Does storing juice lose nutrients?

Introduction

Juice is a popular beverage enjoyed around the world. It’s made by extracting the liquid from fruits and vegetables, leaving behind the solid fiber content. This results in a nutritious, flavorful drink that’s rich in vitamins, minerals and plant compounds like antioxidants.

However, there are some concerns around how storage may affect the nutrient content of juice over time. This article reviews the evidence on whether storing juice leads to nutrient loss.

Nutrients in juice

The specific nutrients in juice depend on the type of produce used to make it.

For example:

  • Orange juice is high in vitamin C, folate and potassium.
  • Apple juice contains antioxidants like quercetin and chlorogenic acid.
  • Carrot juice is rich in beta carotene, vitamin K and potassium.
  • Tomato juice provides lycopene, vitamin C and folate.

Juice also contains a range of other vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.

Many of these nutrients are sensitive to heat, oxygen and light, which makes them prone to damage during storage.

Effects of storage on juice nutrients

#### Vitamin C

One of the main concerns with storing juice is loss of vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin is heat and oxygen sensitive.

One study tested the effects of storage on the vitamin C content in orange juice (1).

It found that vitamin C levels declined over time, dropping by around 2–4% per day when stored at 68°F (20°C). Higher temperatures of 86–104°F (30–40°C) caused greater losses of around 6–8% per day.

Another study found that vitamin C loss happened more rapidly in the first 10 days of storage. After this, the levels remained relatively stable over the next 50 days when refrigerated (2).

Vitamin C loss also depends on the packaging. Juices stored in cartons have been shown to retain more vitamin C over time than those stored in glass bottles or plastic containers (3).

Overall, research clearly shows that vitamin C levels decline during storage, especially when juice is kept in warm conditions.

#### Vitamin A

Vitamin A is also unstable in juice. One study tracked vitamin A levels in refrigerated orange juice over 2 weeks (4).

Results showed a 30% drop in vitamin A content after 1 week, increasing to a 45% loss after 2 weeks.

Another study found a much smaller decline of around 3–6% over 16 days of refrigeration (5).

Although more research is needed, it seems that vitamin A levels may start decreasing in the first 1–2 weeks of juice storage.

#### Folate

Folate is important for cell growth and development. Unlike vitamin C, it’s relatively stable during juice storage.

One study found that pasteurized orange juice retained over 95% of its folate content after 6 months of storage in various conditions (5).

Another reported no significant losses in folate levels in carrot and tomato juice stored for 16–28 days in a refrigerator (6).

Overall, folate appears to be well retained in juice during moderate-term storage of 1–6 months. Longer studies are needed to determine effects over more than 6 months.

#### Antioxidants

Many juices are rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids, anthocyanins and carotenoids, which help fight free radical damage in your body.

Results are mixed regarding how storage affects these antioxidants:

Some studies show declines in total antioxidant status of orange juice over time (7, 8).

Others report that antioxidant activity is retained in refrigerated pomegranate and orange juice for up to 28 days (9, 10).

One study actually found an increase in antioxidant levels of around 15% in orange juice stored for 6 months versus fresh juice (5). This was thought to be due to chemical changes during storage.

Overall, limited evidence suggests that levels of some individual antioxidants may decline. However, the total antioxidant capacity may remain unchanged or even increase over time.

#### Potassium

Potassium is an essential mineral in juice involved in heart health, fluid balance and nerve transmission.

Unlike vitamin C, potassium appears relatively stable during storage.

One study reported excellent retention of potassium in orange juice after 6 months and 5 days of storage (5).

No significant losses in potassium levels were found in refrigerated tomato or carrot juice over 16–28 days either (6).

#### Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients like carotenoids and polyphenols are compounds produced by plants that may provide health benefits.

Results are mixed from the limited research available:

One study found a significant 48% drop in carotenoid levels after 6 months of orange juice storage (5).

However, another reported no significant changes in carotenoid concentrations in pasteurized orange juice after 28 days (11).

As for polyphenols, one study found minimal losses in refrigerated cloudy apple juice stored for 1–8 weeks (12).

More research is needed on how specific phytonutrients in different juices are affected by storage.

Does storage time affect nutrient levels?

In general, nutritional losses appear most rapid in the first 1–2 weeks of storage. After this, levels seem to plateau or decline minimally.

For example, one study tracked nutrient changes in orange juice over 6 months. Major declines occurred in vitamin C, vitamin A and carotenoids during the first 4 weeks. After this point, vitamin C and carotenoid levels remained constant, while vitamin A continued depleting slowly for the remaining duration (5).

Another study found vitamin C content decreased rapidly within 10 days of storage, then remained relatively unchanged over 50 days (2).

However, remember that most studies have only looked at moderate-term storage over several weeks to months. The effects of prolonged storage beyond 6 months are still unclear for most juices.

Ways to minimize nutrient loss when storing juice

Here are some tips to help retain nutrients when storing juice:

– Drink fresh juice as soon as possible.

– If storing, refrigerate juice and avoid room temperature.

– Minimize exposure to heat, light and oxygen by storing juice in an opaque, airtight container.

– If keeping juice more than 2–3 days, consider freezing it.

– Choose pasteurized juice in Tetra Pak cartons over glass bottles or plastic containers.

– Check “best before” dates and follow proper food storage guidelines.

– Add a squeeze of lemon juice to help stabilize vitamin C.

Should you make extra juice to store?

Given that most nutrients decline over time, it’s best to only make as much juice as you can drink within a day or two.

You can make larger batches to freeze in ice cube trays or muffin tins for convenient portions.

Most juices maintain their nutrient levels well when frozen properly and thawed later on. However, vitamin C, vitamin A and antioxidant status may decrease with each freeze-thaw cycle (13).

If refrigerating juice for more than 2–3 days, try adding a squeeze of lemon. The vitamin C in the lemon helps protect the juice against nutrient breakdown.

Homemade versus store-bought juice

In general, it’s best to consume juice as soon as you make it or buy it fresh. However, this isn’t always practical.

For store-bought juices, storage losses are minimized by pasteurizing and packaging the juice to exclude light and oxygen. Pasteurization involves briefly heating the juice to destroy bacteria.

Homemade juices don’t undergo pasteurization. Therefore, they should be consumed immediately or frozen.

If you do refrigerate homemade juice, adding lemon juice helps stabilize vitamin C levels. Meanwhile, storing juice in opaque, airtight containers minimizes vitamin A and antioxidant loss.

Takeaway

Juice provides an abundance of vital nutrients. However, many of these decline over time, especially vitamin C and vitamin A.

To maximize nutrition, drink juice as soon as possible. If storing, refrigeration is best. Limit light and oxygen exposure by using opaque, air-tight containers.

Try freezing smaller portions to allow for longer storage. Adding lemon juice also helps stabilize vitamin C levels.

While storage results in some nutrient loss, juice still retains most of its nutritional value if consumed within a few days of production.

The bottom line

Many nutrients in juice are sensitive to storage. Vitamin C and vitamin A levels start decreasing within a week or two, while potassium and folate are more stable. Although nutrient loss is minimized when juice is refrigerated in appropriate containers, it’s best to drink it as soon as possible.

Nutrient Storage stability
Vitamin C Degrades rapidly, especially when exposed to heat and light. Best retained when refrigerated in an opaque container.
Vitamin A Degrades faster than vitamin C. May start declining within 1-2 weeks of storage.
Folate Very stable during storage. Well retained for at least 6 months.
Potassium Relatively stable, with minimal losses documented over 6+ months.
Antioxidants Mixed results. Some decrease over time, while total antioxidant capacity may remain unchanged.
Phytochemicals Limited data available. Storage stability varies depending on the specific compound.

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