The term green juice implies nature, earth, wellness, and perhaps a popular Martian beverage.
But dig deeper into this mysterious drink, and you will find a variety of beneficial components that can make all the difference on personal goals such as weight loss and living an overall healthier lifestyle.
To understand all the ways green juice can help — as well as how to avoid some of the not-so-obvious drawbacks — we must first ask the question:
What is green juice?
Green juice in the broad sense is a term applied to a variety of different recipes that may or may not contain fruit, protein add-ins, and whatever other goodies you can think of.
However, in its simplest form, the drink — which originates in Japan, where it is known as Aojiru — is a liquid derived from kale or young barley grass.
If you grew up slamming back sugary Cokes and cheeseburgers, that’s probably going to sound like the most disgusting thing you’ve ever heard. But don’t knock it until you try it.
Kale, Healthline notes, is one of the most dense-in-nutrient foods on earth. A single cup of the stuff contains over 200 percent of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin A; close to 700 percent of the RDA of vitamin K; and about 134 percent of the RDA of vitamin C.
That same cup of kale contains significant amounts of manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium. Last but not least, it boasts 3 percent RDA of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, as well as iron and phosphorus.
The only potential drawback to kale — and it’s a pretty minuscule one — is the fact that it contains small amounts of the toxic heavy metal thallium, which can affect the nervous system, lung, heart, liver, and kidney, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but that is only if taken in large doses over extended periods of time.
The amount found in kale is so small, it is statistically insignificant. That hasn’t stopped one study from arguing otherwise, but Snopes has a pretty good takedown of that here, judging the claim “unproven.”
Young Barley Grass — referred to by Organic Facts as “nature’s best fast food” — is dense in nutrients as well. You get a lot of overlap with kale in a 200-gram serving of young barley grass, but it doesn’t come as close to the RDA’s.
Still, that’s not such a bad thing considering the same amount of kale sort of overdoes it. What you will get with young barley grass are B vitamins aplenty, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, among others.
As far as known side effects are concerned, drugs.com notes that “Although hypersensitivity to barley products typically is associated with the seed and not the green leaves or shoots, patients with celiac disease or other sensitivities to barley probably should avoid use.”
Now let’s have a look at how each of the components found in kale and young barley grass can help with body functions and outcomes.
Related Article: 7 Days Of Green Smoothies For Ultimate Wellbeing
Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., notes that vitamin A “plays a vital role in bone growth, reproduction and immune system health,” adding that it also helps the skin and mucous membranes “repel bacteria and viruses more effectively.”
“It is essential to healthy vision, and may slow declining retinal function in people with retinitis pigmentosa,” which is the term for a group of inherited diseases that cause retinal degeneration.
The B Vitamins
There are eight essential B vitamins, and green juice will provide access to most, if not all. Rather than go into each one individually — you can do that here at the Daily Burn if interested — we will just hit some highlights.
Perhaps the biggest benefit, considering how much of a killer heart disease is, vitamin B can boost production of HDL, also known as “the good cholesterol.”
Other B vitamin benefits include the following:
- Help the body make healthy new cells
- Fight free radicals, or particles in the body that injure healthy cells
- Improve red blood cell production
- Reduce or prevent migraines
- Break down fats and carbs for energy production
- Regulate amino acids for improved sleep and mood
- Grow healthier hair, skin, and nails
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) credit this vitamin for helping with the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters as well as protein metabolism.
Collagen is important for connective tissue (i.e., wound healing).
“Vitamin C is also an important physiological antioxidant … and has been shown to regenerate other antioxidants within the body, including alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E),” the NIH notes, adding that the vitamin has been linked to the fight against free radicals, which can “prevent or delay the development of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases in which oxidative stress plays a causal role.”
It also improves iron absorption and aids with immune function. An absence or deficiency of vitamin C can result in scurvy, which manifests through fatigue, weak capillaries, and systemic connective tissue weakness.
This vitamin is credited as a key nutrient for blood clotting. It also helps to prevent bone loss and fracturing. Symptoms of low vitamin K can include easy bruising, oozing from the gums or nose, excessive bleeding, and blood in the GI and urinary tracts.
Bones, heart, muscles, and nerves all rely on calcium to function properly. Calcium can also protect against cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Copper has been linked to improving arthritis, skin care, and melanin production. It also has a reputation as a brain stimulant, which can be particularly comforting if you are like so many of us with a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia in our families.
Manganese is known for its assistance with bone health and cognitive function, as well as taking the fight to diabetes.
Magnesium is an energy booster, and it helps to ease anxiety. It has been used for sleep support and preventing migraines as well.
Since potassium deficiencies are associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders, infertility, and arthritis, anything that addresses the deficiencies will only help the underlying conditions.
Like many of the other nutrients found in green juice, this aids with detox, dental health, strong bones, and increased metabolism.
What other greens can be used for green juice?
Kale and young barley grass are the common foundations of green juice in its healthiest state, but they are not the only options you may wish to consider when experimenting with your own recipes.
Green juice enthusiasts, as well as those suffering from childhood flashbacks of being force-fed grass from the playground bully, have been known to experiment with other emerald veggies including celery, cucumber, collards, chard, ginger, green leaf lettuce, lemongrass, parsley, and romaine.
Sonnet from InSonnetsKitchen recently shared a great anti-kale, anti-barley grass smoothie idea that employs cucumber, parsley, lemon, avocado, and raw spinach. We’ve tried it. It rocks.
You can check it out here. (And just to be clear, the smoothie is anti-barley/anti-kale, not Sonnet herself.)
While none of these other “greens” will bring with them the nutritional profiles of kale or young barley grass, they may be more palatable to the average person just starting their green juice journey.
They also succeed in keeping the calorie count low, which is beneficial for weight loss. More on that in a moment.
Green juice and fruit: the right stuff or defeating the purpose?
Whenever someone asks the question, “Can I put fruit in mine?,” the purists among us start getting a little nervous. That’s because the question often comes from people who like the idea of being healthy but are not quite committed to the practice of it.
Yes, you can put a lot of things in your green juice or green smoothie, and it will taste just fine. But it also may destroy the core nutritional advantages.
Fruit is an area where you will want to tread lightly because, while healthy, it skews higher in calories and natural sugars.
Sugar consumption, in moderation, is not bad, but in overabundance it can lead to problems like diabetes, rapid weight gain, and high blood pressure.
When you catch yourself stuffing mangos, apples, bananas, and oranges into a single “green juice” — well, it ceases to be green juice. It instead becomes just another unhealthy beverage.
(Maybe not as bad as a soda, but well on the way.)
Sugar crowds out nutritional components that your body actually needs to reach its full potential. The only way to make room for those nutritional components is to eat more, thus driving up your daily calorie count and inevitably gaining weight provided you are not burning enough energy to make up the difference.
As a general rule, when adding fruit to a green juice smoothie, consider limiting to one. A blood orange has 70 calories. An apple — depending on size — can have anywhere from 75-100. Bananas hover around the 100 mark as well.
Each of these are terrific flavor additions, and the options certainly don’t end there.
Mangos, pears, pineapples, strawberries, kiwi — experiment often with add-ins, and have fun with them. Just remember that for each new add-in, your beverage notches upward in calorie count. As with all things in life, moderation is key.
How is green juice used?
We’ve already touched on why you might want to consider green juice, but how are people actually using it day-to-day?
The idea of drinking something that essentially is liquefied grass may be hard to embrace, but many prefer it as a drink replacement once they get past the initial ick factor.
Aside from the obvious health benefits of all those aforementioned nutrients, green juice adds more flavor to complement a meal than a cup of water, and according to LIVESTRONG, you can make a cup at home for as little as 66 calories or go store-bought (generally two servings per bottle) and indulge in a cumulative total of between 120-140 calories.
A can of Coke contains 150 calories, which not only is slightly higher, but also contains none of the nutritional value. Empty calories, in other words.
The more hardcore among us have been known to use green juice as a full-scale meal replacement, though it should be noted it’s usually in smoothie form with fruits and proteins. (Yes, we know, cheating.)
While greens are high enough in fiber to sustain a feeling of fullness, they can be an acquired taste on their own, and they’re not going to deliver on their own enough protein to get you from meal-to-meal.
No worries. Adding one fruit and a serving of whey to the mix can get you there while keeping the overall calorie content to less than 400. That leaves the opportunity for a sensible lunch and dinner on the standard 2,000-calories-per-day diet.
Finally, for extreme weight loss goals, some prefer to do a green juice cleanse over the course of several days. A cleanse can take several different forms. You may choose to do full meal replacements on the days in question or limit it to two per day and one sensible meal.
The juice cleanse should go anywhere “from a few days to several weeks” and most who do them, contrary to common thought, “report an improvement to their health, mood, and appearance.”
When performing a juice cleanse, the effects will manifest in several ways. First off, metabolism will take a hit. “Your body goes into conservation mode because it doesn’t know when its next meal is going to be,” nutritionist Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN, explained to the website, adding that it can produce the opposite effect (i.e., weight gain) if performed too long.
Another danger that exists with starting a juice cleanse: if you are not quite ready for it, you could run the risk of a backslide.
And when you backslide from a juice cleanse, that can manifest in a variety of damaging ways, such as overconsumption of red meats, protein overload, and plowing through a box of Donettes in one sitting.
(Seriously, we’ve been there.)
The best thing to do if you feel like you are slipping: don’t force it. Use it as a meal replacement for a few days. Then go to two meal replacements. When you feel comfortable with that, “graduate” to a full day and go from there.
While you are on a juice cleanse, you can learn a lot of things about the way your body operates. For example, the process forces you to remove wheat, gluten, fermented foods, and dairy from your diet.
As you reintroduce, it will be easier to distinguish the foods and beverages that cause adverse effects.
Other ways this use of green juice and smoothies will help: it will help you regulate your appetites, produce more energy (eventually), and heal cell damage. That said, there are numerous reasons why you shouldn’t sustain this use for very long.
First and foremost, it can cause almost immediate digestion problems, diarrhea being chief among them. It also, over time, can impair ordinary kidney and liver functions.
Other bits of unpleasantness:
- Feelings of depression may occur.
- Bad breath is inevitable, and your teeth will weaken.
- Your skin will age and dry out.
- Your nails and hair won’t grow properly.
- You will want to strangle people for no apparent reason.
Green juice and fast food
Green juice in pure form is not too common in the fast food market, but you can get a few excellent fruit-and-veggie concoctions that qualify.
For starters, Jamba Juice has two excellent choices in the Apple ‘N Greens Smoothie and Greens ‘N Ginger Smoothie. GNA uses a mix of apple and strawberry juices, kale, peaches, mangos, and bananas.
Calories run from 250-420. As for the GNG, it’s a bit higher in calories (330-520 range), but it makes for a suitable meal replacement and contains kale and ginger puree along with lemonade, mangos, and peaches.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe is another chain that pays green juice lovers some respect with its Island Green smoothie (available in sugar-free “detox” version as well).
The Island Green comes in one size — 24 ounces — and contains a mix of spinach, kale, and ginger, along with mango, pineapple, and banana. Calorie count: 410 (or 182 for the detox version).
Of course, to save money and a few extra calories, you may wish to prepare these at home instead. Doing so allows for better sourcing of ingredients as well as portion control. If this is a path that interests you, the next section should help.
What are the best green juice recipes?
Look around on sites like Pinterest, and you will find a plethora of ideas for the different ways to prep green juice. We’ve taken this challenge ourselves, and here are a few of our favorites.
Cilantro Apple Green Juice
Prevention gets the credit for this concoction, which blends two green apples and two stalks of celery with two large kale leaves and one medium cucumber.
Throw in a dash of fresh cilantro (one-quarter cup) and one half of a peeled lemon and press through a juicer “in batches,” the site suggests.
Blake Lively’s Detox Drink
Shape recently polled celebrities on their favorite green juice recipes and one really stood out from actress Blake Lively, who swears by a “detox” drink that includes one cup kale, two Swiss chard leaves, one-half cup parsley, one-half small beet, one-half pineapple, two green apples, one-half lemon (peeled), and one sprig of fresh mint.
Green Juice for Beginners
Thanks to the advent of the Internet, it is easy to get overwhelmed on virtually every decision under the sun. That’s because you are never lacking for choices.
To simplify, Savory Nothings has what it calls a green juice for beginners, which includes five stalks of celery, one cucumber, two (peeled) medium oranges, one peeled lemon, and four cups of spinach. Juice or blend together.
The Green Juice A Day website has one of the more unique recipes that you will see. Notice that nowhere in the preceding text did we mention using a jalapeno pepper as one of the core ingredients.
Quite frankly, that’s because we failed to think of it. Fortunately, Mariam Turay did. Here’s how Turay breaks it down: two cups pineapple, five kale leaves, one cucumber, and either one-half or one full jalapeno, depending on your tolerance level for spice.
Considering how intimidating it sounds, it’s actually rather easy to make provided you’ve got a blender or juicer handy. What’s not as easy is the kick.
Lemonade is one of the great go-to beverages for making veggies more palatable, but many versions of it lose portions of their health benefits due to the excessive sugar content found in bottled and packaged mixtures.
Green Lemonade may be the perfect antidote to this problem. This particular lemonade contains three cups of spinach, a cucumber, one pear, one gala apple, and, of course, one lemon.
Green juice has undeniable health benefits, but as with any solution, it is important that you, the reader, do your due diligence when using.
Remember there are no one-stop-shop solutions when it comes to reaching your maximum health potential. Too much of anything can become unhealthy, and green juice is no exception.
Pay particularly close attention to what your body is trying to tell you when using green juice as a meal replacement or as part of a multi-day cleanse. While it is packed with essential nutrients, it also lacks certain components you will need to maintain your strength and overall health.
Treat it as a piece of the puzzle in your health and nutrition, and you can and will realize optimum benefits.
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