All your friends will be green with envy when they see how healthy you are.

Quick notes

  • The CDC says more than two-thirds of American adults do not eat enough vegetables
  • Store-bought green juice has as much sugar as soda

The green juice trend has revived the popularity of a once-forgotten appliance–the juicer. Despite all of the hype, some doctors and dieticians caution that green juice is a lackluster sugar rush. What is the key to gaining all of the benefits of green juice and skipping out on all the drawbacks? Carefully chosen ingredients.

What can go wrong?

What could possibly be wrong with drinking a juice made of fruits and vegetables? There can be too much of a good thing. Fruits contain sugars. Although these are natural sugars, juice requires far more fruit than the average person would eat in one sitting. Eating four apples over the course of a day may not be terrible, but slurping down juice from four apples at one time will cause blood sugar to spike.

Diets that rely on drinking juices to the exclusion of all other foods are also concerning to health professionals. A balanced diet includes all of the major food groups, and vegetables and fruit do not provide all of the necessary nutrients on their own. The effects of green juice on blood sugar are also heightened when a person only drinks juice. With the right ingredients, green juice can be a healthful part of a balanced diet.

Go for the green

The ingredients that make juice green are the ones that provide the most nutritional benefits. Leafy greens like mustard greens, collard greens, kale, spinach, and parsley should constitute the bulk of the ingredients in any healthy green juice. Of course, these greens have strong flavors. This can be offset by including a moderate amount of citrus or spice from lemons, limes, or ginger.

Flickr

Between genetics and lifestyle, millions of Americans are predisposed to developing type two diabetes. Leafy greens have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. Rather than causing blood sugar to spike, drinking a green juice that consists largely of leafy greens can decrease a person’s risk of developing diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recognizes dark leafy greens and citrus fruits as diabetes superfoods.

Celery and cucumber are also great additions to any green juice. Both of these ingredients have a watery consistency, so they will improve taste and texture. In addition to the appeal, these ingredients are also very healthful, and the chlorophyll in them has a detoxifying effect on the body. Like kale, celery has been proven to reduce the levels of lipids in the bloodstream. Celery is also an antioxidant, which reduced cancer-causing free radical levels in the body.

Ax the apples

Most other juices are incredibly sweet and pleasing to the tastebuds. Green juice is never going to be as sweet as popular fruit juice cocktails. There is a risk of nullifying the nutritional benefits of green juice by adding too much sugar to it. Including sweet fruit like bananas, apples, and grapes are popular ways of making the juice more palatable.

Some even add sugar, honey, or agave nectar to make green juice sweeter. It takes a lot of sugar to make strong tasting leafy greens like collards and spinach taste sweet. According to Consumer Reports, some store-bought green juices have sugar levels similar to and even exceding popular soda brands.

To get all the nutrients from green juice and avoid the pitfalls of consuming too much sugar, try going for a savory taste rather than a sweet one. Jalapenos, ginger, cilantro and dill (not necessarily all together) can make green juice taste like a refreshing cold soup. Lemon, lime, and mint also make green juice palatable without adding too much sugar.

The perfect recipe

From a nutritional standpoint, the perfect green juice is homemade to allow for more control of ingredients. The exact proportion of ingredients depends on preferred taste and texture, but dark leafy greens should be a primary ingredient. Celery and cucumbers add more water and nutrients. Extra water may be necessary. Do not forget to season or (lightly) sweeten the drink to taste, and, finally, enjoy!

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101: