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.
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.
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.
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 which 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.
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.