The Difference Between Fruit Juice & Fruit Drinks

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With the abundance of juices on supermarket shelves, it’s a wonder anyone can distinguish 100 percent fruit juice from a fruit drink. While fruit drinks contain some juice and have the same sweet taste as 100 percent fruit juice, the ingredients and taste are not the same.

100 Percent Juice

Read the label before you buy any juice. If a beverage is made from 100 percent fruit juice, it will say so on the label. If it does not, it is a fruit drink. And, don’t let advertising jargon trip you up. Juice bottles labeled juice drink, cocktail, beverage, punch or -ade, are not 100 percent fruit juice, notes American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition.

Read the Label

Aside from stating whether a beverage is 100 percent fruit juice, the label can be a wealth of information when it comes to figuring out which beverage is which. If the ingredient list on the label is lengthy, its probably a fruit drink. Ingredients are listed on the label in descending order by weight. If water is listed as the first ingredient on the list, followed by high-fructose corn syrup and a series of extracts, acids and sweeteners, the juice drink is not 100 percent.


While 100 percent fruit juice contains only the natural sugars from the fruit, fruit drinks may contain high-fructose corn syrup -- a high-calorie, heavy syrup made from cornstarch. High-fructose corn syrup tastes similar to table sugar and costs less, which accounts for its appeal in the processed food industry. Because some fruit drinks contain as little as 30 percent real fruit juice, artificial sweeteners and flavorings are added along with the high-fructose corn syrup to enhance the taste of the beverage.

Raw Juice

While most of the 100 percent fruit juices at the supermarket are pasteurized -- exposed to high heat to destroy bacteria -- unpasteurized 100 percent fruit juice is also available. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, unpasteurized natural fruit juices may contain bacteria, which can lead to food-borne illnesses. The same is true for raw juices sold in farmer’s markets and roadside stands. If you are unsure whether a juice is pasteurized, the FDA suggests you boil it before drinking.