We all know that raw fruits and vegetables are the ideal way to consume them, but that's not always convenient or affordable! Sure, fresh squeezed apple juice would be best, but how much better is it nutritionally than what you get in a bottle or can? Is apple juice bad for you? Or is it nearly as healthy as consuming them fresh?Antioxidant Content?The ORAC scale measures the total amount of bio-available antioxidants. It's a multi-faceted test which looks at not just one, but many different types. The cumulative total is then assigned an ORAC value - the higher, the better. The antioxidant activity for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of apple juice is 568 based on that test. This is before any ascorbic acid is added in after pasteurization. The USDA did not disclose which brand was used in the test, though that factor should not materially affect the results. Being conventionally grown versus organic shouldn't impact this test must, either.Compare that versus 100 grams of raw fresh apples with peel at 3,049 (average for red delicious, gala, golden delicious, Fuji, granny smith). That's about 500% more than bottled juice, when compared on an equal weight basis. When you remove their skin/peel, they test out about 15% lower at 2,573, which is still 400% more than the liquefied version in the bottle or can.As far as how much antioxidants are in cold pressed/fresh squeezed apple juice, an ORAC test has not been published for that. Though one can presume it would be more closer to the value of the raw fruit. Though we're not as optimistic it would be that healthy, because with many juicers, much of the peel gets discarded and that is where a lot of the nutritional value is.Vitamins?Practically all juice sold in the United States has been pasteurized - heated to near boiling temperature to destroy the bacteria and unhealthy pathogens. Unfortunately that destroys vitamin C (or much of it) and also significantly degrades some other types if vitamins and phytonutrients. A lot of cartons and bottles will use the term "Flash Pasteurized" or "Gently Pasteurized" which is nothing but marketing... pasteurization has the same effect on nutrients, regardless of what you want to call it.For example, if you look at the vitamin C content in canned apple juice without any fortification, it's 2.2 mg per 100 grams. In raw apples with skin, it's over double at 4.6 mg. This is why juice manufacturers add in ascorbic acid after pasteurization. In reality, this is a manufactured chemical. However stemming from a rule made several decades ago, the USDA allows food and beverage manufacturers to call ascorbic acid vitamin C, even though it may not be the full C complex in its natural form.So is ascorbic acid the same as vitamin C? According to the government, legally it is, and they are correct in that the research proves ascorbic acid is the active ingredient in vitamin C. That being said, although they're in the minority, some scientists and nutritionists over the years have compared ascorbic acid to eating the eggshell of the egg without what's inside. Why do they say that? Because there are other parts in the complex which are vitamins P, K, J and tyrosinase (organic copper) and those are theorized or suspected to possibly act as co-factors in how our body utilizes the vitamin C (ascorbic acid).Setting aside C, apples have very little other essential vitamins. Using the same 100 gram amount, even in its fresh from you are only getting 3% of your daily value for vitamin K, 2% for riboflavin, B6, and 1% for E, thiamin, folate, and pantothenic acid/B5.Conclusion?The debate of whether apple juice is good or bad for you when canned/bottled is really asking the wrong question.Whether you're consuming a cute $10 little bottle of cold pressed, or something that has sat on your supermarket shelf in a plastic bottle for a year, the essential vitamin and mineral content will not be substantially different, if ascorbic acid was added in after pasteurization. So if that's all you're considering in your decision, then both fresh and bottles are not too far off from one another. Both are good for you in that sense.However what you won't be getting much of in either are some of the other types of antioxidants, like anthocyanins found in the apple's skin (red delicious have the most). That is the reason you should be eating the fresh fruit instead, so you get more of those other types of antioxidants. The good news is that this is one of the cheapest fruits and it's in plentiful supply year 'round. At home, the office, or on the go, it can be a convenient and nutritious snack.
USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 - Prepared by Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - May 2010