V8 Vegetable Juice has been a persistent presence on grocery store shelves since 1948. Regarded by some as a convenient way to “drink your vegetables” when you’re on the go, it’s sometimes questioned as Paleo-friendly due to its nutrient makeup, packaging, and the fact that it is a processed food. Let’s start by deconstructing a can of V8.

What Is V8 Vegetable Juice?

V8’s original version is comprised of mostly water and tomato concentrate, along with a reconstituted vegetable juice blend that includes the concentrate of eight vegetables: beets, celery, carrots, lettuce, parsley, watercress, spinach, and tomato. However, the (not so) raw truth is that tomato juice comprises around 87% of the total drink, making it less of a “vegetable juice” and more of a tomato juice (from concentrate). It also contains a fair amount of sodium, with 650 mg of it in an 8 oz. serving, for the original version. Its manufacturer, Campbell’s, has also produced several renditions of the drink that include Spicy Hot, Lemon, Picante, Roasted Chicken, Low-Sodium, and Organic versions.

The juice has also undergone pasteurization, which can help increase the lycopene content of the tomato juice. Lycopene, which is naturally found in tomatoes (and their products), has some health benefits, including lowering the risk for cancer.

Unfortunately, most of the V8 available is packaged in cans lined with BPA (short for bisphenol A), a commonly used chemical in food packaging that some studies have linked to health problems. While Campbell’s has announced a move to phase out BPA in its can linings, it has not announced a timeline for when the changes will take place. V8 cans are not yet sporting labels indicating the BPA is gone.

Is V8 Healthy?

V8 is a vegetable, but mostly tomato-based, processed juice. Paleo dietary advice leans away from processed foods. Unless made from fresh (hopefully organic) produce, most juices in their store-bought, packaged versions would seem to register as a Paleo fail. That, coupled with the fact that BPA-lined cans are still the delivery method of choice for the manufacturer, the odds seem stacked against it being a suitable Paleo food.

However, on the other hand, some Paleo/Primal experts give V8 the green light as acceptable. They advocate that because it’s relatively low in sugar, short on offending ingredients and relatively lower in carbs than fruit juice, it’s fine – but that fresh veggies always trump the can.

What Do Other Paleo Gurus Say?

Neely Quinn says: “You don’t often find vegetable juice in stores (besides V8, but that doesn’t really count because it’s pasteurized, not organic, and full of iodized salt). But you can sure juice your own vegetables at home. Veggies are way lower in sugar than fruits, and chock full of nutrients.”

Mark Sisson says: “(It’s) Primal – it doesn’t contain added sugar or weird ingredients – but it doesn’t replace actual vegetables.

First, (there’s) the imbalanced sodium/potassium ratio. I have nothing against salt, but it’s fairly well accepted that an imbalance between sodium and potassium intake is one of the factors involved in developing hypertension.

Second, seeing as how V8 100% vegetable juice is actually 87% tomato juice (from concentrate), it’s more accurate to say V8 provides all your tomato juice needs in a can. Which is totally fine, but it’s not an effective replacement for your celery, spinach, beet, carrot, lettuce, parsley, or watercress needs. I’m actually a fan of tomato juice, even the pasteurized, reconstituted type. Rather than render it nutritionally void, pasteurization actually increases the lycopene content of tomato products (including juice). V8 is great for tomato juice, not ‘vegetables.’

Third, V8 appears to contain traces of BPA, perhaps because the cans are lined with it (though a type of baby formula had more).”

Melissa Hartwig says: “(Both Clausen pickles) and V8 are fine. Those additives aren’t encouraged, of course, but they’re not one of the three (MSG, carrageenan, and sulfites) specifically prohibited on the Whole30.”

Is V8 Paleo?

Yes – with a caveat.

V8 can be called “Paleo-in-a-pinch.” Dubbed as acceptable by several Paleo/Primal voices, it’ll do when fresh, whole veggies aren’t available. Yes, it’s Paleo. However, it shouldn’t be made a staple source of vegetables or nutrients for anyone trying to adhere to a Paleo regimen. With suspect packaging methods (for now), processed origins, and the fact that it’s fairly high in sodium, make V8 an occasional veggie-based drink to use when you’re short on time and looking to occasionally change-up your beverage choices.

Issue No. 37

Photo by PRMF

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