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Smoothie popsicles, and the scary truth about juice

September 19, 2010

OK, so I planned to publish this sometime during the summer, but kinda sorta never got around to it-ish… I guess popsicles aren’t a very typical autumn food, but they’re yummy and healthy and easy to make. And could possibly assist you in being in denial about the rain and wind outside.

I don’t really use recipes when I make smoothies, since I happen to be a firm believer of putting whatever the hell you want and however much you want of it in smoothies. Most fruits, berries and juices go really well together. Generally I think it’s a good idea to keep it simple; if you have six different fruits you will most likely not be able to taste them all. As a general rule I use 2 – 3 different types of fruit/berries, any kind of juice and some yoghurt or banana if I want a creamier texture.

For these popsicles I used:

some kiwis

a couple of handfuls of strawberries

a few blobs of vanilla yoghurt

a splash of apple juice

ice cubes

Kiwi and strawberry is such a nice combination, so I didn’t want to ruin that with any strongly flavoured juice or yoghurt. Put in blender, blend, and you’re done! Pour in a popsicle mold, put in the freezer and *tadaaah*! (Just make sure you make enough to enjoy a fresh smoothie straight away too!)

Speaking of apple juice, here is:

[serious voice]

The scary truth about juice

Actually… it’s not that scary at all.

I have noticed that there are a couple of common misconceptions about juice;

– juices have lots of added sugar and preservatives

– fresh juice is much healthier than juice from concentrate

What’s in the juice?

The first idea is definitely wrong. In a lot of countries, including Norway, England and the USA, the label “juice” can only be used on a product that is 100% pure fruit juice. That includes fresh juice as well as concentrate mixed with water. Apart from water, nothing can be added, no colourings, no sugar, no preservatives, nothing. If it says “juice”, then that’s what it is.

(There may be some slight differences between countries that I haven’t picked up on, but this should generally be the idea.)

Some argue that juice from concentrate must have added preservatives because of the long expiry dates. Which in a way makes sense – there is no way an orange would stay fresh for two years, so why would the juice? That is all down to the production process.

Pasteurization and concentration

Most of fresh and concentrate-based juice are pasteurized; quickly heated to about 90°C for 3-5 minutes to kill of any pathogens. Pasteurization is really neat, because in addition to doing this, it also inactivates the enzymes that would otherwise make the juice and the pulp go their separate ways.

The juice is then heated by steam under vacuum, which makes the water evaporate. The result is concentrate. Juice concentrate can be stored frozen or in tanks until it is to be packaged. Then it is mixed with water, and filled in bottles or cartons in a sterile environment, and quickly cooled. For a more detailed description, check this page out: How orange juice is made.

After pasteurization and sterile packing, the finished product contains no pathogens, thus being able to have a pretty long shelf life without the help of additives.

Is fresh juice better than concentrate?

As far as the second assumption about which juice is healthier, I have tried to find a straight answer from a reliable source, but am struggling to find it. As with any food, the nutritional value in juice will vary depending on the circumstances. For example, there are a lot of factors that will affect the content of vitamin C; orange type, ripeness, storage, types of juice containers, and exposure to light and air. The content of vitamin C is not stable, but will decrease in both fresh an concentrate-based juice, something this study shows.

That study also concluded that there is less vitamin C in fresh juice, but I have not found any other studies that suggest the same… or the opposite. The USDA national nutrient database lists roughly the same nutritional values for “Orange juice, frozen concentrate, unsweetened, diluted with 3 volume water” and “Orange juice, raw” (I couldn’t find an option for fresh, pasteurized juice).

It would be interesting to see some sort of study that compares nutritional values of concentrate, fresh pasteurized and raw juice. If anybody knows of any such thing – I would be happy to hear from you!

All things summarized though, when it comes to the vitamin C content I am suspecting that the healthiest option is to squeeze your own juice and drink it immediately. There will be no vitamin loss from air and light exposure. Vitamin C may also be destroyed by heat, including the pasteurization process.

Having said that, before you think that home-made, untouched food is automatically safe and the healthiest option; remember that unpasteurized juice may contain dangerous pathogens.

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