Why concentrates make fruit snacks unhealthy
Although many in the fruit snack industry build their products around inexpensive fruit juice concentrates, consumers should think carefully before consuming their snacks or offering them to their children.
Snacks made from fruit juice concentrates are a poor substitute for those made from whole fruits because concentration strips healthy fiber and nutrients out of the fruit and adds needless sugar.
Fruit concentrates are found everywhere, from granola bars to orange juice to cereal.
Juice concentrates were created so American troops in World War II would have a dependable source of vitamin C. Unable to send fresh juice overseas, scientists developed a heat treatment to remove water from the juice. This resulted in a sugary syrup that was easy to mail and could be mixed with water to be turned back into a form of orange juice. Basically, fruit concentrate is "fruit with the water removed," says Caroline West Passerrello, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The process of making juice concentrate takes Mother Nature’s flavor, color, and nutrition along with it. Many companies attempt to artificially add some of that back, using ingredients like Red 40 and synthetic vitamins like ascorbic acid. Vasanti Malik, a research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says people should view fruit concentrate as an added sugar, similar to high-fructose corn syrup. In fact, the FDA has announced plans to require manufacturers to label some fruit juice concentrates as an added sugar.
A few snack companies, including Peaceful Fruits, use only whole fruits in their products. They puree whole fruit, leaving fiber and nutrients intact. Think of those products like a smoothie — fruit is simply blended up with all of Mother Nature’s good stuff still in there. Consumers looking snacks that will fill them up and give them the nutrients they need should look for ingredient labels indicating whole fruits or whole fruit purees rather than fruit concentrates.