Q. What should I look for when buying fruit juice? For example the “100% pure and natural orange juice” says it contains 0% Vitamin C. How is that possible? Another one provides 100% Vitamin C but from the list of ingredients we see that Vitamin C is actually added.
A. The USDA considers a half cup of fruit juice equivalent to a serving of fruit but I have my doubts. Processed fruit juice–even 100% juice–is a distant second to fresh whole fruit in terms of its nutritional value.
For one thing, fruit juice is a very concentrated source of sugar and calories. All the fiber, which slows the absorption of the sugars in whole fruit, has been removed.
Secondly, many (most?) of the naturally-occurring nutrients are lost during processing, pasteurization, and storage. As you found, manufacturers may compensate for this by adding nutrients back to the juice after the fact. You could get the same benefit from taking a vitamin C capsule.
Nutritionally, I’d rank processed fruit juice only slightly higher than soda and other sweetened beverages.
If you choose to drink fruit juice, consume it in moderation. Freshly-prepared juice (made from whole fruit with a juicer and consumed immediately) preserves more of the antioxidants. But for the full nutritional benefits of fruit, I think you’d be far better off consuming whole fresh fruit–and drinking water!