Vegetable juices have become big business these days. V8 is perhaps the best-known brand of vegetable juice. It’s portable, comes in all different varieties, and is touted as being able to help you meet your daily vegetable quota.
You’ve likely heard the brand’s slogan: “I could’ve had a V8.” But the question is, should you?
While V8 contains purees of all sorts of vegetables, drinking V8 should not take the place of eating vegetables. Nutrients are lost in the pasteurizing process, and most of the fiber is removed in the form of pulp. V8 also contains some additives of questionable nutritional value.
From soda and energy drinks to fruit-flavored juices and cocktails, an array of clearly unhealthy drinks is available in your supermarket’s beverage aisle. Most of these have little to no nutritional value and large amounts of added sugar.
V8 is made from vegetables and contains many of the same nutrients you’d find in whole vegetables. Plus, it has no added sugar. According to the Campbell’s website, V8 contains the juice of eight vegetables:
- tomatoes (V8 is mostly tomato juice)
Because of these ingredients, V8 is considered an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Low-sodium V8 is also an excellent source of potassium, as potassium chloride is added. An 8-ounce glass has only 45 calories and 8 grams of carbohydrate (if you subtract the 1 gram of fiber).
Given this nutrition profile, and because you can technically count a serving of V8 as two servings of vegetables, many people like the convenience of V8 when they want to choose a healthier drink.
Drinking V8 certainly isn’t as bad as drinking the majority of today’s soft drinks, such as soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, and energy drinks. But because of the way it’s processed, it’s also not exactly a superfood. For one thing, most of the vegetables’ fiber is removed.
The fiber in plant foods is important for health because it:
- fills you up, helping to prevent overeating
- slows the rise in blood sugar caused by high-carbohydrate foods
- is beneficial for digestion
- promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation
- helps protect against heart disease
- nourishes good bacteria in the gut
- improves cholesterol levels
- reduces cancer risk
In addition to being stripped of fiber, pasteurizing the juices means bringing them to a high heat, which destroys a significant amount of the vegetables’ vitamins, minerals, and beneficial nutrients.
V8’s juices are also “reconstituted” from concentrate, which means that the water is removed and then added back. This makes them a far cry from fresh vegetable juice to begin with. Also listed in the ingredients is the dubious “natural flavoring.”
Natural flavors, while derived from real food, are synthetic, highly processed chemicals that may be contaminated with up to 80 percent of “incidental additives,” such as propylene glycol, sodium benzoate, and glycerin. None of these additives need to be listed in the ingredients.
As with many processed foods, V8 uses salt to add flavor and preserve the juices. The high sodium content can be a problem, especially if you’re trying to limit your salt intake.
V8’s original formula of vegetable juice contains 640 mg of sodium per serving. The low-sodium version of V8 contains only 140 mg of sodium in an 8-ounce glass.
V8 is a convenient beverage that beats the sugary soft drinks on the market by far. But mass marketed, processed, vegetable juice has nowhere near the health punch that whole vegetables do. The sodium content should also be a concern.
An occasional V8 is fine for most people, but you should still focus on having a variety of whole vegetables in your diet.
A better bet would be to blend up some vegetables yourself at home. Or, even better, eat your vegetables and drink a glass of water instead.