Green juices are everywhere lately, and each one purports to pump you full of all the health you’ll need to survive this dog-eat-dog world. Between the increasingly complex options that seem to be available, however, what are the real benefits of chugging green liquids, and where has the juicing movement simply gone too far? We got the low-down to unfold the juicing conundrum.
The biggest choice consumers are faced with when it comes to green juices is whether to buy from a company or to purchase a heavy-duty juicer and DIY them fresh at home. Dana James, certified nutritionist and founder of Food Coach NYC, says that the basic factors to consider in either situation is where the product is coming from, and how it was processed. “If you know the product is local organic produce coming directly from a farm, then you’ll be getting the most nutritional benefits,” she says. Home-juicers who obtain their raw materials from a grocery store, however, have much less guarantee of freshness.
The other thing to consider with store-bought juices is whether any sort of a “heat kill” process has been applied. This pasteurization process, which allows a juice to remain on a shelf for up to 90 days, also kills off a significant amount of its vitamins and minerals. This renders most big-name brands like Naked and Odwalla juices vastly emptier of nutrients than raw or cold pressed juices.
Another production factor to consider is supplied by Veronica Wheat, otherwise known as Chef V, the founder of Chef V’s Green Drink Delivery – whether your juice is juiced or blended. “There are a couple differences between juicing versus blending, which is what I do," she says. "Juicing ... strips away all the fibers, where all the vitamins and nutrients are ... you have to consume it within 15-30 minutes, otherwise the nutrients are oxidized and deplete." Blending your juice, however, keeps the nutrients locked in the fibers until you're able to ingest it, according to Wheat.
Wheat also mentions that juicing tends to produce sugar-high drinks, since more liquid-heavy but sugar-rich fruits are necessary to juice successfully, unlike nutrient-rich vegetables, which tend to have a lower water content.
So then, what foods should you actually be juicing or blending to achieve maximum health benefits? James suggests starting off with “something that’s water based like celery and cucumber, which are rich in potassium which is great for rehydration and decreases bloating, and magnesium which improve energy and mood ... Then, you can add in vegetables like kale and spinach which are intensely rich in chloryphyll and vitamin k to improve mood, vitamin a to boost your immune system and cancer-fighting antioxidants.” Fruits should be kept to the end, and at a minimum - they're only really for boosting taste.
Chef V’s green drink consists of seven dark leafy greens packed with cancer-fighting phytonutrients. “I use black kale, green kale, collard greens, dandelion greens, green chard, green leaf lettuce and parsley, and we use a big Fiji apple to sweeten it up a little bit,” she says. Each green was chosen for a specific property – for example, collard greens control your LDL cholesterol and the dandelion greens cleanse the livers and kidney.
Wheat has several additional tips to maximizing your health benefits when it comes to liquid diets. First, drinking your juice on an empty stomach will allow the vitamins to absorb quickly, which you can follow with a normal meal.
Finally, she says, “I believe in having consistency in our diets ... when you’re introducing new things every day to your body, it’s like stress on your body, and that’s what causes cancer." So drinking your juice on a regular schedule is possibly the best way to get the most out of this healthy food craze.