You can’t go wrong with vegetable juice, right? Everyone knows that stuff is healthy, healthy, healthy. While fruit juice is controversial among the health-conscious crowd, I never hear anyone diss vegetable juice. You’ve all heard that fruit juice concentrates the sugars in the fruit to an unhealthy degree. A tall glass of apple juice, for example, can be made from the juice of 15 apples! Since no one ever sits down to eat 15 apples at once, you can imagine how a 16oz. glass of apple juice can give you quite the sugar kick. Who cares if it’s natural sugar? It’s still a heck of a lot of sugar without very much of the other goodies that make eating whole fruits worthwhile — like pectin and fiber.
But vegetable juice? No one complains about that. It’s vegetables! A few, like carrots, may be a little sweet. But really? Who’s gonna say juicing a carrot is unhealthy? Even the low-carb people won’t knock you for downing a glass of V8.
So, what happens when a company known for it’s unadulterated, 100% vegetable juice drink decides to branch out? When they decide to start making new flavors and cashing in on our penchant for sweet drinks? That’s when you get products like V8 Splash: Strawberry Kiwi.
Here’s what the manufacturer claims:
Each variety of V8 Splash is a refreshing blend of delicious fruity flavors with a hint of carrot and includes Antioxidant Plus – a powerful blend of Vitamins A, C, and E. It’s the perfect afternoon lift to help your patrons stay energized and active throughout the day!
It’s V8! It’s got vegetables like carrots! It’s full of antioxidants! Those are good, right? Surely, this is a better drink option to give your kids than soda?
V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi: Ingredients
- high fructose corn syrup,
- carrot juice from concentrate (water, carrot juice concentrate),
- fruit juice from concentrate (water, apple juice concentrate, kiwi juice concentrate, strawberry juice concentrate),
- malic acid,
- natural flavoring,
- vitamin c (ascorbic acid),
- vitamin e (alpha tocopheryl acetate),
- beta carotene,
- red 40.
V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi: DECODED
The number one ingredient in this drink is water — not carrot juice, not even fruit juice. That right there ought to send up warning signs. While nothing’s inherently wrong with buying or making flavored waters, I’d bet that most people who buy things made by V8 think they’re getting unadulterated juice. If they never looked at the ingredients label, they’d never know they were buying flavored water.
The second most used ingredient in this drink? High fructose corn syrup! Besides being an industrially-produced, GMO-laden sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup is dangerously high in mercury, can make you more obese than the same amounts of table sugar, and may even make you stupid. This is not an ingredient you want in your food, let alone in your “healthy” vegetable drink.
Malic acid is generally considered safe. It’s a naturally occurring acid found in some fruits and vegetables. Your body uses it for glucose conversion, which is why it’s being explored as a possible therapy for people with any kind of chronic fatigue or syndromes like fibromyalgia. However, in nature it’s always joined to an entire fruit or vegetable. You’ll never find it in isolation. When concentrated and isolated, it has been shown to have some adverse effects. It can erode tooth enamel or cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.
Need we beat a dead horse and complain one more time about the ambiguity of natural flavoring? Natural flavoring may be something simple and innocuous, or it may not be. It could be something as simple as an orange oil extract you could have made in your own kitchen, or it could be something as weird as a vanilla flavor made from beaver testes. Both are considered “natural” flavors. To know for certain what’s in the natural flavoring added to foods, you have to contact the food manufacturer. So, while this ingredient sends up a warning flag, it is not in and of itself a tell tale sign of something inherently bad or dangerous.
Next up you’ve got a few more vitamin isolates in ascorbic acid, alpha tocopheryl acetate, and beta carotene. These are being billed as vitamins C, E, and A — the triple antioxidant punch that everyone knows is oh so good for you. But are they actually these vitamins?
Imagine, for a moment, that you go to an auto parts store and buy a headlight. Would you assume that you had bought a car? No way! So, you look and see what other parts are in a car and go buy those. You come home with a muffler, a fender, a steering wheel, some seats, brake lights, a battery. Would you now assume that you’d bought a car? No way! If you wanted to buy a car to drive you from point A to point B, you’d buy a car — not a pile of parts!
In the same way, these vitamin isolates aren’t actually the vitamins found in whole foods. They’re just parts of the vitamins, usually synthesized in laboratories, and usually indigestible to us. Studies have consistently shown that if you swallow a so-called Vitamin C pill made from ascorbic acid joined with bioflavanoids, you’ll pee 90% of it out within the hour. Your body has little use for these isolated vitamin components. It needs the real deal — the vitamins actually present in whole foods.
Does that mean these vitamin isolates are always bad for you? Yes and no. Some have been linked to terrible side effects, others don’t seem to cause much harm. But the point here is that they’re unnatural. Wouldn’t you much rather stick to getting your vitamins the way nature intended? From food rich in nutrients?
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener — the primary ingredient in Splenda. It’s made by adding chlorine molecules to sugar, rendering the sugar indigestible while still maintaining a sweet taste. Unfortunately, “indigestible” doesn’t actually mean indigestible. Numerous studies have shown that we digest an average of 15% of the sucralose we consume. And sucralose, when metabolized by the body, has been shown to form chlorocarbons because of the presence of chlorine. Some research shows chlorocarbons cause organ, genetic and reproductive damage. We’re talking shrunken thymus glands, enlarged livers, and over-worked kidneys. Chlorocarbons are one of the substances that make pesticides so harmful, and that’s what we’re calling “safe”?
Finally, the last ingredient here is Red 40, an artificial food coloring that’s been banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. The European Union doesn’t officially ban it, but does say that it’s unsafe for children to consume. Studies on the safety of Red 40 have linked it to hyperactivity in children, along with other hyperactivity disorders like ADHD.
V8 Splash Strawberry Kiwi: THE VERDICT
So, what should you use instead?
Of course, the best option is to make your own juice. It’s so easy to buy fresh vegetables and fruits and run them through a juicer. Most juicers completely remove the plant fiber to produce a juice. While this is still better than store bought juice, it’s also inefficient and arguably not as healthy as turning the whole vegetable or fruit into juice. For making real juice from the whole vegetable or fruit, absolutely nothing beats a Vitamix Blender.
These babies are super-powerful, excellent juicers with a remarkable warranty. They not only juice, they blend. You can even buy attachments for them to grind grains or coffee beans, grate cheese, or knead dough. It’s an all-in-one kitchen appliance that will last and last and last — like the Energizer bunny.
If you want to opt for convenience and buy a ready made beverage, one of my favorites are the raw, cultured vegetable juices made by Zukay Live Foods. They’re juices that have been naturally fermented to produce a powerful probiotic tonic.
My favorite is the beet juice, but carrot comes in a close second! My husband enjoys the cabbage juice, while my kids rave about the carrot.
Want Your Labels Decoded?
In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!