A day doesn’t go by that you don’t hear some new claim about how a particular food can help you live a better life. Here are a few we investigated to see if they live up to the hype.
PROMISE ACTIV SUPERSHOTS
Claims: It is “clinically proven to help remove cholesterol from your body” and drinking it “at least once a day with meals, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol … could reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol level.”
Facts: A serving provides 2 grams of plant sterols. According to Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., of the American Dietetic Association, the claims “are true. Foods containing at least 0.4 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a total daily intake of at least 0.8 grams, as part of a low-saturated-fat, low-trans-fat and low-cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Fiction: That we all need to drink this daily. It might help, but only if you have high LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Concerns: “The product has to be consumed regularly, like medication, in order to maintain the effects,” said Blatner. Additionally, the ingredients list is not for “purists.” It contains added sugar, canola oil, citric acid, mixed tocopherols, guar gum, xanthan gum, natural and artificial sweeteners, sucralose, maltodextrin, yellow and red dye, etc.
The Bottom Line: While it could help those with elevated LDL cholesterol, the product does require a commitment to daily use and will add calories.
MINUTE MAID ENHANCED ORANGE JUICES
Claims: Drinking Minute Maid enhanced juices provides health benefits such as improved joints, reduced cholesterol, nutrients to benefit the brain and body and overall better nutrition.
Facts: The Active product is made with 750 milligrams of glucosamine HCl per 8-ounce serving. Heart Wise has 1 gram of plant sterols per serving. And the Enhanced Pomegranate contains 50 milligrams of DHA omega-3 per serving, along with other nutrients.
Fiction: That your body is missing these nutrients, and if you drink this “enhanced” orange juice you’ll be OK. With reference to the Active juice, there is still very little proof that glucosamine helps joints.
In addition, in terms of all the juices mentioned, scientists aren’t sure why, but it appears that getting nutrients in their natural state helps promote good health. Thus, we’re not sure that “enhancing” foods has the same effect.
Concerns: Heart Wise: “Drinking enough (two 8-ounce glasses) to get a therapeutic dose would add 220 calories to your diet, which … could theoretically add 20 pounds in a year,” said Blatner.
Active: “Typically people take 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine for joints daily. If they started to drink the juice instead, they would need 2 cups daily, which is 240 calories. Beware that you don’t add extra pounds drinking your joint supplement, because added weight makes joint pain worse, not better,” said Blatner.
Enhanced Pomegranate: Research on omega-3/DHA and beneficial brain protection looks strong, but 50 milligrams in a glass of juice is equivalent to only about a teaspoon of salmon. If you really want the omega-3 benefits, include two fish meals a week, said Blatner. Furthermore, while the Heart Wise juice provides many of the healthful vitamins and minerals in plain old orange juice (potassium, folate, vitamin C), the pomegranate variety lacks folate and has about 40 percent less potassium than regular orange juice, said Zied.
Bottom Line: You’re better off eating an orange and drinking water. However, if you’re already drinking juice, this might not be a bad replacement. “Replacing fruit juice with an enhanced version to boost your intake of plant sterols (Heart Wise) or glucosamine (Active) or DHA (Pomegranate Blueberry) may not hurt, but it may not give you the magic bullet you’re looking for,” said Eliza Zied, M.S., R.D., author of Feed Your Family Right.
WELCH’S GRAPE JUICE
Claims: It has twice the antioxidant power of orange juice and will help protect your immune system. “Welch’s 100 percent Grape Juice was ranked the No. 1 Antioxidant Beverage among over 1,000 commonly consumed foods and beverages in an independent study measuring antioxidant capacity per serving.”
Facts: Grapes are a powerful source of antioxidants, as are other foods such as blueberries, coffee, pomegranates, etc.
Fiction: Grape juice helps protect you from disease. “Grape juice alone will not protect your immune system and promote heart health. It is one food that can be added to a balanced diet of other fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans to prevent disease,” said Blatner.
Concerns: “Juice is high in calories and low in fiber. Grape juice has 170 calories per 8 ounces and 0 grams of fiber, whereas a cup of blueberries (similar in antioxidants) has only 84 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber,” said Blatner. While it is a good source of antioxidants, “It’s missing things like potassium, folate and other nutrients found in orange juice — and has 50 more calories per cup than orange juice and a whopping 40 grams of sugar,” adds Zied.
Bottom Line: You’re probably better off eating grapes.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder and editor of DietDetective.com.