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That juice may be green, but it’s not as healthy as you think

Not all green juices are healthful. It’s important to pay attention to the drink’s serving size, sodium and sugar, as well as to claims made on the label.
Not all green juices are healthful. It’s important to pay attention to the drink’s serving size, sodium and sugar, as well as to claims made on the label. (PamelaJoeMcFarlane/Getty Images/iStock)
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In recent years, bottles of vegetable-based green juices have become trendy accessories for health-conscious consumers and fitness buffs alike. With their promises to “make your body sing” and put “pep in your step,” for example, these drinks convey a halo of healthfulness.

“When the green juice trend really started back in 2010 or 2011, it was something of a niche product,” says Kara Nielsen, culinary trends analyst at the marketing firm CCD Innovation. “Now that trend has matured and gone mainstream, with a wide array of options that target all kinds of consumers.”

But not all green juices are necessarily good for you. So it’s important to read the label on the bottle at the store. We’ve compiled a list of things to look for — and to avoid — when buying something green to drink.

Watch the sugar

Drinks such as Naked Juice Green Machine sport labels touting their “zero added sugar,” but don’t be misled: A look at the label reveals that there are 53 grams of sugars — and 270 calories — in one 15-ounce bottle. The same amount of Coke contains 49 grams of sugars.

The reason for the sugars overload is the high fruit-to-veggie ratio. The sugars in fruit juice are naturally present (not added) but are processed by your body in the same way the added sugars in soda are. So beware drinks that look green but are essentially fruit-juice blends. For example, three of the four top ingredients in Naked Juice Pressed Citrus Lemongrass are fruit juices, with 33 grams of sugars per 12-ounce serving.

Instead, look for drinks with a high veggie content, especially leafy greens such as spinach and kale, and little if any fruit juice. Consider drinks such as Daily Green Purity, which includes kale, cucumber, parsley, broccoli, celery, lemon and basil — and 9 grams of sugars in a 12-ounce bottle.

Don't expect fiber

Although green drinks may contain a variety of valuable nutrients, when you press vegetables to extract their juice, you usually leave the fiber behind.

Fiber slows the release of any sugars in the food into your bloodstream, and it has many other benefits. In addition to aiding digestion, dietary fiber has been shown to help cut cholesterol levels, protect against diabetes, tame inflammation and control weight. Unfortunately, most bottled green juices contain less than a gram of fiber.

It’s always best to eat whole vegetables whenever possible, according to Consumer Reports nutritionist Amy Keating. But if you prefer getting your greens in liquid form, the way to get the fiber is to make your own drink in a blender that can liquefy whole vegetables and fruit, such as the Ninja With Auto iQ BL 642-30 blender, the top-rated personal (as opposed to full-size) blender in Consumer Reports’ ratings.

Check the sodium

Most green drinks don’t contain added salt, but some vegetables, such as beets and celery, have a surprising amount of naturally occurring sodium. For example, Evolution Fresh’s Organic Essential Greens, which has celery juice as its first ingredient, contains 300 milligrams of sodium in one 15-ounce bottle. (The recommendation is less than 2,300 mg per day.)

“Consider what else you’re eating in a day,” Keating says. “If you’re trying to reduce your sodium intake, choose your green drink carefully.”

Serving size matters

When you consider the nutrition labels on the back of these beverages, serving sizes can lead to confusion. For instance, Bolthouse Farms Daily Greens comes in a 15.2-ounce bottle, the same size as a bottle of Evolution Fresh Organic Smooth Greens.

A quick scan would lead you to believe the Evolution Fresh drink has more sodium (280 mg) and more sugars (19 grams) than the Bolthouse Farms drink (170 mg of sodium and 16 grams of sugars). But the Bolthouse Farms serving size is only half a bottle, compared with a whole bottle for Evolution Fresh. If you drink the whole bottle of the Bolthouse Farms drink, you’ll get 340 mg of sodium and 32 grams of sugars.

Be careful of label claims

On its website, Suja claims that its Glow green drink will make your skin glow. Other manufacturers promise that their green juices can give you better sleep, cleanse your blood or help you “rebalance your body.” Keating suggests that you be wary of claims from promotional materials and company websites.

“Unless a company provides research that backs up their individual claims,” Keating says, “I would not take these claims at face value.”

 Copyright 2018, Consumer Reports Inc.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Read more at ConsumerReports.org.

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