Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Healthier Glass of Juice

Last week’s announcement that orange juice imported from Brazil may contain a fungicide not approved for use in the U.S., and several recent reports about the type and quantity of arsenic in apple and grape juices have me asking: Is juice safe for my children to drink?

If you haven’t heard about this issue, you can read about Dr. Oz’s tests on apple juice here, and read an article about the Consumer Reports test results on apple and grape juice here.  While most interpretations of the test results suggest the levels of contamination are below the levels of concern, as a parent, I want to know what my children might be drinking.  This is particularly important to me, since I purchase 100% juices in order to avoid the additives in “juice drinks.”  Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and the lead found in some of the tested samples can affect brain development.  The fungicide found in orange juice, carbendazim, affects reproduction in animals.

Courtesy of Consumer Reports
How are these chemicals getting into our juice?  According to Consumer Reports, in the past, arsenic was used in agricultural pesticides and as a wood preservative for decks and playground structures.  It is also released into the air during smelting and coal burning.  Lead was also used as an agricultural pesticide.  Soils, air, and water remain contaminated from previous and current practices.

I have always been concerned about the amount of juice my children drink, mostly because of its high sugar content.   Yes, juice has nutrients like vitamin C and fiber, but the sugars from the fruit are concentrated, making it sweet enough for children (and adults) to drink a lot more of it than they should.  Aside from the concerns about ingesting lots of sugar, given a choice, most children would prefer to drink juice instead of water.

My children are no exception, even though I dilute the juice they drink with water.  Doing this ensures that they are drinking water in addition to juice and that they don’t grow accustomed to sweet tasting drinks.  While my children also drink undiluted juice when others serve it to them, they are in the habit of adding water to their juice themselves when we are at home.  They take their cups to the water dispenser and top them off.

If you want to try diluting juice for your children, start off with mostly juice and a little water, then increase the water content little by little.  Stronger tasting juices, like grape, are palatable with a lot more water than juice.  Thicker juices, like orange, are the other way around.

Another way I limit their juice consumption is by serving only water with lunch.  I don’t even ask them what they want to drink when serving lunch; they get a cup of water, and they will often refill it themselves.  My older daughter takes a water bottle to school in her lunch box, and can also choose bottled water from the cafeteria line when she buys her lunch.  While she doesn’t always drink the whole bottle, she is learning that water is the drink that goes with lunch.

If you can afford to buy organic juice, that may be the best way to avoid contamination, although fields may still retain pesticide residue from many years ago.  We don’t have that many organic juice options where we shop, so for now, we have stopped buying juice made from fruit or concentrate from China, where arsenic based pesticides are still used.  We have also learned to check the packaging, as the store brand that we usually buy is sometimes sourced in China and sometimes not.  The FDA has stopped shipments of orange juice from Brazil for now, but it is worth keeping track of what happens with the tests they are conducting.  I will try to update you with another post if there is more news about this topic.


  1. Thanks Elisa! I too add water to my kids juice. I've had my kids on a mixtures of 3/4 water and 1/4 juice for many years. It's worked well! I started doing this back when my oldest two kids kept getting bad diaper rashes. After I added water to the juice they started to get better! That was my proof that too much juice is not a good thing. Thanks for the juice info! God bless!

  2. Yikes. We have Tropicana o.j. imported partly from Brazil! The kids don't drink much o.j., but my husband has a glass every morning. I also water down the juice for my kids and they generally only have this with lunch and the rest of the time just water or organic milk/almond milk in a smoothie. It seems as if nothing is safe anymore. I'm sure although our water is filtered it probably has some bad metals, minerals, or chemicals too. I guess all we can do is try our best with the knowledge we do obtain. Thanks, Elisa for this post.

  3. Thanks to both of you for your comments. Jen, unfortunately, there is little we can do about the water supply, other than filter it again ourselves. I try not to stress about that too much, but there is definitely a need for more activism around cleaning up and protecting our drinking water from contamination.

  4. I love this post!! I am always working on serving water to the girls and I am encouraged to hear your girls put water into their juice cups on their own!! What are your thoughts on juicing with a juicer?? I used to drink Carrot, Apple, Beet juice juiced from a juicer, I stopped because of mixed reviews on the the true benefits..... would love to hear your feedback!!

    1. Alicia, I have never tried using a juicer, but I think it can certainly be a good way to get vitamins and other nutrients as well as the living enzymes in raw food. A friend of mine with Fibromyalgia just posted on FB that juicing organic veggies and fruits helped her tremendously with her most recent pain episode. I'm thinking about getting a juicer myself now. If you try juicing veggies for your daughters, let me know how it goes.


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