Christmas means cranberries. Why is it that Christmas means consuming foods and drinks that no one likes! Get a group of four people together and (even assuming there are no coeliacs, Muslims, Jews, vegetarians, vegans or nut allergy sufferers) you will be hard pressed to get everyone to consume smoked salmon, sprouts, Christmas pudding, mince pies and ham. Cranberry sauce, made with lots of port, is essential to me (unless I have redcurrant jelly instead) to get those dry slices of turkey down my throat but cranberries are not my favourite fruit. Their bitterness is good with the Christmas meal because it cuts through the richness of the rest of the food. As I get older I positively like bitter foods. I have a feeling that our bodies tell us what they need through cravings and at the moment I really want something bitter and have been keeping my eyes open for some Angostura, to no avail.
Cranberry juice always seems something of an oxymoron to me. Cranberries have very little juice, something you can prove if you wash some because they float like lifejackets on the water and, of course, they are famously ‘picked’ by flooding the fields and scooping off the floating fruits. Pure cranberry juice must be horribly bitter and concentrated and I doff my hat to the ‘juice’ producers – getting juice from a cranberry must be akin to getting blood out of a stone!
Anyway, I had this desire to buy cranberry juice the other day although I don’t really like it. But with its bitterness and usefulness for urinary problems* (not that I knowingly have any) it can’t do any harm getting some. But knowing that cranberries don’t have much juice I thought I would check the labels to see what is in them.
First, Ocean Spray. I was surprised that not all the cranberries were American and wondered how many were from Chile though I suppose it is to maintain a year-round supply. Lots of sugar, water as the first ingredient and concentrated juice (27%) all made sense but I was surprised it contained carrot! Price €2.05.
Next was Sqeez.
This had less cranberry content (19%) but was much the same really although it had no carrot juice. But they do add natural cranberry flavour. Maybe if they put more cranberries in they wouldn’t have to add extra flavour!
The Juice Press drink had the most cranberry juice (30%) and was the best buy really at €1.95 with no extra additives.
What struck me was the amount of sugar in these drinks. I know there is now a huge issue about sugar consumption and I don’t think we should necessarily panic about it. Maybe it would be nice if they added apple juice instead of water and sugar although natural apple sugar is just as calorific as refined sugar. And the combination of all that sugar and acid will make dentists quake.
Of course there are are low-sugar options but all seem to contain some or lots of sucralose and I try to avoid it. I think that sugar, being natural, is better, in moderation and I trust that, since it states sugar on the labels, this is not high-fructose corn syrup.
Not that you would necessarily drink a litre of these drinks at one sitting it is worth noting that the calorie content of these drinks is:
Ocean Spray and Sqeez 460 cals
The Juice Press 510 cals
Which made me wonder how these stack up against that old villain – Coke. A litre of Coke would only contain 420 cals, which makes you think. Of course, the juice will contain lots of vitamins and antioxidants and will be just as nice diluted with water to reduce the cals. But it does go to show that we shouldn’t get too hung up about sugar content alone or Coke will become a health drink!
* Many years ago when my poor old cat regularly had cystitis I used to twice-daily administer cranberry concentrate from a capsule (orally!) and it worked. I don’t think she was very happy about it but squeezing out the red paste on my finger and shoving it down her throat cleared her problems without having to resort to the vet.