I want more cranberry juice.
July 16, 2010 7:31 AM   Subscribe

I love cranberry juice. It is the best juice. It is delicious. Is it bad for me?

For the last two months or so, I've been obsessed with cranberry juice. I drink it constantly. Like, for example, last Thursday I went to the corner market and bought four (Four!) of those 64.0 oz. jugs of cranberry juice, and by Tuesday it was entirely and completely gone. This is not at all out of the ordinary - for the last several weeks I have been drinking cranberry juice at this prodigious rate and I don't know why - I just can't get enough.

At first I thought this wasn't really a problem. I figured it was better than chugging soda, and, you know, fruit juice, hey, fruit juice has to be good, right? But then I was at the store the other day and I noticed that there is also "light" cranberry juice - which, um, by implication means that the cranberry juice I have been drinking lately is somehow not light.

Now I'm wondering if I'm taking in a phenomenal amount of sugar and other nasty things and if all my well-intentioned cranberry juice drinking should somehow be curbed for my own well being.

Is it unhealthy to drink so much juice?
posted by kbanas to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Fruit juice has a lot of sugars, either added or natural, and none of the fiber of the whole fruit. So it's less than ideal.
posted by dfriedman at 7:34 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Depends on what the % real juice is - some juice cocktail can be a little juice mostly sweetened with fructose or artificial sweetener.
posted by quodlibet at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2010

Here's a good overview of the health issues of juice.
posted by dfriedman at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2010

Are you drinking "juice" or "juice cocktail?" Either will have a relatively high amount of sugar but "cocktail" drinks moreso.

"Light" cranberry juice = cranberry juice cut with water. You can do this yourself if you are so inclined.

Cranberry has some benefit in discouraging bacterial growth in the urinary tract. You can get this benefit sans all the extra sugar by taking cranberry capsules.

I don't think drinking cranberry juice is that much of a vice, as vices go, but you might want to consider cutting it with water to reduce your sugar intake if you're worried about it.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cranberries are naturally very, VERY tart, so there's a veritable buttload of sugar added. Do what I do and learn to love the deliciousness of the unsweetened berry! (I like them raw, but you can boil up about a cup of raw berries to 2 cups of water for your own tasty juice)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:36 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of cranberry juice (at least the stuff meant for drinking) is a mixture of actual juice with water and sugar - Ocean Spray Classic, for instance, is 25% juice. The pure stuff is a bit strong for most people's tastes, and will be even more sugary than the diluted stuff.

The 'light' version replaces the sugar with a sweetener. So, if you're ok with artificial sweeteners, it's much less sugary.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:37 AM on July 16, 2010

Fruit juice will invariably be really sugary, and cranberry juice especially is generally full of a lot of sweetener because of the nature of the fruit--you can find unsweetened cranberry juice, but it is a hell of a thing.

I also love cranberry juice, and here's what I do: I cut it with seltzer. It saves money, because good cranberry juice isn't super cheap, and it saves calories, and also it feels more treat-like or cocktailish, and I am very open to suggestion so I feel like I'm doing something very indulgent and decadent.
posted by padraigin at 7:38 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

You guys are seriously making me depressed.
posted by kbanas at 7:38 AM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

Whole fruit is better than fruit juice, which is usually (but not always!) better than soda. How much better fruit juice is than soda depends on the sugar content, etc. But fruit juice is usually missing the nutrients that whole fruit has, and that doesn't even count all the beneficial things in whole fruit that we don't know much about.

Take a look at the label--it will tell you how much sugar per serving the juice contains (sometimes they trick you by making the serving size small).

FYI: if you're drinking major-label "cranberry juice" (like Ocean Spray, etc), you're actually drinking a blend of juice--probably a little cranberry, more apple and/or grape, and a bunch of water.
posted by sallybrown at 7:39 AM on July 16, 2010

Because it is - it is the "juice cocktail" I have been drinking.

I am so sad.
posted by kbanas at 7:39 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cranberry juice has lots of benefits---helps prevent UTIs and it has antioxidents---but the sugar in any not 100% cranberry juice can negate those helpful attributes.

Maybe you can try getting some 100% cranberry juice, water it down a bit and a just the right amount of sugar---that will for sure be way less than any of the cocktails or other sugar added cranberry juice. I, personally, like the tart taste, so just water down the 100% juice.
posted by chiefthe at 7:41 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recommend taking the non-sugar added fruit juice and mixing it with club soda or seltzer water - it cuts the bitterness but still makes a refreshing drink.
posted by Think_Long at 7:42 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is 100% cranberry juice difficult to find? When I run up to the supermarket or whatnot it usually just seems to be, you know, "Ocean Spray Juice Cocktail!" which we've already established is probably not what I should be gulping down by the bucket.

Does one need to know the location of a certain fruit and vegetable juice speakeasy?
posted by kbanas at 7:43 AM on July 16, 2010

I think it's unhealthy to drink so much of the sugar (likely in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which may or may not be worse for you than table sugar, which ain't so hot either in those quantities) in the cranberry juice cocktail.

Cranberry "juice" is usually different from other major juices (apple, orange, grapefruit) because it's almost always a cocktail of a small percent of juice and a lot of sugar, because the pure juice is very tart.

Have you tried other cranberry things (made with whole berries)? That might sate some of your cranberry craving without drinking so much of the stuff.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:44 AM on July 16, 2010

You guys are seriously making me depressed.

Hey--it's not heroin or something, just fruit juice! If you love it, drink it. Just don't count it in your daily serving of fruits and veggies, and maybe cut down on how many grams of sugar you'd have otherwise. You only live once.

And yeah, someone I know swears by cranberry juice + sparkling water + a little squeeze of lime. It's pretty great.
posted by sallybrown at 7:44 AM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

100% juice is getting easier to find. Try the health/natural/gourmet foods section of the supermarket. But it will be really tart if you don't add anything to it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:45 AM on July 16, 2010

Most people find raw cranberry juice (and indeed raw dried cranberries) unpleasantly sour, so it is sweetened, as are packets of dried "raw" (ha!) cranberries. In general it is not a good idea to drink the amounts you're talking about of something so sweet. There may be additional problems depending on the amount and type of sweetener used by your preferred brand (is it sugar? HFCS? aspartame?). Light cranberry juice is likely to be lower in calories, but the sweeteners used in "diet" products are not the nicest chemicals in the world. It certainly won't kill you though, so try to cut down to couple of glasses a day, and maybe drink iced tea. Even with a teaspoon of sugar, iced tea is less sweet than retail cranberry juice, and tea pretty much makes you immortal ; )
posted by caek at 7:46 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is 100% cranberry juice difficult to find?

It hasn't been for me--the bottles are usually much smaller, and make a point of noting that they're 100% cranberry juice. Just make sure to check the label.

But, you know...you might not like it. It's pretty strong.
posted by sallybrown at 7:47 AM on July 16, 2010

You may not like 100% juice.

Try the light kind! It's really not bad. Don't get depressed until you've tried it light and realized that you don't like anything but the sugary cocktail.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:47 AM on July 16, 2010

kbanas - if your location is correct, you can find Knudsen's Just Cranberry at Kroger or Meijer.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:48 AM on July 16, 2010

(oh, and I can vouch for its tart, if expensive, deliciousness)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:49 AM on July 16, 2010

I am enticed by the idea of mixing the 100% juice with something and finding a happy medium. The idea of cranberry juice, sparkling water and lime that sallbrown describes above literally has me kind of drooling out the side of my mouth as it's close to 90 degrees outside and I'm imaging a big glass of it full of ice sitting here on my desk.


One of you go fetch this for me immediately. You will be richly rewarded.
posted by kbanas at 7:50 AM on July 16, 2010

If you drank four 64-oz. bottles of Ocean Spray 100% cranberry juice over the course of five days, that means you drank an average of 896 calories worth of juice each day, the same as about one and a half Big Macs (food energy wise, anyway). That may or may not be a lot depending on what else you eat and how much exercise you get. The figures are about the same for cranberry juice cocktail.
posted by pmdboi at 7:51 AM on July 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

You might also try diluting with some unsweetened soy milk. Half a glass of orange and mango juice topped up with soy milk is favourite treat right now (even if it does give me hell of a brain freeze).
posted by Ness at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

At all the groceries stores I go to there is 100% cranberry juice right next to the cocktail on the shelves. You just have to look for it - usually it says 100% in big letters somewhere on the label.

The 100% juice from Ocean Spray looks like this.

The cocktail looks like this.

This is just an example of what you are looking for. The stores around here typically have Ocean Spray, another brand name and a store brand with both cocktail and 100% juice.

Keep in mind that the 100% juice is mostly other juices (like apple or grape) blended with some cranberry juice. It is high in sugar, but doesn't have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

I also enjoy cranberry juice with sparkling water. You can also get flavored sparking water for mix-and-match fun.
posted by jeoc at 7:54 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love cranberry juice, but I drink the super-sour, pure version. Personally I love it. You may not. But getting the real stuff would give you the chance to mix it in whatever manner you want. You could add sugar and seltzer, for instance, and you would have control over the amount of each. I love this and this.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 7:55 AM on July 16, 2010

OP, my bet is it's the added sugar in the fake cranberry juice that's depressing you, not the nice MeFites who are just trying to help.

Buy natural, preferably organic, cranberry juice. This might help.
posted by Paris Elk at 7:55 AM on July 16, 2010

Trader Joe's has dried cranberries for two dollars a pack. I put them in yogurt, I let them soak up the juice of my extremely cold watermelon, I put them in tomato soup, I could definitely see making a simple beverage that has dried cranberries as their flavor source. Get thee to a Trader Joe's.
posted by effluvia at 7:59 AM on July 16, 2010

Just a warning - %100 cranberry juice is a tart bomb that explodes in your mouth and causes your throat to unnaturally constrict. Total asphyxiation should come as no surprise - keep an inhaler and a disposable pen handy in case you need to give yourself an emergency tracheotomy.
posted by Think_Long at 8:04 AM on July 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

"Craisins" or dried cranberries are generally full of a ton of added sugar as well, so beware!
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:13 AM on July 16, 2010

Real cranberry juice, soda water, and a twist of lime is delicious. Throw in a little bit of simple syrup (maybe triple sec instead) and you've got yourself a real-ass cocktail. I recommend that if you want something healthier with a similar taste.
posted by codacorolla at 8:15 AM on July 16, 2010

100% cranberry juice mixed with diet ginger ale is really good. Look at Trader Joe's or health food stores for the pure cranberry juice.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:27 AM on July 16, 2010

jeoc: The "100% juice" mix you linked to isn't 100% cranberry juice; rather, it's a mix of cranberry juice with other, sweeter juices (probably apple and/or white grape.) Since these other juices themselves contain sugar, it's pretty much a wash on the caloric level. You might get some advantage from the small amount of vitamins in the juice, but it's probably marginal.

Also, note that even unsweetened cranberry juice has a fair amount of natural sugar even before you make it (conventionally) palatable. Compare orange juice, for example. If you're looking to keep drinking cranberry juice but not to consume incredible amounts of sugar, your best bet is probably to buy 100% cranberry juice and add seltzer and sugar (and lime) to taste.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:32 AM on July 16, 2010

I am enticed by the idea of mixing the 100% juice with something and finding a happy medium.

If that something you mix with it is vodka* and soda (or 7-Up) and a lime, you will be very happy. Try also the blenderized version for a Slushie that's better than any you can get at a convenience store.

Assuming you drink, and don't drink to excess, and don't drive, and etc.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:37 AM on July 16, 2010

Juice that you buy at the supermarket that's 100% juice is not the same thing as unsweetened pure cranberry juice that you buy in a health food store. The latter is quite tart, the former is a mixture of other, sweeter juices, sweetener, and cranberry juice.

There's nothing wrong with drinking juice if you like it, just don't ignore the fact that it is fairly high in calories, if that's an issue for you.
posted by desuetude at 8:41 AM on July 16, 2010

I love 100% cranberry juice straight up, no sugar of any kind. I even love drinking 100% cranberry concentrate, undiluted. Give it a try -- you might be surprised at how much you like it!

However, if you find yourself wanting a slightly less puckery drink, I'd recommend using the cranberry concentrate to mix something that's to your taste. Sweeten with simple syrup (one part sugar, one part boiling water, mix to dissolve and store in the fridge) and add any sort of mixer you like (club soda, seltzer, other sweeter juices, plain water, etc).
posted by ourobouros at 8:46 AM on July 16, 2010

Yep, I have had no problem finding 100% cranberry juice (and 100% cranberry juice/blends, sometimes with pomegranate or blueberries). I'm in Iowa so you should be able to find it anywhere!

I usually buy the Ocean Spray or another 100% brand right next to it in the juice aisle. It is nothing special, although it may be more expensive than some non-100% brands. Juices still naturally have a lot of carbs, but I think cutting it with soda water is really refreshing - "mocktails" if you want to go there ;)
posted by sararah at 8:50 AM on July 16, 2010

The advantage of the pure unsweetened cranberry juice is that it functions as a concentrate. The Knudsen Just Cranberry that was linked above comes in a 16oz glass container, but it dilutes nicely at a fairly high water:cranberry ratio. Combine that with another AskMe favorite, the SodaStream home carbonator, and slash your use of HFCS and packaging.

Note: as Johnny Assay pointed out, pure unsweetened cranberry is still a fruit and it still has sugar. The Knudsen stuff has 18g of carbs (of which 9g are sugars), so diluting it is a good strategy on both the taste and sugar fronts.
posted by catlet at 8:53 AM on July 16, 2010

Yes, there are a lot of calories in juice. You might try drinking the same amount of liquid you are currently drinking, but diluting the juice with water or carbonated water so that the resulting drink is 1/3 - 1/2 juice. That will be a lot better for you. Drinking lots of water is very good for you, as long as you don't cross over into drinking extreme amounts of water.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2010

Juice that you buy at the supermarket that's 100% juice is not the same thing as unsweetened pure cranberry juice that you buy in a health food store. The latter is quite tart, the former is a mixture of other, sweeter juices, sweetener, and cranberry juice.
posted by desuetude

100% juice by definition does not contain sweeteners that are not other juices (obviously non-100% juices generally called "juice drink" or "juice cocktail" differ, if I remember correctly Ocean Spray cranberry cocktail is sweetened with beet sugar.)
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2010

I love juice too, but I usually drink the light juice cocktails, which is a blend of juice and water and Splenda. They're much lower in calories, and I don't mind the taste of Splenda with juice. You could try it out, along with the juice spritzer people are recommending. If you're not buying a light or diet juice cocktail, check to make sure that the label says 100% juice. That way, even if you're getting a blend of cranberry and other juices, you're not getting corn syrup and water blended with the juice.
posted by demiurge at 8:57 AM on July 16, 2010

The Trader Joe's in Ann Arbor carries 100% cranberry juice, unsweetened.
posted by needled at 9:00 AM on July 16, 2010

There's nothing wrong with drinking juice if you like it

I went through something like this a long time ago (with ice tea). Fact is, if you're going to habitually drink anything, try to make it water (maybe with a touch of lemon). This is not to say, don't drink fruit juice and other less pure sugary concoctions. Just do it consciously. Because in the end, where there's sweet, there's sugar and, even in its healthiest form, too much sugar is still too much.

As for 100% cranberry juice, I always keep a jug around and use it in various mixes and concoctions depending on the situation (including salad dressings and even cooking when there's no red wine around). It is actually VERY good for you, particularly for your urinary tract ... or so I hear.
posted by philip-random at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2010

One great way to get the flavor of drinking a "cranberry juice cocktail" without all the sugar, as well as to make the 100% juice stretch further, is to dilute it with seltzer. I put about a third of the glass 100% pure cranberry juice, and top it up with sparkling water. It's like my own homemade soda! But good for you!
posted by Sara C. at 9:35 AM on July 16, 2010

You're getting a ton of sugar, or, more likely, corn syrup. The cran is good for you; it's chock-full of vitamin C. The sugar is empty calories; fine if you're very active. Sugar makes you thirstier because it revs your metabolism, so it's a bit circular. You may simply be very thirsty because it's hot. A tall glass of bubbly water with a good glug of cran, plus the lime, and plenty of ice, is a great alternative.

A strong craving for lots of a very sugary beverage is a red flag for diabetes. Never hurts to know the signs.
posted by theora55 at 9:38 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

What we do in my household is cut the juice half and half with water. Makes for cheaper juice bills, too.
posted by davejay at 9:48 AM on July 16, 2010

Sadly, there are more calories in Ocean Spray 100% Cranberry Juice than there are in Coke Classic. Calorically I'm very sad to say, you'd have been better off drinking 4.25 cans of Coke every day than the 51 ounces of cranberry juice you consumed.
posted by ErikaB at 9:50 AM on July 16, 2010

Cranberry juice is really, really sour if not sweetened. So, yes, by default, it tends to be sweetened (either with other naturally sweeter juices, or maybe with plain sugar. Check label.)

However, no, I would not classify it as "bad for you." It is juice. Juice is not going to harm you unless you have some specific, underlying issue.

People go on specific-food phases throughout the year. This is how nutrition balances out, long-term. Nutritional balance is not an "every day, every plate" proposition for most people. We eat seasonally and sporadically. It's okay, really.

If you're concerned, get a physical and get your bloodwork checked. Ask Metafilter is a terrible source of general nutrition info, in my opinion. I am a dietetics student, for whatever it's worth.
posted by Ouisch at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2010

From the Ocean Spray website:

Cranberry Juice Cocktail


3.7 % Ocean Spray® Cranberry Concentrate
16.69 % High fructose corn syrup, 42% fructose, 71 Brix*
79.57 % Water
0.04 % Ascorbic Acid

* Staley Isosweet 100

It's got more HFCS in it than cranberry juice? Yuck. Sorry, but you've basically been drinking highly processed sugar water.
posted by matty at 10:30 AM on July 16, 2010

If you're going to be drinking a lot of cranberry juice, I would suggest you get organic. Regular cranberry cultivation is done with the extensive use of chemicals for pest and weed control.
posted by Runes at 10:37 AM on July 16, 2010

The 100% cranberry juice is best diluted not just for your wallet and caloric intake, but also because it is So Sour and Acidic that I have managed to make myself actually throw up by drinking too much of it all at once. So if you do your own diluting it will be good for many, many reasons.
posted by ldthomps at 11:25 AM on July 16, 2010

I like 100% cranberry juice, but water it down like crazy (like, 4 parts water to 1 part juice). That's strong stuff, and not cheap.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:02 PM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cranberry juice is also good with some Southern Comfort and a squeeze of lime.
posted by medeine at 1:38 PM on July 16, 2010

Picture this in order to become happy:

It is the dead of winter. Dark, cold, icy. You've just had a hellacious journey home from work.

What do you do?

Make yourself a mug of:

100% cranberry juice (1/4 of the mug)
Boiling water

Optional: Orange slices, cinnamon stick, root ginger slices or anything else wintery and tasty

At Christmastime, make a big pot of this on the stove and serve to friends.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:31 PM on July 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could check out the V8 line of fruit/veg juices. They make a cranberry-raspberry variety with no added sugar. They also have light versions, but just watering it down applies here as well.

I don't think anyone's mentioned this, but I'd imagine that another problem with juice is the acid content, and its effect on teeth. All in all, it's probably better to try to ween yourself off it. Go for once a day, then maybe every other day, etc.

Also, you might want to peruse "Drink This, Not That" for some interesting info.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:50 PM on July 16, 2010

I was at my supermarket today (hardly a health-food store -- it's called Price Chopper) and checked out the cranberry juice because I was thinking of this thread. There were several that advertised "no sugar added," including Ocean Spray. There were also several that advertised that they had "no high fructose corn syrup," including Ocean Spray. There was one kind of Ocean spray that claimed to be "100% juice" and have "no sugar added."
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:50 PM on July 16, 2010

Like TheSecretDecoderRing, I thought of damage to tooth enamel too. Cranberry juice ph is pretty acidic (though, can't tell from that source if their idea of "cranberry juice" is pure cranberry, or cranberry cut with other fruit juices).

On the other hand, when I googled "cranberry" and "tooth enamel" and "erosion," several recent reports turned up regarding cranberries as plaque inhibitors. So perhaps moderation would be worth considering.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:22 AM on July 17, 2010

kbanas, I know exactly what you mean. I looooove cranberry juice (usually the Light Ocean Spray), but then again I also enjoy pure lemon juice. I have sort of resolved to drink less juice, overall, and more sparkly mineral water because of the ideas also mentioned in this thread.

Sucks, doesn't it.
posted by Sutekh at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2010

It's got more HFCS in it than cranberry juice? Yuck. Sorry, but you've basically been drinking highly processed sugar water.
posted by matty

That's not the ingredient list for their Cranberry cocktail. That's some kind of recipe for using their concentrate to make your own. The ingredient list for cocktail has 30 g of sugar per serving and is: filtered water, cranberry concentrate, cane or beet sugar, ascorbic acid. For what it's worth that's 4 grams more sugar per serving than the 100% pineapple juice and the Juicy Juice 100% juice I have in my fridge
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2010

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