If it’s green, it’s got to be healthy, right? Well, no. Not really, unfortunately. Throughout my career, I’ve been asked numerous times to tackle the question are green juices good for you? With the recent health trend, bottles of these veggie-based green juices have become incredibly trendy for the health-conscious consumers and fitness freaks. With everything, though, you have to be careful of what you’re putting into your body. Just because a company claims the wonders it will do, doesn’t mean that’s necessarily true. Here’s a rundown on green juice:
“When the green juice trend really started back in 2010 or 2011, it was something of a niche product,” says Kara Nielsen, culinary trends analyst at the marketing firm CCD Innovation. “Now that trend has matured and gone mainstream, with a wide array of options that target all kinds of consumers.” Consumer Reports states. But not all green juices are necessarily good for you—so it’s important to read the label on the bottle or check the ingredients list at the store. We’ve compiled a list of things to look for—and to avoid—when you’re buying something green to drink.
Watch the Sugar
Drinks such as Naked Juice Green Machine sport labels touting their “zero added sugar,” but don’t be misled: A look at the label reveals that there are 53 grams of sugars—and 270 calories—in one 15-ounce bottle. Consider that 15 ounces of Coke contains 49 grams of sugars—almost the same amount.
The reason for the sugars overload is the fruit-to-veggie juice ratio. Green drinks that are heavy on apple or other fruit juices have significantly higher levels of sugars than those that are mostly vegetable juice. Although the sugars in fruit juice are naturally present (not added) and fruit juice provides some nutrients, the sugars are processed by your body in the same way the added sugars in soda are. Too much fruit juice may be linked to weight gain and a higher risk of diabetes.
Beware of drinks that look green but are essentially fruit-juice blends. For example, three of the four top ingredients in Naked Juice Pressed Citrus Lemongrass are fruit juices, with 33 grams of sugars per 12-ounce serving.
It’s better to look for drinks with a high veggie content—especially leafy greens such as spinach and kale—but containing little if any fruit juice. Consider drinks like Daily Green Purity, which includes kale, cucumber, parsley, broccoli, celery, lemon, and basil—and minimal sugars (9 grams in a 12-ounce bottle).
Don’t Expect Fiber
Although green drinks may contain a variety of valuable nutrients, when you press vegetables to extract their juice, you usually leave the fiber behind.
Fiber slows the release of any sugars in the food into your bloodstream, plus it has many other benefits. In addition to aiding digestion, dietary fiber has been shown to help cut cholesterol levels, protect against diabetes, tame inflammation, and control weight. Unfortunately, most bottled green juices contain less than a gram of fiber.
It’s always best to eat whole vegetables (including the green ones) whenever possible, according to Consumer Reports nutritionist Amy Keating, R.D. But if you prefer getting your greens in liquid form, the way to not miss out on the fiber is to make your own drink in a blender that can liquefy whole vegetables and fruit, such as the Ninja With Auto iQ BL 642-30 blender, which was the top-rated personal blender (as opposed to full-sized) in Consumer Reports ratings.
Check the Sodium
Most green drinks don’t contain added salt, but some vegetables, such as beets and celery, have a surprising amount of naturally occurring sodium that can jack up the sodium content. For example, some of Evolution Fresh’s green drinks (e.g., Organic Essential Greens and Organic Green Devotion)—all including celery juice as their first ingredient—have a higher amount of sodium than many of their counterparts.
Essential Greens contains 300 mg of sodium (the recommendation is less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day) in one 15-ounce bottle. This is not an insignificant amount, especially for an item you might not have expected to contain any sodium at all. “Consider what else you’re eating in a day, in combination with one of these drinks,” Keating says. “If you’re trying to reduce your sodium intake, choose your green drink carefully.”
Serving Size Matters
When you consider the nutrition labels on the back of these beverages, serving sizes can lead to confusion. For instance, Bolthouse Farms Daily Greens comes in a 15.2-ounce bottle, the same size as a bottle of Evolution Fresh Organic Smooth Greens.
A quick scan would lead you to believe the Evolution Fresh drink has more sodium (280 mg) and more sugars (19 grams) than the Bolthouse Farms drink (170 mg of sodium and 16 grams of sugars). But the Bolthouse Farms serving size is only half a bottle, compared with a whole bottle for Evolution Fresh. If you drink the whole bottle of the Bolthouse Farms drink, you’ll get 340 mg of sodium and 32 grams of sugars.
Be Careful of Label Claims
On its website, Suja claims that its Glow green drink will make your skin glow. Other manufacturers promise that their green juices can give you better sleep, cleanse your blood, or help you “rebalance your body.” Keating suggests that you be wary of claims from promotional materials and company websites.
“Unless a company provides research that backs up their individual claims,” Keating says, ”I would not take these claims at face value.”
In other words, if it seems too good to be true, it just might be.
We scanned the nutrition labels of several green juices on the market to select a few healthier options. “While these drinks are not a substitute for whole vegetables,” Keating says, “they do offer an alternative way to get nutrients from veggies you might not be getting enough of.”
Suja 12 Essentials: This one is loaded with veggies and—aside from a bit of lemon juice—steers clear of fruit. It also has ginger juice and organic peppermint and spearmint tea, for only 8 grams of sugars in a 16-ounce bottle. The sodium level is a little high (230 mg), but overall this is one of the better options.
Evolution Fresh Organic Emerald Greens: Sold at Starbucks, some drinks in the Evolution Fresh line contain relatively high amounts of sodium. An 11-ounce bottle of Organic Emerald Greens drink, however, which contains kale, apple, cucumber, spinach, and romaine juices, has just 90 mg of sodium and 14 grams of sugars.
BluePrint Motion Potion: With four leafy greens (romaine, kale, parsley, and spinach), apple juice, peppermint oil, and rosemary extract, each 12-ounce bottle contains 60 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A, as well as some vitamin C and potassium, and even 3 grams of dietary fiber.
Daily Greens Purity: This one is claimed to pack 4.5 pounds of produce in every 12-ounce bottle. This includes kale, cucumber, parsley, broccoli, celery, lemon, and basil. There are 9 grams of sugars and 180 mg of sodium per bottle.
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