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Does Green Juice Have Benefits?

Health + Wellness
Pixabay

By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Green juice is one of the biggest health and wellness trends of the last decade.

Celebrities, social media influencers, foodies, and wellness bloggers are all drinking — and talking about drinking — green juice.


Green juice enthusiasts purport that this drink offers numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, weight loss, reduced inflammation, and boosted immunity.

Though these claims may make it seem like an obvious choice, green juice also has downsides.

This article reviews everything you need to know about green juice so you can determine whether to add it to your routine.

What is Green Juice?

Green juice is a beverage made from the juices of green vegetables.

There's no official recipe, but common ingredients include celery, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, wheatgrass, cucumber, parsley, and mint.

Given that green juice tends to taste bitter, most recipes add small quantities of fruit — which may or may not be green — to sweeten it and improve its overall palatability. Popular fruit options include apples, berries, kiwi, lemons, oranges, and grapefruit.

The most dedicated green juice drinkers prefer fresh, homemade juice, but you can buy it from specialty juice cafés too.

Commercial green juices are available as well, but some varieties contain added sugar, which reduces the drink's nutrient density. Excess sugar intake is also linked to several adverse health effects.

Moreover, many bottled green juices are pasteurized. This process heats the juice to kill harmful bacteria and extend shelf life, but it may damage some of the heat-sensitive nutrients and plant compounds found in fresh juice.

Summary

Green juice is made from various green vegetables and herbs. Fruit is often included to sweeten the final product.

Potential Health Benefits

Green juice is not a substitute for a balanced and healthy diet, but it shares many of the benefits that come along with eating more fruits and vegetables.

Green veggies and their juices are excellent sources of several essential vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. For example, Swiss chard and kale are packed with vitamins A and K, while wheatgrass supplies plenty of vitamin C and iron.

Research suggests that eating leafy green vegetables daily may help reduce inflammation, heart disease risk, and your risk of age-related mental decline.

There's also evidence that certain compounds in fresh juice can function as prebiotics, which feed and support the growth of beneficial bacteria living in your digestive tract.

Routine prebiotic intake is linked to numerous benefits, including reduced constipation, weight maintenance, and improved immune function.

Moreover, many people find that drinking their vegetables and fruits is an easy and efficient way to boost their intake of valuable nutrients.

Finally, certain people, such as those who've had surgery on the stomach or intestines, can benefit from green juice, as it's easier to digest. For these populations, juicing is a short-term option during recovery.

Speak to your healthcare provider or dietitian about juicing for your specific condition.

Summary

Regular green veggie intake may reduce inflammation, as well as support heart and brain health. Fresh juice may also play a role in promoting healthy digestion. Also, specific populations can benefit from juicing in the short term while healing.

Possible Downsides

Although drinking green juice is a great way to increase your intake of a variety of important nutrients, there are several drawbacks you should consider before buying into the trend.

Low in Fiber

Juicing a fruit or vegetable removes the majority of its fiber.

Fiber is vital to a healthy diet. Adequate fiber intake supports heart health by helping manage blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. It may also relieve certain digestive disorders, such as acid reflux, diverticulitis, and intestinal ulcers.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Given that green juice doesn't contain much fiber, it shouldn't be used to substitute your veggie or fruit intake.

If you're considering adding green juice to your wellness regimen, don't forget to eat plenty of whole vegetables and fruits as well.

May Raise Blood Sugar

If you have diabetes or another medical condition that contributes to poor blood sugar control, juices may not be the best option for you.

These drinks tend to be low in fiber and protein, two nutrients that support balanced blood sugar.

Green juices made only with veggies are lower in carbs and unlikely to negatively affect your blood sugar. However, if you prefer your green juice with fruit, the sugars in the fruit may contribute to unwanted increases in your blood sugar levels.

You can mitigate this effect by pairing your juice with a meal or snack that provides fiber and protein, such as flax crackers with cheese, veggie sticks with tuna salad, or oatmeal with unsweetened plant milk and almond butter.

That said, you should be especially wary of store-bought green juices, as these may pack added sugar. Check the label and ensure that fruits or veggies are the only ingredients.

You can also check the nutrition label for added sugar, which should be zero. This is distinct from "total sugars," which will account for the natural sugar found in fruits.

May Harm Your Kidneys

Drinking green juice in moderation can boost your intake of multiple nutrients, but too much may cause serious side effects.

Green vegetables are a rich source of oxalic acid, or oxalate, which is considered an antinutrient because it binds to minerals in food and stops your digestive tract from absorbing them.

The amount of oxalates you typically consume from whole vegetables in a balanced diet isn't harmful. However, green juices tend to be highly concentrated sources of oxalate.

Too many oxalates can lead to negative health effects, including kidney stones and even kidney failure.

A handful of recent cases of acute kidney failure have been attributed to excess oxalate intake from green juices and smoothies included in cleanse or fasting protocols.

Although juice cleanses, detoxes, and fasts are a popular trend, relying on green juice — or any other juice — as a sole source of nutrition is never necessary and may harm your health.

If you plan on including green juice in your diet, play it safe by practicing moderation and eating balanced meals that include a variety of whole foods.

Summary

Green juice is healthy when consumed in moderation but lacks certain important nutrients like fiber. What's more, drinking too much may harm your blood sugar and kidney function.

Should You Start Drinking Green Juice?

Although green juice is often marketed as a cure-all with exceptional healing powers, it gives you nothing that you can't get from eating whole vegetables and fruit.

As such, the drink is largely overhyped.

That said, it can be a nutritious component of your diet as long as you drink it in moderation and don't use it to replace whole veggies and fruit. Furthermore, you may find it to be a simple way to boost your intake of a number of nutrients.

Just remember to read food labels if you buy store-bought varieties, as these may harbor added sugar. If you have diabetes or another blood sugar condition, you may also want to limit yourself to those that only contain vegetables.

Finally, keep in mind that you can't depend on juice to meet all of your body's nutrition needs.

Summary

Green juice doesn't offer any benefits beyond those associated with fresh produce. However, if it helps you get more nutrients in your diet, it's safe and healthy in moderation.

The Bottom Line

Green juice is extracted from green vegetables like kale, spinach, and celery. Some green juices may also include fruit.

This beverage is a rich source of numerous nutrients and plant compounds that support heart health, digestion, and immunity. Still, it's lacking in fiber and may contribute to poor blood sugar control or kidney issues if consumed in excess.

If you drink green juice, be sure to moderate your intake and include it as part of a balanced diet.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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