Fruit extracts, the best 4

from Giorgio Sassi

In the heat of summer, keeping your body hydrated is an absolute health imperative. Even better if, together with water, we also fill up with mineral salts and precious protective and antioxidant factors. For this, the fruit to drink it can certainly be a choice that is as healthy as it is fresh and tasty, but beware: there is a difference between a fruit drink, a nectar, a juice and an extract. And just to the fruit extracts we turned our attention …

We tested 12 fruit extracts and picked 4 that we really liked. In fact, it is not really easy to find your way around the world of fruit to drink. At the super we find products in cardboard brik, in glass or plastic bottles, in small packages, in other giants, and the position also changes: some are displayed on the shelves at room temperature, while others are kept in the refrigerated counter.

But what is the difference between one product and another? And how to be sure that you really choose what you want? Trusting the image on the package is not convenient, while it is important to read what is written on the label.

Once upon a time the choice was between juices or nectars

Similar in appearance but different in substance, the “juices” are 100% so while the “nectars”, despite the name may be misleading, are more diluted because obtained by adding water and possibly sugars or sweeteners, fruit juice and pulp.

Still different, but more easily recognizable, are the “fruit drinks” which include a whole series of non-alcoholic drinks (starting from the classic orange juice), generally consisting of only a minimum percentage of juice and a lot of water. The minimum is even fixed at 12% (20% for orange juice), that is, just over a glass of juice diluted in another nine of water! The taste and the color? Naturally from sugar or sweeteners, aromas and dyes… Today, however, the range of fruit to drink has definitely expanded, enriching itself with terms that indicate new possibilities of choice, each with its own particularities.

The glossary of fruit to drink

Let’s start with the most fashionable ones: the smoothies, from the English smooth which means soft, soft, tender … and in fact this is their characteristic: beyond the flavor, which depends on the fruit (and possibly the vegetables) used, they have a pleasant, dense and velvety consistency, which on its own it gratifies the palate. On closer inspection, they resemble what we have always called simply “smoothies”, but as the name sounds more fascinating in English…. A different thing is certainly the centrifugedin which the centrifuge separates the juice from the pulp and peel of the vegetables, giving a less concentrated drink, more or less thirst-quenching and rich in minerals and vitamin factors depending on the ingredients used.

But let’s get to the extracts, which our lab has dealt with: some are denser, others less, but what characterizes them all is the juice extraction method. Unlike the home blender and the centrifuge, in fact, the extractor allows you to separate the pulp from the juice by working at lower temperatures and without incorporating air, better preserving both the aroma of the vegetables and the vitamin substances. As for the consistency, modern extractors can adjust it in order to obtain more or less dense products in relation to the fibers to be contained.

Not just sugars …

“Reading the label of the extracts we have analyzed, we see that calorie intake is limited and determined by fruit sugars, while the presence of fiber, when declared, shows that it is greater in denser products “, begins our nutritionist, doctor Diana Scatozza. «Having said that, what is more interesting to observe is the list of ingredients, on which the greater or lesser presence of extra nutritional protective factors depends. I gave my preference to those plant-based extracts, whose effective usefulness is confirmed by greater scientific evidence. The violet of blueberries, for example, is a sure sign of a good presence of antioxidant anthocyanins, just as the orange of mango and carrots indicates a good content of beta carotene, precursor of vitamin A ». But one thing must be said, the consumption of extracts is undoubtedly an excellent supplement, but it must not be a substitute for that of fresh vegetables in their entirety. 1-2 extracts a day are the right ration to get maximum well-being from these drinks.

HPP an important abbreviation

“A decisive aspect for the quality of the extracts is then in the method used to make them stable and well preserved over time”, intervenes Giorgio Donegani, our food technologist. «It makes little sense to adopt cold extraction systems and then pasteurize at high temperatures. For this reason, a new technology is spreading called HPP (High Pressure Processing) and which consists in treating the bottled extracts at very high pressure and cold, in order to inactivate germs without affecting the flavor, aroma and presence of factors. vitamins “.

The extracts that are submitted to the HPP treatment they must be kept in the refrigerator to maintain their maximum quality, but the difference compared to pasteurized products is definitely noticeable.

Proof of tasting

“Looking at the plant extracts on the market, one is truly amazed by the variety of recipes, not all of which are actually equally successful”, continues the technologist. «Leaving aside my personal taste, in judging the different products I assessed that the flavor was in any case harmonious, without peaks of excessive sourness or sweetness, and that the main ones were easily recognizable. When tasting, one must then take into account the consistency between the sensations aroused by the product compared to those that one would expect seeing it in the package ».

From this point of view, the intensity of flavor and texture play a fundamental role: “From a mango extract, for example, I do not expect a completely watery consistency, just as I cannot positively evaluate a blueberry extract that looks almost like a puree”, Donegani points out.

Price and sustainability

The extracts have a rather high average price, compared to regular fruit juices. «Those who choose them do so for their superior quality characteristics, and it is the latter that represents the most important choice parameter», observes our expert.

“As always, however, with the same quality level, I positively considered a lower cost”. Finally, an element that may perplex some consumers is the use of plastic bottles for extracts. «However, this is an unavoidable necessity, because glass would not withstand the pressures of HPP treatment. However, I assessed that it was always recyclable or biodegradable material and that the indications for its disposal were present and very clear », Donegani concludes.

FRUIT EXTRACTS, THE 4 BEST:

Tell me yes. Blue Energy. Ginger & blueberries€ 2.49 the 250 ml bottle (€ 9.96 / l)

The strong point. The successful pairing.

Blueberries and ginger are celebrated as foods of particular interest for their health benefits: the former rich in antioxidant polyphenols, the latter powerful digestive and invigorating. Combining them in a pleasant way in the same product, however, is not easy, due to the aggressive flavor of the ginger that struggles to marry with the acidulous tip of blueberries.

On the other hand, tasting this extract, one is struck by the pleasant harmony of the flavors, which are however easily recognizable. Also thanks to the base that sees the presence of apple and grape juice in the right ratio. The color is intense and the density is appropriate: without being excessive, it still communicates a good structure. The price is in line with that of the other products analyzed and the quality is satisfactory.

In 100 ml: 48 kcal;

Innocent. Flash of blue. Guava, pineapple, apple, blue spirulina and vitamins€ 2.69 the 300 ml bottle (€ 8.97 / l)

The strong point. The originality of the recipe.

In a base of apple juice (53%), a number of other ingredients harmonize: banana puree, pineapple juice, white guava puree, coconut water, white carrot juice, passion fruit puree, extract of spirulina, lime juice and a variety of added vitamins (C, Niacin, B5, B6, Biotin, folic acid and B12). The result is certainly interesting and pleasant.

In fact, the blue color, linked to the presence of the spirulina algae, corresponds to a rich and complex taste, with a tendency to sweet not excessive, and a very velvety texture (it is a super smoothie). The addition of vitamins, especially those of group B, further improves the nutritional profile of the product which, however, is not treated with HPP, but subjected to light pasteurization.

In 100 ml: 48 kcal;

Macè Srl. Apple, strawberry and banana smoothie€ 2.48 the 250 ml bottle (€ 9.9 / l)

The strong point. Simplicity and naturalize.

Practically a third of apple juice and pulp, a third of banana and a third of strawberry: the recipe for this extract is as simple as it is successful. Juice extraction takes place cold and is adjusted so that the strawberry and banana ensure the density of a smoothie. The application of HPP technology then guarantees the maximum naturalness of the aromas, so that one has the impression of “drinking” a fresh and successful fruit salad, where the different tastes are perfectly distinguished without one prevailing over the other.

The addition of ascorbic acid must not induce mistrust: it is essentially vitamin C …