Last Update: November 16, 2023
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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