Updated: Jun 26, 2020
When it comes to health, juice can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. When made with quality ingredients, a juice is an incredible way to consume a variety of vegetables in one glass. In this article, I'll explain the health benefits of juice, how to make a healthy juice, and what to avoid when making or buying juice.
A question I get a lot is: What’s better for you: juices or smoothies? I’m a big fan of juices AND smoothies but love them for different reasons. There are pros and cons to both depending on what you’re looking for in your drink, how it’s made, and the ingredients. For more information on smoothies, check out my "Smoothie 101" article!
Juices are made by simply extracting the water and nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Juicers remove some of the ‘harder-to-digest’ parts of fruits and vegetables - like the the fiber and skins. In most cases, fiber is a great thing - it slows digestion, keeping us full for longer periods of time - but in the case of juicing, removing the fiber is actually a benefit. Without the fiber, our bodies more easily absorb the micronutrients, aka vitamins and minerals. We actually absorb more nutrients from juice compared to eating a whole vegetable or fruit. For this reason, I am a big fan of juices. You can pack in tons of vegetables into a juice and efficiently flush your body with tons of easily digestible nutrition. That being said, because there is no fiber in juice, it is extremely important to keep the sugar content low. Fiber slows our body's absorption of sugar and prevents blood sugar spikes, crashes and cravings. Think about drinking a glass of apple juice vs. eating a whole apple. You feel a lot more satisfied when you eat the apple because it contains fiber!
A few other things to keep in mind with juicing:
First, be sure to make your juice primarily vegetables rather than fruit. The benefit of a juice is to pack in nutrients but if it’s loaded with sugar from fruit, you won’t get any benefit and you’ll put yourself in a blood sugar rollercoaster. A good rule of thumb is using no more than ~¼-½ a serving of fruit per 16 oz serving of juice and make the rest vegetables. Think green, water-based vegetables like kale, celery, cucumber, romaine and ½ a green apple for a great green juice. Keep in mind that some vegetables, like beets and carrots, have a higher sugar content and will also contribute a fair amount of sugar to a juice. The goal is a juice as high in nutrients and as low in sugar as
Second, juices should not be considered a meal replacement. They are very low in calories, contain no fiber, protein or fat and won’t satisfy your hunger hormones. I like to drink a green juice first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. When you drink it on an empty stomach, your body is able to most efficiently absorb the nutrients. You can think of it as a nutrient-dense supplement to a normal day of eating and quick dose of vitamins first thing in the morning.
Last but not least, if you want to regularly drink juice, I recommend making them at home. It will save you money, you can control what goes into the juice, and it tastes SO much better. If you do want to buy one on-the-go, look for organic, know the ingredients, and read the label (paying close attention to the sugars). One of the best parts about juicing is that once you have the right combo of ingredients, you really don't have to measure. I'd be lying if I tried to give you any type of measurements, but below are some of my favorite juice ingredients and combos to get you started!
My go-to green juice is a combo of:
-Kale, Spinach, Celery, Romaine, Cucumber, Green Apple
*Other good additions: Pineapple, Lemon, Orange, Cilantro, Mint, Ginger
For a little bit of a sweeter juice, I like a carrot, ginger and apple combo. The carrot is a great source of vitamin K and the ginger is an anti-inflammatory and supports digestion. This is a great combo to sneak some extra veggies into kids. With juices like this that are a bit higher in sugar compared to green juice, I recommend limiting your serving size to 1 cup.
The bottom line: Both smoothie and juices are beneficial in different ways depending on your health goals. I like to drink smoothies as meal replacements (mostly breakfast) and drink green juices 1-2x/week, in addition to regular meals, to increase my nutrient intake. Both can be a great way to boost your immune system during those weeks when you’re not getting in enough vegetables or you feel like you’re starting to get sick. Either way, pack in the veggies and beware of overdoing it with too much sugar!