The Difference Between Fruit Juice & Fruit Drinks

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Both fruit juice and fruit drinks line store shelves and both claim health benefits and great taste. It can be confusing sorting out the differences between two similar-looking beverages when shopping for the family. Although fruit juice and fruit drinks occupy the same supermarket department, contain many of the same ingredients and even sound like the same thing, they can't substitute for one another in terms of nutrition, or even for their uses in recipes.

Ingredients

  • Check the ingredients labels to spot one difference between fruit juice and fruit drinks. While fruit juice contains only pure juice extracted from fruit, with only small amounts of vitamin additives or possibly some preservatives added, fruit drinks contain very small amounts of juice. Fruit drinks comprise mostly water and some form of sugar or artificial sweetener. Fruit drinks may also contain artificial dyes and flavorings to make them seem more like actual juice.

Nutrition

  • Because fruit drinks contain added sugar, they typically contain more calories per serving than fruit juice. However, fruit drinks with artificial zero-calorie sweeteners actually have fewer calories than juice, making them a better choice dietetically for diabetics or other people with sugar intolerance. While fruit juice doesn't contain the fiber that eating a piece of fruit would, a serving of fruit juice fulfills one serving from the fruit and vegetable food group recommended by the USDA, and supplies many of the same nutrients. Fruit drinks contain only those nutrients artificially added by the manufacturer.

Labeling

  • Fruit drinks may contain 15 percent fruit juice or less. Their labels indicate under the brand name and drink name, usually in fine print, what percentage of juice the bottle holds. Fruit juice labels read "100 percent juice" or something similar. Juice drinks may be called "juice cocktails" or "juice flavored" drinks. When looking at the ingredients, items like corn syrup, dextrose or sucrose indicate that a drink contains added sugar.

Uses

  • Both fruit drinks and fruit juice hydrate but fruit juice also supplies necessary nutrients to the diet. Low-calorie fruit drinks containing artificial sweeteners substitute for diet sodas for those watching calorie intake. In recipes, never substitute fruit drinks for fruit juice. In addition to the flavor, 100 percent fruit juice provides the acidity and concentration of fruit flavor needed in sauces, marinades and baked goods calling for fruit juice. The water content in fruit drinks dilutes the effect and the sugar may disrupt the chemical properties of the recipe.

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