Question:

How healthy are fruit juices like orange juice with no pulp? Do fruits/vegetables from concentrate in smoothies typically only have the water removed with most of the fiber intact? Does it matter if the juice is from concentrate in terms of limiting sugar intake per day?

– Nick S.

Answer:

We often think the pulp retains the fiber, while the expressed juice does not. Taking a look at the labels from three major bottled OJ brands, the nutritional information was nearly identical:

1 cup pulp-free had 110 calories, 22-23 grams sugar, 0 gram fiber

1 cup high pulp had 110 calories, 22-23 grams sugar, 0 gram fiber

But where’s the fiber? When fiber is less than 1 gram and no fiber claims are made, the Nutrition Facts panel may not even have Dietary Fiber listed. The type of fiber, called pectin, is a beneficial soluble fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol and slows the passage of food through the gut.

Citrus pulp is also promoted as containing nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene and several minerals. But the evidence of such nutrition is a mystery to me. Not one online article about fruit pulp that I found had an original source citing micronutrient content. The USDA’s Food Composition Database’s ONLY standard reference pulp is that of Naranjilla (lulo), a South American fruit. Hardly something found in American grocery shelves. I found the Nutrition facts panel for a passion fruit pulp sold in the US and it has 1 gram fiber, 9 grams sugar, 2% DV calcium, and 2% DV iron per half-cup serving.

So… although I’ve always been taught (at home and professionally) that the pulp is nutritious, there appears to be a lack of resources to substantiate anything other than a small amount of fiber content. But I still promote consuming fruit skins, pulp, and pith. Here’s why – humans’ teeth and GI tracts were meant to consume as much of a plant as is edible, and to receive the full benefit of a fruit’s nutrients and phytochemicals we need to eat all of its components.  Eating raw, whole foods is always better than a processed version.

Sources:

  1. Juicing 101: Nutrition Tips for Consumers. Nutrition.gov, 9.24.2018. https://www.nutrition.gov/subject/shopping-cooking-meal-planning/juicing-101
  2. Types of Fiber and Their Health Benefits. WebMD.com, 6.1.2018. https://www.webmd.com/diet/compare-dietary-fibers

Fruit concentrate is basically fruit puree with the water removed, and usually the skin and membranes as well. Already the overall nutrition will differ from that of the raw fruit. Concentrates that are pasteurized will be lower in heat-sensitive vitamin C unless the product is fortified. On food labels, the sugar from concentrate is considered “added sugar.”

Fruit juice concentrate is made when water is extracted from the juice. This is beneficial for both preserving the juice and reducing shipping weight. Concentrates are higher in sugar and energy by weight and volume. If the concentrate is reconstituted, water is added back to form the liquid state and the result should be no different than the original juice. Reconstituted juice’s sugar and energy content would be restored to their initial levels.

Sources:

What Is ‘Fruit Concentrate,’ Anyway? And Is It Good For You? NPR 9.1.2017. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/09/01/545336956/what-is-fruit-concentrate-anyway-and-is-it-good-for-you

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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