Why Your Green Juice Might Be Just As Bad For You As a Candy Bar

September 1, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
Why Your Green Juice Might Be Just As Bad For You As a Candy Bar

Twee names, artisanal glass bottles, staggering prices—yep, juicing has gone mainstream. Once the purveyance of health food nuts, liquified veggies and fruit have now become so popular that even coffee shop chains hawk veggie and fruit juices along with their cappuccinos and white chocolate mochas. 

But grabbing a green juice to offset that indulgent caramel frappaccino isn't actually a healthy strategy–it's time to end the futile attempt to balance health with a shot of veggie juice. As it turns out, that spinach-apple-pineapple juice could be just as detrimental to your body as chomping down on a candy bar.

The average cold pressed green juice usually contains green vegetables (like kale and spinach) plus some sort of fruit (like an apple, pineapple, or lemon). But the addition of that fruit juice can take the total sugar count up to 25 to 35 grams—even more than a Snickers bar.

Juicing is the process of extracting all the liquid from fruits and vegetables and leaving behind the pulp, skin, and core. And yes, you’re getting some good stuff from the juice of produce–in fact, 90 percent of the nutrients from produce are found in the juice, according to the Department of Agriculture. Great! Juicing also makes fibrous fruits and vegetables easier to digest, which can be a godsend for people with digestive problems such as gut damage, IBS, or Celiac's disease.

Raw fruits and vegetables contain some beneficial enzymes that are neutralized in the cooking process. That means the only way to ingest those powerful enzymes is to eat or drink your produce raw or lightly cooked. So a straight shot of nutrients to your gut can certainly be good, but there are also some less than ideal effects that juicing can have on your body.

Though you probably think of fresh strawberries, kale, and carrots as full of vitamins and minerals, all fruits and vegetables are mostly carbohydrates, fiber, and a minimal amount of protein (we're talking one gram or less). These carbohydrates mostly come from fructose, the sugar that naturally occurs in produce. Every type of sugar—white sugar, raw sugar, honey, agave, fructose, to name a few—causes the body's blood sugar to spike. When sugars aren't combined with fiber, fat, or protein (which all take a while to breakdown and digest), they hit your bloodstream hard and cause stress in the liver, spikes in insulin production, and inflammation in the body.

Whether it comes from a piece of fruit or a brownie, your body reacts to sugar the same way. However, you can offset your body's reaction by choosing foods that have more macronutrients like protein and healthy fat. A large apple has 25 grams of sugar—the exact same amount of sugar in a Milky Way candy bar—but because the apple is also full of fiber, the body can break down the apple more slowly than the candy bar. This means you'll feel more sustained energy for hours after your snack—without the sugar crash.

So remember the pulp left behind in the juicer? That fiber is what keeps blood sugar from going berserk when you chow down on a fruit salad. When you eat fruits and vegetables in their whole form, the fiber allows your body to digest that fructose without any serious issues. When you extract the fiber through juicing, your body treats fructose similarly to other simple sugars.

If you're otherwise eating a balanced diet, one juice a day isn't a big deal. Overconsumption of fructose, however, can damage in the liver, similar to the effect that toxins like alcohol have on your major organs. Another downside of too much fructose? It can permanently destroy your metabolism, making it harder for your body to process food and calories in the future.

Still want to drink your daily quota of veggies? Go for a blended smoothie instead. You'll get all the juicy benefits of the vegetables and fruits, while still knocking back tons of fiber and nutrients from pulp. If you just can't quit that green juice life, drink your beverage with a meal to better help balance your blood sugar.

Photo credit: Alita Ong via Stocksy

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This article is related to: Diet, Fruit, Green juice, Juice, Juicing, Nutrition, Sugar, Vegetables

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Being a Picky Eater Might Have Unexpected Consequences

  • Lion

    Thanks for this. When I realized how much sugar I was taking in from all the fruit juice I was drinking, I cut out the Mango Tangos and other smoothies that I thought were good for me. Now I look at the juices on WF's shelves and eliminate all that have fruit mixed in - which is 98% of them. I'm buying only all-vegetable juices, knowing that carrots have a high sugar content, too. The ones with green vegetables only are more expensive, but I feel like I'm getting more bang for my bucks.

  • Mark

    All you need is one sip to know this stuff is chock full sugar. I dumped the rest down the drain.

  • Meg Henderson

    This article is misleading, at best. Thanks for encouraging people to eat candy bars, which are full of dubious ingredients, besides sugar, not to mention lacking nutrients of green juice. Also, yes, sugar from fruits does cause blood sugar to spike, but it's by far a better choice than a candy bar, if you are going to eat something sweet anyway. This kind of click-bait sensationalist media is irresponsible.

  • medavinci

    The author is speaking out of both sides of the mouth. She says no to fruit smoothies AND green ones with some fruit in it. But at the end of the article she says get a blended smoothie. What is that if not a green drink mixed with some fruits?????

  • James Brown

    Just another Blogger paid by the "Sugar" Food industry to do some damage control and debunk Juicing. Put it this way, How many Facebook Candy Bar Diet pages are there, that show people losing 100's of lbs in weight everyday?...Now have a look to see how many Juicing Facebook pages there are that show people losing 100's of lbs everyday? Surely if the Snickers Bar has less sugar than a Mean Green, then they must be losing alot more weight....right?...I mean, thats right isn't it?.....lol...load of rubbish..

  • Melanie Kabo

    I happen to completely disagree with the article. First of all everyone knows the sugars in fruit are different that the sugars in candy bars (natural vs. unnatural), plus you're not getting all the fat that is in the candy bar or the GMO, if you're using organic/non GMO fruit.And the difference with a blended smoothie is that your body works hard to digest the fiber, whereas with out the fiber your body soaks up all the nutrients right away. This is why so many people are losing weight and curing diseases with juicing. And I sip my green juice, that I juiced myself as I type this up. I really wish Thrive would get better writers...

  • Tanya

    I don't think some of the people commenting are reading the entire article. This goes into how your body processes sugar. When you eat an entire fruit or veggie, the fiber helps your body process the sugars over a longer period of time. The author even goes on to say that with a balanced diet, one juice a day is fine! I think this is meant for people who are just starting to refine and reinvent their eating habits, and who may think that a juice cleanse for a week is the best thing for their health. Also, when you juice at home you can control what goes in there - you probably are adding one apple and not an apple PLUS some more fruit juices (as some juice and smoothies shops may do). Juices are great! But so are whole vegetables and fruits..chewed up and swallowed the old-fashioned way ;)

  • SherryEllesson

    All juices are not created equal, dear author. If you look at sites like Reboot With Joe, you'll find out that homemade juices should be 80% veg and 20% fruit (I actually prefer 90% veg to 10% fruit) and for the record, not ALL the fiber stays behind - only the insoluble kind. There's plenty of soluble fiber that's too small to get filtered out and it has the cleansing/mediating effect desired. To lump homemade, mostly-veg fresh juices in with commercial, mostly-fruit juice blends is irresponsible and misleading at best and downright damaging at worst. I agree with the responder who called this kind of headline and partial (mis)information sensationalistic.

  • Danielle

    So, I consider myself very knowledgeable about nutrition. Thank God the autoimmunity I developed is now dormant, partially because of nutrition changes. I tend to look for the positive in everything. This article uses extremism and sarcasm to get the readers to realize how excess sugar intake through juicing and candy can be harmful. You can find tons of articles about the damage caused by GMO, but you rarely read about the cons of excessive juicing. Its all about diversity of food, great digestion, and using knowledge to make good choices. Also, if you have high inflammation, chances are you may have candida overgrowth that is fed by sugar. If you have inflammation, try green smoothies for now with only green apples and lemons with veggies - no other fruit. If not, you can alternate between smoothies and juices.

  • Alsie

    what a load of bollox

  • Bill Beechcroft

    Well I was going to have some healthy vegetable packed juice but after this article I guess I will just go back to my standard afternoon vodka and snicker snack.

  • Beth

    I thought this was a great article taken as a whole and not in part. Your point was to ditch the juicer and use a blender instead. Not to eat candy bars instead of fresh juice. I think a few commenters have jumped to conclusions, instead of patiently reading the whole article before forming opinions. It may have been helpful presenting your point if you had stated the obvious that, vitamin rich juice is still a better option if you were going to eat a candy bar anyway. You know, for those who don't know it's obvious to everyone, not just him/her.

  • nc

    I have read through the article and the responses below shows how people can twist the meaning of things to suit what they strongly believe in. The facts in this article boils down to this: Juicing extracts FIBER out of the fruits and vegetables. We need fiber more than we need the left over sugar which hits the blood stream like and other sugar. The blood stream does not discriminate against sugar. The chemical formula of fructose is the same from fruit to table sugar and any other form just like the article points out. That how the blood stream sees it. Without the fiber it cause sugar in the blood to spike, and that's what you don't want. There is no suggestion to stop juicing and eat Snickers bar, just do smoothies which will include the fiber. BTW make smoothies with either water or unfiltered coconut water straight from a coconut.
    GREAT ARTICLE if you get the POINT!!!!!

  • E and Sam

    Or... just don't put fruit (or high sugar veggies like carrots and beets) in your juice. Kale, cucumber, celery, lemon juice is delicious.

  • Àsę Elijé Amen

    Utterly ridiculous! The natural sugars (simple carbohydrates) that occur in fruits are easily metabolized compared to refined and processed unnatural sugars ( high fructose corn syrup derivatives) in a snickers. This is garbage!

  • ml01106

    Excellent article and I totally agree. I've been into organic and clean food since the 1970's and I knew this to be true then. Juicing is not whole food............it's sugar. Smoothies are a better choice. (but leave out the high sugar fruits!)

  • Joe Pokupec

    The benefits of adopting a lifestyle that includes 1 to 2 days per week of drinking only freshly extracted, natural juice have completely changed my life. I'm not a doctor, nor a nutrition expert like Michelle. I am a 51 year old ultra-marathon runner who is willing to experiment with health and fitness, and keep what works. Natural fruit and veggie juices, including the green drinks mentioned in this article are nothing short of "life-changing". I have completed five 7-Day juice cleanses in the last year, drinking only freshly-extracted juices and blended smoothies following Jason Vale's 7 lbs in 7 Days Plan. I have run 28 miles on day 5 of a juice cleanse. I participate in strength training programs and spend much time outdoors engaging in physical activities. I've found that juicing is "not" a detriment or a danger to my health. I used a tried and true program as a starting point. I suggest Jason Vale (Movie: Super Juice Me) or Joe Cross (Movie: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead) for examples. I am not overweight. I simply tested Jason Vale's claim that the sugars in freshly extracted juices are not the same as those found in processed sugars. Check out Jason's rebuttal to a similar juice-unfriendly article here: http://news.juicemaster.com/jason-vales-reply-to-the-mail-online-article-juicing-can-wreck-your-looks

    I encourage everyone to test for yourselves the benefits of integrating a slow juicer (Omega VRT series for example) into a daily lifestyle routine using a true-world, tested by humans, program (see Jason Vale or Joe Cross), What you you got to lose?

  • Janet Verney

    I find this article misleading and it could deter folks from juicing, which is not a good thing. I do not add any fruit to my green juice other lemon. I use a little Stevita for sweetness. My recipe can be found on my blog: www.roots2wellness.com