From supermodels such as Miranda Kerr and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to celeb trainers and actresses – they’re all at it. And all credit their super-slim figure, glowing skin and wrinkle-free looks to the daily ritual of chugging back a glass of fresh juice. Green juices are the latest thing to be papped with, whizz up one yourself for a smug Instagram selfie or buy a raw bottled version – there are new varieties constantly popping up in shops and cafes. But before you down your next concoction, wouldn’t you like to know which of these intriguing liquids is best for you and why?
‘Juicing is a quick and easy way of getting all the nutrients your body needs,’ explains Sarah Cadji, founder of London’s first cold-pressed juice bar Roots & Bulbs and author of Pure Juicing For Life, (Quadrille, £15). ‘Offering a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and other super nutrients, these goodies are easily absorbed into the bloodstream and into our cells.’
Green juices – sludgy-looking concoctions made from emulsified brassicas such as broccoli and kale are especially big business in the juicing world right now. Leafy greens are a powerhouse of antioxidants and minerals and many nutritionists believe they offer liver-detoxifying ingredients that help elminate toxins and other nasties from our bodies. ‘Green vegetable juices are essential for establishing a healthy body and immune system. They build your internal system and strengthen your blood,’ says Cadji. ‘Green vegetable juices are also very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are loaded with folic acid and chlorophyll and purify the blood, prevent diseases, improve circulation, strengthen your immune system and boost your energy levels.’ No wonder we think we can’t get enough of the stuff.
1. Too much sugar
But is it all good news when it comes to juicing? Certainly raw juices – which you can now buy bottled from stores as well as freshly pressed from juice bars – are far healthier than traditional supermarket juices, which are usually pasteurised (heat-treated) to extend the product’s shelf life, killing off much of the nutritional goodness.
Not all fresh juices are created equal, however. While a glass of the green stuff is superior for its multiple health-giving benefits, its fruit-based counterparts – whether fresh from a juice bar or bottled – are not quite so virtuous. They’re high in fruit sugar (fructose), which causes blood sugar level spikes and increases risk of weight gain and type two diabetes. Juicing removes the fibrous part of the fruit, which is essential for slowing down the absorption of fruit sugar and keeping its GI low. So drinking a juice made entirely of fruit is not nearly as healthy as eating the fruit whole. ‘It’s always better to eat your fruit and drink your vegetables,’ says Cadji. ‘Fresh vegetables and fruits are the basis of any healthy diet as they are the source of nearly every nutrient the human body requires for optimum function. But fruit juice won’t help you feel better or heal your body. This doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you – it is, but it has too much sugar,’ she adds.
2. They make you hungry
A glass of fruit juice is significantly higher in fructose and calories than the same size serving of whole fruit. According to the Pritkin Institute, you’d need to eat eight oranges to get the same calories as a 16 oz glass of orange juice. And while a cup-sized serving of apple offers 57 calories and 11.3g of sugar, a cup (240ml) of apple juice offers 110 calories and 26g of sugar. Buy a large-sized juice from a juice bar and it could set you back.
Moreover, the calories you drink are less satisfying than those you chew. Research shows that you’re likely to consume more food and calories after drinking a glass of juice, than after eating a piece of fruit. The soluble and insoluble fibre found in whole fruit helps create a feeling of fullness whereas juice delivers a high dose of calories without relieving hunger. So despite common belief, juicing is not always the best choice if you’re trying to lose weight.
3. Your teeth are at risk
Then there’s the risk that drinking juice poses to dental health. ‘Juices containing highly acidic fruits such as lemons, oranges, pineapple and grapefruit can break down enamel over time and even cause mouth ulcers or sores for those sensitive to acidic food,’ reveals Dr. Kourosh Maddahi, celebrity cosmetic dentist and best-selling author of Anti-Aging Dentistry (£19; amazon.co.uk). And to keep our pearly whites looking their best, we should drink our juices through a straw, believes Dr Maddahi. ‘This will take these vitamin- and mineral-rich liquids past your teeth without staining them or wearing them down. I recommend a thick straw because using a thinner straw too frequently could cause lines to appear around the lips,’ he adds.
4. Liquid calories count!
So how do we strike the perfect balance? First, don’t forget liquid calories count! Glugging back too much juice will inevitably pack on the pounds so keep your consumption to no more than one fresh juice per day and stick to a 250ml serving. An ideal combination is 80 per cent vegetables, and 20 per cent fruit to help keep sugar content low and avoid energy peaks and troughs. ‘We should be drinking vegetable juices which have a small amount of fruit in them. Never add more than one or two fruits inside your juice, as it’s simply too much sugar,’ warns Cadjil.
As fruit juices rank highly on the sugar scale, they’re best consumed post-workout when your body’s glycogen stores need a boost. Drink your juice within 20 minutes of finishing your workout to replenish depleted stores. Your body will also be primed to absorb nutrients more readily straight after exercise.
Short-term juice cleanses – where you replace meals with juice – can offer a healthy kick-start if you’re hoping to drop a few pounds and improve energy levels, but regularly swapping solid food for juice is not sustainable or healthy. To maintain a stable weight, it’s important to follow a balanced diet of three meals and two snacks daily. Swapping meals for juice will mean missing out on important macronutrients like good fats and protein, so make sure juice is an addition to a balanced diet rather than substitution for nutritious meals.