Odwalla, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Coca Cola Company, has been making juices, smoothies, and food bars since the mid 1980′s. A company representative reached out to us a few weeks ago regarding a new product with the very promising name you see in the title of this blog post.
We had samples sent to loyal fooducate community member Susan and her family, while we tried to figure out this plant sterol business. Here is what Susan had to say:
My husband was excited to see “heart health” on the label. He’s been battling high cholesterol for over 20 years.
The back label of this Odwalla Heart Health beverage has a serious little black box stating:
“PLANT STEROLS & HEART DISEASE: foods containing at least 0.4g per serving of plant sterols, consumed twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of Odwalla Heart Health contains 0.4 grams of plant sterols. One bottle of Owdalla Heart Health contains 0.8g of plant sterols.”
Wowee. All my hubby has to do is guzzle one bottle of this stuff a day and he “may reduce his risk of heart disease”. Sounds easy, right?
Unfortunately, no one in my family could find a way to actually drink an entire bottle.
It was too thick. Too gooey.
Hubby thinned it out with water, but still was unable to drink an entire bottle of the heart healthy beverage. One of my daughters poured some into a fancy plastic wine glass but only took a few sips. She said it was too dense to drink.
As for me, just looking at the myriad of ingredients, 13 in all, did not make me thirsty:
APPLE JUICE, PEACH PUREE, BANANA PUREE, STRAWBERRY PUREE, BOYSENBERRY PUREE, PLUM PUREE, LESS THAN 2% OF WATER, CONCORD GRAPE JUICE, PINEAPPLE JUICE, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, PLANT STEROLS, VEGETABLE AND BERRY EXTRACTS (PURPLE CARROT, BLACK CARROT AND LINGONBERRY) AND CITRUS PULP.
Most of the ingredients I could pronounce and recognize as a food. The two that weren’t were potassium phosphate and “plant sterols”. Where are these magical sterols from, anyway?
Plant sterols are extracts of certain plants that, when ingested, have been shown to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. They’re naturally found in most whole foods and are now finding their way into all sorts of food products. Time will tell if plant sterols are the real deal or just hype.
All that fruit puree and fruit juice adds up to quite a sugar rush. I really don’t see how drinking a beverage like this, sterols or not, can work to reduce your cholesterol. As a matter of fact, there is a pediatric endocrinologist out at UCSF who has some research to show that drinking fruit juice can actually raise your cholesterol - Sugar the Bitter Truth
I think our family will pass. We’ll just eat real fruit and drink some water instead.
What you need to know:
Susan pretty much summed up the nutrition review, but we’d like to add a few points:
Each bottle actually contains 2 servings, not one, and supposedly is not meant for one portion. Perhaps that is the reason that nobody was able to finish the drink.
The sugars in the juice are all from the fruit, but at 26 grams, (8.5 teaspoons per serving) or 17 teaspoons for the bottle, that’s a lot of sugar! You’d have to eat 3 apples or 4 oranges to get the same amount. And you’d feel a lot more satiated.
When you eat real fruit, you also enjoy the benefit of fiber and hundreds of additional nutrients that don’t necessarily make it into the juice. In this product, the fiber content is not even mentioned (which is strange because the FDA mandates the labeling of fiber content). It’s probably safe to assume that there is little to no fiber in this juice.
We like the fact that the ingredient list is mostly understandable to humans. The potassium phosphate is an additive that emulsifies the contents in the bottle, keeping all the bits and pieces mixed together.
Plant sterols, also know as phytosterols, are “steroid alcohols” that occur naturally in plant oils, such as soybean oil. Their cholesterol lowering effect has been studied, but not all the tests have been positive so far. That’s why the phrasing is carefully worded “May reduce…”
The product name is carefully phrased though, to lead consumers to believe they have found the fountain of youth…
What to do at the supermarket:
Fruit juice should be considered a treat, not a beverage for hydration. We’ve got free tap water for that. Choose 100% fruit juices when you do choose. As for health claims, better to get the real deal from real fruit.