In honor of Alan Aragon's recent blog post on MonaVie vs. Two Buck Chuck, super-hyped, err, I mean superfruit juices are today's topic.
At just about every fitness or nutrition expo I've walked through, there has been someone pushing a "superfruit" juice of some kind or another. Mangosteen, Acai berry juice, you name it….I've probably been pushed it.
When I walk past these Superjuice booths, the conversation goes something like this:
Me (trying to keep on walking to avoid the product spiel): "Hi."
Pusher: "Have you tried our Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius Juice? It's made from a mixture of Mangosteen, Acai berry, and Goji juice. It has one billion times the antioxidant capacity of an orange. A teaspoon serving will give you the same number of antioxidants as 10,000 servings of fruits and vegetables."
Pusher pushes a small Dixi-cup sample in my face, stopping me in my tracks. To appease the Pusher, I take the sample and drink it.
Tastes like a really dry red wine without the alcohol. I restrain my face muscles from doing a yoga-like contortionist trick.
Me: "Ummm, thanks."
Pusher: "Do you feel it? Do you feel any different?"
I'm starting to feel annoyed, sure. And I feel an awful aftertaste in my mouth.
Pusher: "Ever since I started taking this, I can't believe how much different I've been feeling. I have more energy, I have more stamina, I've lost weight, my cholesterol is lower, my blood pressure is down…I feel great! And my mom started taking this and her cancer went away."
Will this juice help me lower my taxes too? Solve world hunger? Bring peace to the Middle East? Stop the explosion of reality TV shows?
Pusher: "And it's only $100 for a 1 Liter bottle. Imagine how much you would have to pay for 10,000 servings of fruits and vegetables."
Imagine how much I would pay to leave this conversation.
Pusher: "Here's a brochure showing all the benefits of our juice, and how you can order it."
Me: "Thanks"……but no thanks.
Walking away, I look at the brochure. On the front page is a smiling face of a hot chick who is holding a glass of this juice.
Yes, I'm sure the juice is what makes her look that way.
And testimonials by "Greg" and "Judy" and "Sally" and "Richard" abound. Apparently people that have tried this juice don't have last names. And Doctor Rosen Rosen says he recommends this juice to all his patients. And there are references to scientific studies that, upon closer inspection, have little to do with the product.
Obviously my story has been exaggerated for effect, but you get the point. These Superjuices are super hyped. The question is whether there is anything to the hype. Choice Online, an Australian consumer watchdog group, looked into these juices and published their results. They tested the Total Antioxidant Capacity (TAC) of many of these juices, and compared them to the TAC of fruit that you can get at your local grocery store. A single serving of these juices only had 9-34% of the TAC of a Red Delicious Apple!!!! In fact, according to their tests, three servings of one brand of Mangosteen juice would fall short of the TAC of a cup of berries! So much for these juices being "super." And the prices of these juices was ridiculous…$24 to $85 per liter. You're better off eating the standard fruits and vegetables that you can get from your local supermarket.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that these juices have no health benefits. But their benefits don't even come close to the hype surrounding them, and their benefits actually don't match up to a plain ol' piece of whole fruit. Also, while there are studies showing some potential health benefits to the components of these exotic fruits, most of these studies have been done in vitro (in a test tube) or in animals. Very few clinical studies on humans have been performed. In addition, remember that many of these in vitro and animal studies look at either the whole fruit itself, or components or extracts of the whole fruit. These juices may not have the same composition as the whole fruit or fruit components/extracts.
The bottom line is that, rather than spending money on these expensive juices, you are better off eating a variety of whole fruits and vegetables. Not only will you get more antioxidants, but you'll also get the other benefits that juice can't provide….fiber, for example. And you'll be saving money while saving your health at the same time.