Before we begin, let’s just get one thing out of the way – nothing beats eating raw fruit and veggies. However, the next best thing is a glass of freshly squeezed juice. Now, because juice concentrate comes with a large fruit percentage, questions pop up left and right.
In the following sections, I will try to answer all the questions and dilemmas regarding juice from concentrate. The confusion is there for a reason, and I understand when a new eye can’t quite tell the difference. I promise you, after we are done here, you will know all the juicy stuff about concentrated juice. Yes, that was a pun. Let’s dive in!
What Is Juice Concentrate?
No matter what you hear, juice concentrate is made of fresh ingredients. Some people like to speculate that it is just plant matter with artificial aromas, but that is hardly the case. If the juice is FDA approved, it went through the rigorous process of testing and control, and it is made of fruit. However, fruit matter alone is not the only thing you can find in a carton or concentrated juice.
To concentrate basically means to filter something (juice) out, and leave only the relevant fruit matter in. For example, you can concentrate milk, making it solid (i.e. powdered milk). When it comes to juice concentrate, the process essentially involves removing water by heating up the squeezed juice. And, as you probably already know, fruit and veggies are mostly made of water. Here’s the whole process.
*Disclaimer: the process of industrialized plant juice concentration is vastly complex, and I will try to not bore you with technicalities, but practical knowledge instead.
1. How is Juice Concentrate made?
Making concentrated juice at home is a tedious, hard, and often a wasteful process. That’s why I want to tackle this subject from an industrial point of view. For the sake of simplicity, I picked oranges as the most commonly juiced fruit. Other plants are processed similarly with the only thing that changes is the technical details (pressure, heat, etc.). Here’s how they do it with oranges:
- Firstly, the oranges go through a selection. The biggest and ripest are taken in, and the rest goes to other industries (pharmaceuticals, canned goods, cosmetics, and others).
- The oranges are squeezed into juice, and the pulp is removed (in most cases)
- This batch of filtered juice undergoes the process of pasteurization (heat for the sake of killing bacteria).
- Now, the pasteurized juice is heated even further to get the water out of the juice. This stage is called vaporization.
This mesh is what we call orange juice concentrate. It contains orange fruit matter with no water and little to no fiber (among other nutrients it lost). This concentrate is now safe from bacteria as well, thanks to pasteurization and vaporization.
But – that is not what you get inside the carton of juice.
2. What does juice from concentrate mean?
This concentrate can be stored for a long time compared to freshly squeezed juice coming from a, for example, manual juicer. The bacteria are cleared out, and the concentrate is ready.
Juice from concentrate means that this mesh is used to make orange juice. Confusing? Allow me to explain:
The concentrated orange juice gets enriched with natural orange flavors. After that it gets diluted with water to a wanted percentage – that is the number you can see on an orange juice packaging (i.e. 60% from concentrated juice). This, now liquid, the mesh is pasteurized once again and then packed into bottles and cartons.
So, to put things simply – juice from concentrate is 100% orange with water, preservatives, and natural fruit aroma/flavor.
3. Concentrated Juices Are Cheaper – Here’s Why
By now, you’ve certainly noticed that there are a LOT of steps from the whole fruit to a bottle of orange juice from concentrate. The whole process enables juice producers a product that can sit on the shelf for longer than average. Much longer. The longest a homemade juice can stay in the fridge caps at about 72 hours, which is how long masticated and cold-pressed juice last.
Juice from concentrate can stay for longer than 100 days in some cases. Longer shelf life means less production waste. And to top things off, juice producers can store concentrate, and make juice when reserves get thin.
Is Concentrated Juice Bad?
There is no clear answer here. If you are used to drinking sodas every day, then yes, concentrated juice is not that bad. It is certainly a step up from sodas. But, if we would compare juice from concentrate and freshly-squeezed juices, the latter takes the cake when it comes to nutrients.
The problems with concentrated juice nutritional values come from the sole process. Every juice concentrate undergoes pasteurization at least two times. After that, a lot of nutrients simply disappear from the juice due to heat exposure. On the other hand, the shelf life extenders, preservatives, often consist of various salts and bacteria killers which are not exactly good for us.
Another issue occurs nutrition-wise – vitamins tend to break apart under heat exposure as well. Truth be told, a lot of juice brands add vitamins later, with water and natural flavors. The worst part of this stage is that a lot of manufacturers add sugar which makes the juice even tastier.
So, the question of whether concentrated juice is good or bad for you is a matter of perspective. I rank them like this (from healthiest to least healthy option):
- Eating raw fruits and vegetables
- Freshly squeezed juice (using a masticator or other juicers)
- Juice made from concentrate
- Sodas (no health benefits)
1. Is juice from concentrate healthy for you in any way?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I never meant to say that you shouldn’t drink juice from concentrate. The thing is, freshly squeezed juice is way tastier than juice from concentrate. It is also healthier and has some fibers inside.
You can surely get a dose of vitamins, especially vitamin C that is added into the concentrated mesh. These juices are still tastier than soda, and concentrated juice can be a life-saver after a heated gym session.
2. Pregnant women and children benefit the most
Freshly squeezed juices are not that good for pregnant women, children, and immuno-compromised people. They are strong and may contain bacteria. But, on the bright side, juices from concentrate are pasteurized (often more than once) and that is why anyone can drink them.
I would like to warn you about one thing, though. Juices from concentrate may contain high amounts of corn fructose syrup. These should be avoided unless gaining extra weight and diabetes is your goal.
Eating and drinking healthier is a great journey. You get to learn about your body a lot, and you get to fix whatever’s missing. Getting the best nutrients (both in quantity and quality) is a big part of this, next to exercise and sleep. Juices from concentrate can get you a bit closer to your goal, but it can also be a trap. If you have the option to eat raw plants or drink freshly-squeezed juice, I suggest you go down that road. If not, look for concentrated juice with the least preservatives and sugar.
So, concentrate – good or bad? Well, mostly in between. Now, go and enjoy some freshly-squeezed juice and get healthy!