By Be Well Health Coach Katrine van Wyk
Green juice is a convenient and quick way to get an energizing hit of phytonutrients – all those good-for-you vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll and antioxidants. A well-made green juice is full of detox-boosting properties and is a convenient way to increase your consumption of greens. A juice is made by extracting the fiber (or pulp) from fruits and vegetables in a juicer so that we’re only left with a completely liquid drink.
Juicing is becoming a big trend and therefore a big business. Juices of all kinds are now readily available on supermarket shelves, at coffee shops, and on restaurant menus – in addition to all the juice bars around town! While green juices might all look the same on the outside, (bright green and in a friendly, pristinely designed bottle) the ingredient list can vary dramatically. I will teach you exactly what you need to know to determine whether or not your green juice is in fact as healthy as you think!
If you, like me, enjoy drinking green juice (trust me, I wrote a whole book about it!), make sure to follow these pointers to ensure you’re getting the best juice possible.
Read the Label
This goes for any food or drink that you buy. Make sure to always read both the ingredient list and the nutrition label! It’s the only way you’ll know exactly what’s in your juice. Ingredients are listed in descending order, which means that the ingredients of the highest content are listed first. The first rule of a green juice is that the first and main ingredient must be indeed be green! So, if you see pineapple listed first you know you have a pretty sweet juice on your hands. Instead of tropical fruits, look for labels with ingredients like cucumber, spinach, romaine, celery and lemon. If there is some green apple in your juice, make sure it’s listed towards the end of the ingredient list. Also, on the nutrition label you’ll see the exact amount of sugars in the juice, per serving. I recently looked at the nutrition label of a popular green juice available at most stores around the country and it contains 21g of sugar per serving – and the bottle is two servings. That means if you drink the whole bottle in one sitting, you’ll drink 43g of sugar. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37g for a man and 25g for a woman. You could off course argue that a green juice isn’t necessarily part of the ‘added sugar’ in your diet – but because of the lack of fiber in the drink it may indeed be the case for you.
Fruit to Greens Ratio
Without the fiber, the nutrients in a juice gets absorbed quickly into the blood and give us a nice burst of energy. However, that same lack of fiber, can also make any sugar from the fruit get quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and cause a spike in your blood sugar. It only takes a few leaves of kale to turn an apple juice green and many of the pre-bottled juices out there use a lot of fruit to ‘bulk up’ the juice since these are more affordable, contain a lot of water and make the juice taste sweet and delicious! The green color can be very deceiving if all you’re actually drinking is apple juice with a hint of leafy greens. Instead, the ‘bulk’ of the juice should come from celery and cucumber which both add lots of liquid and less bitter flavor. I have seen green juices at some of the most popular juice bars in New York with as much as 40g of sugar – that’s more than a can of soda! Off course the sugar in these juices comes from a natural source and not added high fructose corn syrup, which is certainly better, yet that amount of sugar in liquid farm will certainly spike your blood sugar. It is particularly important to be aware of the sugar content of your juice if you’re trying to lose weight, are pre-diabetic or diabetic or are dealing with yeast overgrowth.
Is It Organic?
When buying or making juice, choose organic. All the fiber is removed in a juice and you therefore end up using a lot of produce to make a single serving of pure juice. All the pesticides on those fruits and vegetables go along for the ride and you can end up ingesting a lot of chemicals if you’re a regular juice drinker. if you can’t always buy organic, make sure to familiarize yourself with the Dirty Dozen and make it a point to at least buy these foods organic.
Make Your Own
Making your own juice, or going to a juice bar that you know can customize a juice for you is the best option. Not only can you fully control the ingredients – the juice is also completely fresh, vibrant and with all the enzymes from the vegetables still intact. The trick to making a green juice tasty without adding any fruit is lemon or lime, fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, mint or basil – and a touch of ginger for some heat. If you’re new to juicing and the fruitless juices are too much for you, add ½ a green Granny Smith apple to mellow out the taste and make it just delicious enough. Also, if you are running low on green veggies, try adding a scoop of Phytogreens for a nutrient packed boost. For more fun and delicious recipes for making your own green juice and smoothies, check out my book Best Green Drinks Ever.