Green juice – Is the benefit as great as the trend?
You see it on your morning commute, in the refrigerated section of your local specialty grocer and during your workout. Green juice is the new “it” beverage being toted around town as a type of status symbol shouting, “Money is not an issue when it comes to my body’s health”. If you haven’t looked at the cost recently, a single serving will run you between $6 and $12.
The idea behind these cold-pressed green juices is they provide a straight dose of super food nutrients to you. When consumed, the human body does not have to breakdown the fiber to get to and absorb the nutrients of the fruits and vegetables. The fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables is “pressed” out during the manufacturing process. Sounds great. Your body would have immediate access to a large amount of raw vitamins and minerals from these fruits and vegetables. Makes sense why these juices are in high demand.
Problems arise when companies try to solve the puzzle of providing fresh cold-pressed juice to a public that demands convenience and great taste. The solution has been fruit. Add enough fruit juice and any green juice can taste terrific. The juice’s color can still be green enough to promote health, while the majority of juice content is from apples or pineapples. Much of the green juices on store shelves, including those in your local Starbucks, contain a hefty amount of sugars hidden within all the greenery. Don’t look now, but that green juice you’re carrying around feeling so great about drinking may be doing you more harm than good.
The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables are typically consumed with the natural fiber in the whole food. In order to have the nutrients more readily available, these cold-pressed juices have been made so that none of the fiber makes it into your green juice. This can be beneficial with straight vegetables (think kale, dandelions, collards), but what about fruit? All that fructose without any fiber is a sure way to cause a blood sugar spike. Are we paying a premium to hook our bodies up to an IV full of fructose in the name of health?
To get some answers, I went to my local Whole Foods Market and found 9 cold-pressed green juices on the shelves. Sugar content for each single serving container ranged from 8 grams to 52 grams. Sizes of the containers ranged from 12oz to 16oz. Some of these juices, all of which were green, contained more sugar than a can of Coke. Snickers bar contains 27g. Skittles contain 47g. Ghirardelli chocolate squares contain 23g of sugar. Below are a sample of some of the green juices and their sugar content.
Total Sugar: 8 grams
Total sugar: 28 grams
Total Sugar: 24 grams
Total Sugar: 12 grams
Total Sugar: 20 grams
Total Sugar: 52 grams
Total Sugar: 9 grams
Consumers can also purchase cold-pressed juices at local juice bars. I called a few local juice bars in the Chicago area to determine an estimate of the sugar content in their green juices. All green juices contained apples and I was told each 12-16oz serving contains between 2-4 apples. A medium apple contains 19g of sugar. Would you have thought that fresh pressed juice you just paid $8 for has between 38 and 76 grams of sugar? I definitely do not consume this much sugar in an entire day!
I imagine the harm done is compounded, as people tend to rationalize their diet. If they ate very well for a certain period of time, they will then allow themselves something unhealthy. “I had that green juice today so I will allow myself a cookie after dinner”. Would you ever think that green juice contained more sugar than the cookie?!
You can ensure your green juice is as healthy as possible by raising your awareness. Read labels! Pay attention to how many servings per container. If the manufacturer makes the serving size so small, anything can seem healthy upon first glance. Read the ingredients. Ingredients are listed from most prevalent to least.
Here’s a tip – if you purchase fresh cold-pressed juice, ask them to substitute lemons or cucumbers for the apples to the reduce sugar load.