Remember five years ago when the word “detoxing” was equivalent to “juicing,” and a bottle of green juice was the equivalent of lunch? Thank goodness that’s past.
“We’ve moved away from the juice cleanse mentality,” says Carolyn Brown, MS, RD, of New York City nutrition practice Foodtrainers. “Replacing meals or even snacks with juice is not a great idea.”
That’s because our bodies need whole foods to thrive, and most of the claims made about juice’s ability to remove toxins from the body are not backed by science. (Our bodies actually do a great job of detoxing on their own.)
Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t drink cold-pressed kale. Instead, many people are now adding juices to their daily diets as a way to get concentrated doses of good-for-you foods. “You do get an extra nutrient boost if it’s a good juice,” Brown says. “It’s sort of a way to streamline vitamins. Greens are the most nutrient-dense foods, and juice is quickly digestible. Your body doesn’t have to do any of the work to unpack the nutrients.”
But what makes a “good” juice? And what else do you need to know if you’re a pre-packed juice fan? Here are some smart, quick tips for juicing the healthy way.
1. Eat your vegetables first
Juicing strips out most of the fiber in produce, and the average American doesn’t get enough fiber. “If you’re not eating vegetables, you need to be eating whole vegetables first,” Brown says. She recommends at least 2 cups a day, at lunch and dinner, to start. If you’re already nailing that, you can consider reaching for juices to supplement, but …
2. Go for the greens
The higher the ratio of greens to fruit on the ingredients list, the better. Which brings us to …
3. Watch the sugar
Juices that contain lots of fruit can be super high in sugar, and the same lack of fiber that allows your body to absorb the beneficial phytochemicals (antioxidants! minerals!) quickly also means that sugar will be fast on the uptake, leading to a blood sugar spike. “You can drive yourself crazy with grams of sugar, so my general rule of thumb is to keep it at one fruit max,” Brown advises.
4. Stick to organic
If you want the best of the best, there are all kinds of high-quality claims when it comes to juice: cold-pressed is better than hydraulic, raw is better than juice treated with HPP (both are superior to pasteurized juices like Naked’s), but “what you’re juicing is more important,” Brown says. Unless you also want a concentrated boost of pesticides (doubtful), look for the USDA Organic seal.
5. Opt for add-ins
“Juice is a good way to get in additional greens and herbs that aren’t regularly in your diet,” Brown suggests, like nutrient-packed dandelion greens, fennel, turmeric, and ginger.