The 100% or 'Pure' fruit juice drinks made from concentrated juice or pulp of fruit have been popular for many years and were something many of us grew up understanding to be a 'natural' and healthy thing for the whole family, and especially a good way to give children vitamins. The kind of brands we see in our shops on St Helena include the Rhodes, Ceres and Liqui Fruit juices, sold in 1 litre large cartons, and smaller snack cartons and cans.
In more recent years, the rapid rise in obesity, among both adults and children, and the soaring rates of type-two diabetes across the world caused nutritional scientists to identify the high rates of fruit sugars (Fructose) in fruit juices as a problem. While these are different types of sugar to the refined sugars added for example to carbonated or 'fizzy' soft drinks, they act in a similar way to raise blood sugar very sharply and also contain calories, and can also contribute to weight gain and risk of diabetes, which are big health issues on our Island. Because the fruit sugars in fruit juices are also highly concentrated it means the amount of sugar in a glass is substantial.
For comparison, while an average 330ml can of carbonated soft drink contains between nine to ten teaspoons of sugar and 140 calories, depending on brand, an equivalent amount of 100% or 'Pure' fruit juice also contains nine to ten teaspoons in Fructose or fruit sugars and 150 calories.
Health Promotion & Social Marketing Lead, Dr Angie Jackson-Morris, commented:
It is confusing for consumers when they see these fruit juice brands that are marketed as 'Natural' or 'Pure' and sometimes state 'No added sugar' on the carton. We also have a legacy of being advised that fruit is good for you. Fruit is very good for you but the problem with these 100% fruit drinks is that they contain large and concentrated amounts of fruit sugars and put a lot of sugar in your system and add a lot of calories in just one drink. As part of the Merchants Partnership, we are giving consumers accurate, clear information and advice to help them understand what is good and not so good. The initiative also is about practically increasing supplies of the genuinely sugar-free drink alternatives so that people can understand what is better but also find it in their shops to buy.
Tap water, bottled water, and low-fat milk are healthy alternatives, and if you like more flavour see the ranges of 'sugar-free' flavoured waters, cans of soft drinks, diluting squash, and lunch box drinks that are being made more available in the St Helena shops under the Merchants Partnership. If you don't see the drink type you want the sugar-free version of, ask your merchant if they can explore extending their stock to include these. A piece of fruit to eat is a great alternative way to provide the vitamins found in fruit juices, and the amount of sugar and calories consumed is a lot less than if we drink undiluted fruit juice. Plus they have healthy fibre.
In response to the common question -'Should we never drink 100% Fruit Juices?' -Dietician, Gina Giebner, advised:
Diluting 100% fruit juice with water helps to lower the sugar content. Dilute one part juice and nine parts water. You can still enjoy an occasional glass diluted in this way. Remember, that you can do this with bigger cartons at home but it's not possible to do this with the small cartons or cans. For the majority of your drinks, sugar-free ones are a healthier choice, especially if you need to lose or watch your weight, and for children and teenagers. For children under three, water and milk is all they need.
People can identify the sugar-free drinks in the shops marked with the 'Saints Together' heart symbol to save people having to check labels and try to understand whether the product is a good one. Solomons' The Star, Half Tree Hollow Supermarket and Silver Hill Shop have begun, and Rose & Crown and Longwood Supermarket, The Victoria, and Thorpe's Grocery Store will be extending their stock and signposting people to the healthier choices from 1 August onwards.
Source: St Helena Government