get back to the housing office. We turn off the Pandora radio station and the window A/C unit, put the chairs back by their desks and throw the mattress back on the loft. We awake the other members of the crew that were napping next door. We were all exhausted after lofting all the requested beds in this dormitory, but I couldn’t resist the competition of an afternoon euchre game. Euchre had become part of our daily routine. Although sometimes we went to the small outdoor recreational pool to cool down (all the window A/C units were off in the summer months) or went to the gym for some weights, after a light days work.
We saunter outside and cram the whole crew into our two golf carts. Unfortunately, our third golf cart was over at the warehouse getting repaired. I disfigured the back axle during a race to the dormitory on the other side of campus. There was a narrow sidewalk between a bus stop and a fence that was difficult to navigate at high speeds. This was the second golf cart that had fallen victim to that treacherous spot. Luckily, Bossman had done it the first time, so he couldn’t get too mad at me.
As we’re driving over to the student housing office, my roommates (all three of us are working on the furniture crew this summer) decide we need to run to the grocery store tonight.
“What time does the game start?” I ask before agreeing.
“7:15,” one of them answers. Watching our hometown baseball games had also become part of our daily routine. But we had plenty of time to run by the store before the first pitch.
We pull the golf carts into our designated spots just outside the housing office, plug the charging cords into the nearby outlet, and head inside to clock out. Bossman gives our supervisor the walkie talkies, master keys and a report on today’s work.
“7 AM tomorrow, don’t be late,” Bossman states as he comes out of the office, and gives us the green light to leave.
We make the short walk down the middle of campus towards our apartment, then veer towards the parking lot. It’s summer, so the lot is pretty empty.
“I got shotgun” one of my roommate yells as my truck, “The Fridge,” comes into sight. The Fridge was a gift from one of my brothers, after my previous car was totaled by an older lady who didn’t see her red light. The Fridge was a ’92 Mazda B2200, stick shift without power steering, and required a foot on the gas while idling to keep the car from dying. It made driving any other vehicle a piece of cake. And driving both of my roommates in the 2.5 seat cab meant 2nd and 4th gear was basically in someone’s crotch.
“I’m not riding b—- in the Fridge today,” my other roommate says. “Just make sure you get some bread and peanut butter. I’ll see you guys later.” We give him the key to the apartment, then head towards the Fridge.
My roommate and I drive down the street to the closest grocery store and pick up the needed groceries. Just like our daily schedule, our grocery stop had become fairly routine…bread, cheese, lunch meats, chips, milk, granola bars. We get items for a few homemade dinners, like spaghetti and buffalo chicken wraps. We find all of our usual items in about 10-15 minutes. As we’re passing by the juice aisle to pick up some sunscreen, my roommate taps me on the shoulder.
“Hey Fill, have you ever had V8?” he says as he points to the bottle on the shelf to our right.
“Yeah, not a big fan though. Except if it’s in a Bloody Mary. Something about the taste makes it hard to drink straight.”
“Isn’t it super healthy for you?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that. I mean, it’s made from tomatoes and those are supposed to be one of those superfoods.”
“That’s what I heard too. Something about the lycopene is really good for you. Maybe we should grab that for breakfast instead of orange juice. If you can’t stand the V8, maybe we should try this one instead.” He points to a V8 Splash. “It has fruit juice in it so it tastes better.”
“It’s fruit juice and not just added sugar?” I said, trying to demonstrate some health consciousness. My mind briefly wanders back to watching cartoons after grade school and the hundreds of times I saw the commercials for Juicy Juice, “100% juice for 100% kids”. If you were a kid in the 90s, you saw that ad and you knew that drinks made of juice were healthier than drinks made from sugar. And if they were marketing that for children, it had to be healthy. Parents had a way of sniffing out and getting outraged over things that hurt their kids.
“Yeah, it says here on the bottle that there’s actual fruit juice in here, from concentrate.”
“Sure, let’s give it a try. We don’t eat a ton of fruits and veggies…it couldn’t hurt”
So we added a bottle of V8 splash to our cart. It tasted so good that next time we got two bottles. We ended up trying all the flavors and drank it every morning that summer. It became part of our routine.
When it comes to understanding nutrition, simpler is better. One of the most important (yet simple) concepts in nutrition is understanding when the end product (the form of the food as you put it into your mouth) is more important than the ingredients used to make the end product. There are many examples of this, but today’s focus is on juice.
Merriam Webster defines juice as “the extractable fluid contents of cells or tissues.” This accurately represents the transformation that takes place as an initial commercial juice ingredient is turned into a juice end product. A fruit or vegetable is literally squeezed until the fluid contents have been separated from the structural contents. These structural plant contents are best represented by another name in the medical and nutritional field, fiber.
By definition, juice has no structural content, or fiber. The fiber is separated, processed, and used in manufacturing other foods, under the name of pectin. By removing all of the fiber, we have taken one of the most important aspects of good nutrition out of the food. Fiber leads to a feeling of fullness and it slows the body’s ability to access the caloric content of food. Juice’s lack of fiber leads to rapid absorption of juice’s main (non-water) ingredient, simple sugar. Rapid absorption of simple sugar leads to rapid increases in blood sugar. Among other things, this promotes converting sugar into a form it can be stored, mainly as glycogen in the liver and muscle. Liver and muscle reach full glycogen capacity fairly quickly, unless you’ve just completed an intense sporting event. After that, sugar is instead changed into fat for long-term storage.
Regardless of whether juice was made from a tomato, or an orange, or a pomegranate, it’s still a juice. All juices lack fiber and will undergo the same process mentioned above. In fact, this is why almost all beverages with sugar are inherently unhealthy, because they lack fiber. At least juices usually contain a few natural vitamins and phytonutrients, as opposed to their soda counterparts. But juices contain nowhere near the nutritional value of the fruit or vegetable that they come from.
Juice beverage marketing has focused on the differences between reconstituted juice and juice not from concentrate, tomato juice compared to apple juice, and juice with or without added sugar. Let me re-focus your attention on the forest instead of the trees. There is no such thing as a healthy juice.
I believe in the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Similarly, I believe a video is worth a thousand pictures. The best way to understand the food you are eating is to see “How It’s Made”. Thankfully, the Discovery Channel and Science Channel have produced segments about many of the foods we eat.
I have included a link for the segment on How it’s Made: Orange Juice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyW7JVjYoYU
It does not include all the added ingredients that go into the end product, but visualizing the overall process adds clarity to understanding the underlying nutrition. The video also reminds me of a good question. If I get orange juice with pulp, does that have fiber? Actually, yes. This is one of the few juices that does contain fiber. Pulp is made from the fibrous portions of the orange. But it contains such a small amount of fiber, that it usually isn’t listed on ingredient labels.
Please keep in mind this post is regarding commercially produced juices. “Juicing”, smoothies, purees and other homemade drinks may have a different nutritional value.
-Featured Image by Krys Alex on Unsplash.