If you switch on the television these days, you will get the impression that the whole country is doing nothing but guzzling glass after glass of mango juice. From happy, bouncing kids to glamorous divas, anyone and everyone can be seen selling a carton of packaged mango nectar to heat-beaten, exhausted consumers. If you can tear your eyes away from Katrina Kaif, who wants us to believe that savouring a mango drink is nothing short of an intensely sensual experience, then look at the composition and ingredients of the juice before you pick up a carton. Nutritionists insist that the choice of the brand should depend not on the superstar who endorses it but on parameters such as the amount of pulp, sugar levels and the type of preservatives that have been used.
Mango juice vs mango drink
There are four categories of packaged mango drinks available in the Indian market today. Mind it, we say 'drinks' and not juices; not all mango drinks can reach the exalted status of juices, they need to meet some parameters to be called so, starting with the composition.
If you go by the definition given by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a fruit juice is either natural or 100 per cent concentrate without added sweeteners. It further states that anything less than 100 per cent concentrate is labelled a drink, beverage or cocktail. Fruit drinks are defined as calorically sweetened beverages with a small percentage of fruit juice or juice flavouring containing carbonated water. They have less than 20 per cent concentrate and may or may not include fortifiers such as vitamin C. In India, for instance, PepsiCo offers a range of both mango juices and beverages, starting with Slice which is a 'drink' and Tropicana and Tropicana 100% which are juices. "Please note that fruit juice and fruit beverage / fruit drink are standard categories under the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India Regulations. As such, Tropicana 100% is covered by standard 'fruit juice' and the remaining range of Tropicana and Slice are covered by same standard 'fruit beverage / fruit drink,' says a PepsiCo India spokesperson. Similarly, Parle Agro's Frooti and Coca-Cola's Maaza are fruit drinks, while Hector Beverages' Paper Boat Aamras, which contains 45 per cent pulp, is a juice.
- "The first and lowest quality of mango drinks makes use of water, sugar, preservatives and fruit essence, something like Rasna. Just like vanilla essence is not made from real vanilla, the mango essence too is not derived from the fruit. Instead, it is a synthetic chemical that resembles the flavour.
- Higher up the ladder comes the category that contains some part of the preserved fruit concentrate, sugar and water. These can be classified as 'juice'.
- The third category composes of real fruit pulp, concentrate, water and sugar.
- And the fourth is the sugar-free category like Tropicana 100% which has no added sugar but real pulp, concentrate and water. While the fruit used in the pulpy juices is very much real, it's not necessary that it will be mango. For instance, apples are often mixed with really saccharine fruit like grapes to lend an intensely sweet taste to the juice. There might be very little mango, with huge quantities of cheaper fruits like beetroot being added.
High on sugar
Of all the fad diets peddled by wellness gurus these days, the fruitarian diet seems to be the most popular. But those who think that they will go from flab to fab with packaged juices, think again! In fact, doctors believe that even fruits should be eaten in moderation, due to the high levels of fructose present in them. "More than 50 gram of fructose per day can be counter productive and can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease," says Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist and founder, weightmonitor.com. She considers packaged juices low on fibre and disguised forms of fructose. "Unlike other sugars like glucose, ingestion of excessive fructose is associated with insulin resistance, thus leading to metabolic syndrome, including increased blood sugar levels, high triglycerides, high uric acid, fat deposition in the liver, weight gain and eventually obesity and Type-2 diabetes," says Khosla.
|Know your brand|
Another issue with packaged mango juices is that they are high on simple sugars and contain very little complex sugars, which is not ideal for those with a sedentary lifestyle. What about the fresh juices churned out by your neighbourhood vendor? Are they any better? "I would say not. The hygiene levels at these places is very low. Moreover, they add syrups and concentrates to sweeten it. So again, these juices are loaded with sugars," says Sharma.
Read the fine print
While most nutritionists like Khosla don't recommend having packaged juices at all, ("Have a fruit or fresh vegetable juices. If you want to indulge yourself, then dilute 100 ml of juice with water or soda," she says) if you really MUST have it then check the pulp content, sugar levels and expiry date before you buy a juice carton from the supermarket. "Even one tablespoon of sugar is high enough. It is equivalent to 15 gram. If a fruit juice carton declares the sugar level as 20 gram then it contains five teaspoons of sugar, which is very high," says Sharma. One should also check the preservatives and stabilising agents used. "A lot of juices use soya protein to add texture and as stabilising agents. Those with soya allergy should avoid those," she adds.
"The fruit juice/pulp content in our fruit beverages is more than the minimum quantity prescribed in the regulations - for example Tropicana fruit juice beverages offers far higher juice content than these regulatory norms, while "Tropicana 100% Fruit juices" are simply 100 per cent juices without any added sugar, preservative, artificial colour or flavouring. All the ingredient data as well as nutritional information is provided clearly on the packs as well as on our website"
- PepsiCo spokesperson"All Paper Boat drinks are natural (though not 100 per cent natural). Aamras contains nature-identical flavouring substances and 45 per cent mango pulp. Our drinks do not contain added colours or artificial flavouring substances."
- Hector Beverages spokesperson