Wendyl Wants To Know

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl Wants to Know: Vegetable juice doesn't beat eating your greens

V8 Vegetable Juice. Photo / Supplied
V8 Vegetable Juice. Photo / Supplied

V8 Vegetable Juice
$4.69 for 1L

We all know we should be eating at least three servings of vegetables a day. But sometimes it can be hard to fit in one and a half cups of cooked veges or three cups of salad to meet those nutritional requirements. Especially if you are a child who hates veges or a young person flatting who doesn't have time to shop and prepare them. Which all makes the claim on a bottle of V8 juice which says one 250ml glass will give you "3 serves of veg" very appealing. A reader asked me to look into this because her son drinks it daily instead of eating vegetables. "Is it good for him?" she asks.

A quick look at the label tells me it has to be, but can one small glass worth 50 calories really pack the nutritional punch of three servings of steamed broccoli or salad?

Vegetable juices
(98 per cent) (Reconstituted tomatoes (84 per cent)

Reconstituted simply means concentrated fruit juice mixed with water to bring it back to its normal state. At this high percentage we know this product is mostly tomato juice and the other vegetables are most likely here for flavour. Tomato juice is a good source of vitamins C and the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene has been the subject of many health studies which claim that a high intake can help reduce the incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. However there is no firm evidence this is the case. And the studies concentrated on tomato intake rather than lycopene supplements, which means the other nutrients found in tomatoes such as Vitamin C, folate and potassium might be giving benefits rather than the lycopene. One thing everyone agrees on is that tomatoes are very good for you.

Carrots
(7 per cent)

At 7 per cent you're getting about 17ml of carrot juice in your glass. There's vitamin A in carrots which helps maintain vision and a healthy immune system.

Celery
(4 per cent)

You can taste the celery in this juice but there's only 10ml of it in a glass. Celery is high in potassium and vitamin C.

Beetroot

No percentage given so we can assume this ingredient and the following three are in very small amounts which total 3 per cent or 7.5ml for all four in one 250ml glass. Beetroot is naturally sweet and a good source of folic acid magnesium and potassium.

Parsley

High in potassium this plant is usually used as a flavouring, which is probably the case here. However it is high in vitamins A and C and folate.

Lettuce

Home juicers often use lettuce in the mix because it is high in iron as well as vitamins A and C.

Watercress

This has a pleasant, slightly spicy taste and is very high in vitamin A.

Spinach

We all know spinach is high in iron but it also has potassium, folic acid, magnesium and vitamins A and C.

Salt

One 250ml glass will give you 634mg sodium which is high considering we should only eat between 460 and 920mg of sodium a day. It is well known that we should all reduce the amount of sodium we eat as it causes high blood pressure. This does taste very salty, but fortunately you can get a low-sodium version of V8 which only has 275mg in each serve.

Vitamin C

It is interesting that this vitamin has been added , as all the vegetables listed above are good sources of vitamin C. This could be due to the processing of this juice. Many juices are pasteurised or heated to a high heat to kill off any bugs and ensure the product will not go off when packaged and on the shelf. But in that process valuable vitamins like vitamin C get killed off. The V8 juice I bought has an expiry date of March, 2012.

Food acid (citric acid)

This is a natural acid which must be in here for flavour. The label states there are no added preservatives which is sometimes why citric acid is in food.

Natural flavour

There is some speculation on websites that the natural flavour used in this product is MSG or mono-sodium glutamate. In New Zealand and Australia where this juice is made you must legally list it on the ingredients panel if it is used in a food product, so we can safely say there is no MSG in here.

My recommendations

I like to drink V8 but I am sceptical about its claims that one 250ml glass contains three vegetable servings. And the British Nutrition Foundation says vegetable juice counts as one serving, regardless of the amount drunk. Our Ministry of Health says only one serving of juice can be counted in our total veggie or fruit servings total. When possible we should eat fresh and raw to make the most of natural fibre in vegetables. One glass of this drink will give you just 2g of fibre.

Highlights

* One glass will indeed give you three serves of veges, but after processing, it will have lost some of the equivalent nutritional value.

* Very high in sodium - choose the low-sodium variety.

* Should not replace fresh, raw vegetables, but okay as a supplement.


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- NZ Herald

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