From Fooducate reader Luke: “My question has to do with V8 (the original, or the spicy hot version of the original). Avoid? OK to buy? Please help!”
We certainly can understand the confusion. Just take a look at V8′s marketing messages on each and every bottle:
Heart Check Endorsement from the American Heart Association
“100% Vegetable Juice”
Reads as if we should be drinking gallons a day…
What you need to know:
Let’s begin with V8′s claims that it is “100% Vegetable Juice”. Too bad their website does not include the ingredient list. Is there something to hide? We found the ingredient elsewhere, and reading it, one can see that, true, all the juice is from vegetables, but there are added ingredients. Here’s the list:
Tomato Juice From Concentrate (Water, Tomato Concentrate), Reconstituted Vegetable Juice Blend (Water and Concentrated Juices of Carrots, Celery, Beets, Parsley, Lettuce, Watercress, Spinach), Salt, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Flavoring, Citric Acid.
The number 1 addition is water! Notice that V8 is from concentrate. This means that the veggies were at one point juiced, but for logistical purposes, the water content was removed. (Same thing happens with orange juice). So you’re not getting freshly juiced vegetables. For all we know the veggies have been stored in refrigerated vats as concentrate for months.
Interesting addition to the list are the salt, vitamin C, and flavorings. A single glass of V8 contains 480mg of sodium, or 20% (!!!) of the daily maximum. Compare to 135mg for a small McDonald’s French Fries, or 290mg for a medium.
Why so much salt you ask? Because it tastes good. There’s a low sodium option with only 140mg, and after you taste it, you’ll understand. But could there be a middle ground, or some attempt to slowly reduce the salt content over time?
The added vitamin C is worth mentioning too. Why would a vitamin rich juice need any additions? Well, vitamin C is one of the mot volatile micronutrients, in a sense that it easily and quickly “evaporates” from fruits and vegetables the moment they are exposed to oxygen. So food processors simply add more. V8 adds a lot more – it contains 120% of the daily value.
The added flavorings are always a riddle. They are trade secrets, and are usually crafted to make a product smell and taste better. So is V8′s great taste to be attributed to the natural veggies, or some laboratory in New Jersey? Most likely a mix of both.
A glance at the nutrition panel shows only 2 grams of fiber, which is really low considering all the fiber rich vegetables that went into the juice. But that’s what happens when you turn a solid into a liquid – lots of the fibrous content is discarded. The sugar count is 8 grams (2 teaspoons), but none has been added, it’s all from the vegetables themselves.
What about the calories? a glass of V8 will set you back only 50 calories. Compare to a glass of orange juice with 120 calories, or soda pop with 90.
As for the other marketing claims – shame on the American Heart Association for endorsing this product. High sodium intake leads to heart problems, and the AHA is actively encouraging people to reduce their consumption. From the AHA website:
High-sodium diets are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Reducing the amount of sodium you consume can help lower high blood pressure or prevent it from developing in the first place. Keeping your blood pressure at healthy levels is important, because high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks or stroke.
The American Heart Association recommends that you choose and prepare foods with little or no salt to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
So why in the world would the AHA recommend a product that with once glass reached a third of the daily maximum? (hint: Campbell’s, the owner of V8 brand, pays the AHA a hefty sum for each product endorsed.)
As for the “Essential Antioxidants” blurb, it has absolutely no meaning, no way to be verified, and unfortunately misguides shoppers.
Bottom line: V8 may not as bad as soda, but is a far cry from a daily, nurturing habit. The high sodium content is very worrying, and from a veggie perspective, you are better off consuming the real deal, fiber and other fresh nutrients included.
What to do at the supermarket:
As an occasional treat, juice and even soda can be OK. But make it a habit to avoid the beverage aisles at the supermarket. Drink tap water. Save money. Save the earth. And save your “discretionary calorie” allocation for a really decadent dessert…
[Update: See V8's response in the comments below. What do you think?]