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Why Green Juice Isn't Always Great For You

Illustrated by Gabriela Alford.
It's hard to imagine the morning routine of Gwyneth or Gisele without a green juice in there somewhere. And many of us have taken their cue and added the concoctions to our own lives. However, although these juices are often touted as life-saving elixirs (and they can have some benefits), they are not the sort of magical potions that they've been made out to be.

"One of the major benefits of drinking green juice is that people who don't like many green vegetables (or veggies in general) can actually get some of their vitamins and minerals through juicing," explains Kim Larson, RDN and spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, in an email to R29. "[But] let’s face it, juicing is trendy and celebrities have made it so. Unfortunately, the health benefits don’t live up to all the hype."

For one thing, juices do pack a lot of fruits and veggies into one container — but that's at the expense of fibre. Without that fibre, "our guts react differently to juices and we don’t feel the same fullness that we do if we eat a whole piece of fruit or a vegetable," explains Larson. "That can wreak havoc in an hour or two, because they are digested quickly, which sets you up to eat again." That's the main reason she doesn't recommend using juices as a meal replacement — they just don't fill you up.

Juices also come with a lot of sugar. Prepackaged green juices especially are often made mostly of fruit, meaning they can have high levels of natural sugars. Although this plant-based variety of sugar isn't the worst, it can still create the same spike in energy and blood sugar and subsequent crash that a candy bar leads to if fibre isn't in the mix.

Even if you're sure you're getting a veggie-dominant juice, the packaging makes it easy to unintentionally take in a lot more sugar than you realise: "Many [prepackaged juices] contain two or three servings," says Larson, "but people drink the whole bottle!"

All that said, Larson does recommend juicing in very specific circumstances. For instance, a juice can be a convenient solution if you're a professional athlete who doesn't have a lot of time in between events, or if you're unable to eat regular foods for some reason (e.g. you're recovering from chemotherapy or surgery).

That means that for most of us, juices should be an occasional treat rather than a major source of nutrients. And, as much as possible, we should stick to whole foods to get our vitamins, minerals, and fibre.

But if you do choose to drink juice, Larson suggests making it yourself and only using one fruit of choice, in as small an amount as you can stand. "Then add one, two, or three different vegetables so that the drink is actually vegetable-heavy rather than fruit-heavy," she says. "Any type of dark green works — kale, spinach, collard or beet greens are great choices." That'll give you the blast of nutrients you want without such a sugary punch.