I love a green juice as much as any other health conscious person (something about the colour that psychologically feels superiorly healthy). However, given the fuss around them in recent years you couldn’t be blamed for thinking they were some sort of elixir for eternal youth and a life free of disease!
Most gourmet juice companies talk about enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants and ‘clean food’, which is just the oddest term with little nutritional relevance. Many also offer ‘juice cleanses’, which I will happily say I don’t agree with, but for those that swear by them and genuinely feel better after them then go for it, in the short term they won’t do you any harm (although I would be starving and not very nice to be around).
My view is; why not focus your health kick on putting as much good stuff into your body from a range of (solid) foods that include healthy fats, veggies, nuts, seeds and wholegrains whilst cutting down on the baddies such as processed foods, booze and sugar. Better still, whilst your at it, why not adopt a few of these healthy eating habits for the long-term instead of quick fixes and the illusion that somehow purging your body will correct the damage done by an unhealthy lifestyle (especially if you just return to that way of living afterwards). The irony is that ‘cleanses’ tend do be done by people who are already very healthy.
Sugar is also used as a marketing tool to demonise fruit juices like orange and apple, in favour of green veggie juices. Sugar has received much bad press recently, and rightly so as we now understand the effect it has on health when eaten in large quantities (heart disease, inflammation, obesity, oral health). Fruit juice got caught up in the exposure, particularly as the liver breaks down fructose, too much of which can lead to a build up of fat (fatty liver), elevated blood fat and bad cholesterol, insulin resistant tissues and increased free radical damage. Most of this damage though is caused by excessive consumption and particularly high fructose corn syrup which is the main sweetener used by manufacturers in certain countries (especially the United States). A daily glass of fruit juice as part of a balanced diet poses little harm to your health and a good dose of vitamin C.
Many juice companies also talk about the difficulty in eating enough fruit and veg on a daily basis, and whilst the new research suggests we should increase our intake nearer to 10 servings each day, a juice is still only classed as one serving given the removal of fibre. A serving of fruit or veg is actually not that big at 80g and can easily be notched up across the day.
Breakfast: yoghurt with berries, juice (2)
Snack: hummus with carrot and pepper sticks (2)
Lunch: vegetable and lentil/bean soup, fruit salad (3)
Snack: dried fruit/nut bar (1)
Evening meal: chicken stir-fry (3)
As a rule of thumb:
Half a large fruit or veggie (grapefruit, avocado, courgette, pepper, carrot)
One medium fruit (apple or pear)
Two small fruits (tangerine or plum)
Three dried fruits (apricots, figs, prunes) or one small handful (sultanas)
One handful of beans and pulses (red kidney beans, butter beans, chickpeas)
One handful of larger vegetables (prepared broccoli, cauliflower, squash or sliced cucumber)
One handful of leaves (lettuce, spinach, kale)
See more at NHS choices
I’m definitely not going to start knocking gourmet juice companies (many of whom I know) for what they do; the guys who run them are great and have a genuine interest in health and the juices taste delicious with a nice ‘filtered’ freshness to them. Fresh organic fruit and veg is also expensive and for people that can afford them, they offer convenience. It is worth checking the ingredient list before you buy, there are some brands offering cold-pressed green juices that have very little green veg and over 80% apple juice (that’s expensive apple juice!)
Whilst green juices may contain a wider range of nutrients than boring old orange juice, it’s still just a juice, a glass of which contributes to one of your daily fruit and veg intake. Having recently worked on a juice project I was staggered at the price of some cold-pressed juices on the market but the average cost is around £6. At this price (£2160 per year) that would buy you you’re own Vitamix, years supply of veggies and a relaxing two week holiday in the Mediterranean so here are a few recipes to make your own green juices at home. You can control the sweetness by adding more or less fruit.
Green goddess juice
3 kale leaves (take soft leaf off the stem)
1 small handful coriander
1 lime (juice only)
1 head Romaine lettuce
Ginger (to taste)
Green aniseed juice
1 big bunch spinach
Handful of mint
1-2 green apples (or pears)
1 fennel bulb
1/2 lemon, juiced
1. Chop ingredients and blend high for 30 seconds.
2. Lay muslin over a bowl, pour in juice then grab the four corners of cloth and squeeze out the juice.