The Bitter Sweet Truth-The Sugar Content of Fruit Juices, Fizzy Drinks and Cordials

Today we are proud to excerpt some pockets of knowledge that was recently published from our in-house dietician, Francette Bekker. Here she sheds light on exactly how much sugar we are consuming through our day-to-day beverages.

Fruit juices are a source of fructose (natural fruit sugar) and is high in micronutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and potassium. The 100% fruit juices do not contain any added sugar, but this does not mean that these products are low in sugar or sugar free. A label indicating “no sugar added” can be very misleading to the uninformed consumer. In fact, 100% fruit juices are often just as sweet as fruit juice blends, cordials, fizzy drinks and iced tea blends. The purpose of the sugar tax is to help combat overweight and obesity in South Africa, but if consumers believe that 100% fruit juice is not taxed, because it is a healthier low sugar option than their usual fizzy drink, then the sugar tax will make no difference to the sugar intake of the population. See Table 1 below for some examples of the sugar content of 100% fruit juices, fizzy drinks, cordials, iced teas and sports drinks. It is clear that 100% fruit juices often contain more total sugar (albeit natural sugar) than other sugar sweetened beverages.

Ceres 100% Orange juice 11g

Ceres 100% Hanepoort grape juice 14,2g

LiquiFruit 100% Red grape juice 13,6g

Woolworths Spiderman 100% Apple juice 9,4g

Woolworths 100% Orange juice 6,1g

Ceres Fruit & Water Swirl Fruit punch 4,9g

Ceres Fruit & Water Swirl Apple juice 6,3g

BOS iced tea Peach 5,9g

Lipton iced tea Peach 4,5g

Powerade Jaggered ice sports drink 5,9g

Game sports drinks (reconstituted) 6g

aQuelle Lime flavoured water 4g

Fruitree Jabba Zippy 6% Orange drink 5,6g

Capri-Sun Apple & Cherry 10% fruit drink 12g

Oros 9,9g

Oros lite Naartjie 5,1g

Coke 10,6g

A portion of fruit juice is 125ml, equivalent to the amount of juice that can be squeezed from one whole fruit. A glass of fruit juice consumed at home will equate to between 300ml to 400ml. This is almost the same as consuming three whole fruits, which very few people will do. In comparison to the whole fruit, the fruit juice will also contain much less fibre and often no fibre at all. The healthiest option is to consume the entire fresh fruit, instead of drinking only the juice. If fruit juices are consumed, it should be taken in small quantities (125ml) with added water. The Ceres brand has launched a pre-mixed diluted fruit juice called “Fruit & Water Swirl” drink which contains 40% water and 60% fruit juice and has no sugar added. The drink contains 4.9g total sugar per 100ml. This is almost half the amount of sugar found in other fruit juices (see Table 1).

In response to the sugar tax announcement Clover brought out Tropika Slenda, their first sugar free beverage. Some manufacturers are also slowly changing the composition and packaging of their products. An example of this is the Coca-Cola company - have you noticed that the buddy fizzy drinks are smaller these days? Instead of the usual 500ml buddy cold drinks, stores are selling a new 440ml size. In addition to changing in the packaging, drinks like Cream Soda and Fanta now also contain non-nutritive sweeteners sodium cyclamate and sodium saccharin. This is surely an attempt to lower the concentration of total sugar in beverages and thus lower the sugar tax levy.

Whatever the motives we welcome manufacturers’ strategies to lower the sugar content of beverages. It is important that consumers are aware of the ingredients in the products, so that they can make healthier choices. In conclusion we recommend that consumers opt for water. Water is the healthiest beverage option. To add flavour slices of lemon, cucumber, mint leaves or fruit can be added. Another delicious and healthy, sugar free option is rooibos tea, which can be cooled and infused with lemon or fresh fruit slices.

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