What is “Healthy” Juice?
Opinions vary about whether juice is even healthy at all. The process of juicing removes the fiber and some of the vitamins and other health benefits, so it’s generally best just to eat the produce itself. However, on a hot day when you want to enjoy a cold yummy drink on a patio, a healthy juice can be a great choice.
The healthiest kind of juice is made only from vegetables and/or fruit, and healthy herbs and/or spices. If possible, the most abundant ingredients should be nutrient-rich produce such as spinach, kale, romaine, beets, carrots, tomatoes, and apples. Additions like flax seed, ginger and turmeric can add additional health benefits. Green, leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, usually make the juice green. Beets can turn it red, and carrots can turn it orange. All are beautiful, healthy colors.
Which Juice is the Healthiest?
It’s best to generally avoid all commercial brand juices; even ones that say “No Sugar Added” often have many unwanted ingredients. For maximum nutrition without any unwanted “extras,” the best option is fresh, raw, locally-sourced, organic juice, served in glass.
In addition, cold pressed juice means cold pressure was used to extract juice, and that maximizes the juice and nutrient content. You can either make your own using a cold press juicer, or find a local cold pressed juice bar that offer their juice in a local storefronts. (See Pressed Juice Directory.)
At the very least, your juice should be made of primarily whole vegetables, fruits, and spices. Following is a comparison of the most popular brands that offer at least one juice that meets that minimum requirement.
How to Buy Healthy Juice
1. Always Read the Ingredients.
My biggest tip for buying store-bought juice is to ALWAYS read the ingredients. Don’t be fooled by labels with “100% juice”, “all natural”, “no artificial ingredients”, and “cold-pressed.” Marketing companies work hard to try influence you with those words.
When you read the ingredients, ask yourself if the first few items on the list the primary foods you want to consume? For example, in Suja’s “Organic Green Delight 100% Juice” (pictured left), the first ingredient is apple juice. Why “apple juice” instead of “apples”? The next most abundant ingredients are banana puree and mango puree. Puree is cooked and usually creamy. What might make it creamy? Apple juice with creamy, cooked bananas and mangos is not a healthy juice, it’s a decadent, fattening dessert!
2. Understand the Label.
Food companies love to trick us into thinking the food product we’re purchasing is the best thing under the sun. Following is information for deciphering the various symbols and claims on juice labels.
Raw juice means its ingredients are fresh. It has been pasteurized, so it has its original nutrient content. There should be an expiration date no longer than 5 days in the future, and there should be a warning that this product is raw, so it must be consumed before the expiration date. Consider reading 7 Reasons Why Fresh Juice is the Healthiest Choice or Health Benefits of Raw Juicing.
You can get cold processed, perishable juice either through a local cold press juice store or by making your own using a cold press juicer.
Don’t be fooled by juice bottles that say “cold-pressed” or “cold pressured.” These are marketing terms used by companies who use a pasteurization method called High Pressure Processing (HPP). These juices are NOT raw; see my related blog post, The Cold (Pressed) Truth About “Cold-Pressed” Juice.
Consuming locally-grown produce helps maximize the nutrients because produce loses nutrients over time. It also supports local farmers, communities, and the economy.
Non-GMO means the food product does not contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Scientists at companies like chemical company Monsanto, alter the genes of nature’s seeds (life itself!) so that plants can withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. (See non-GMO Project for more information.)
GMOs have been banned in many countries throughout the world (See Here’s Why 19 Countries In Europe Just Completely Banned Genetically Modified Crops.) Not only are they bad for the environment, but their long-term health effects are, at best, unknown, and, at worst, catastrophic in terms of rising trends in birth defects cancer, and tumors. (See 5 Things Monsanto Doesn’t Want You to Know About GMOs.) The thing that concerns me the most is that companies like Monsanto have proven themselves to be quite immoral and corrupt.
I recommend watching GMO OMG (on Netflix) and World According to Monsanto (free on YouTube), two eye-opening documentaries that may make you think twice about consuming GMOs. For a quick reference, consider these 10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs from the Institute of Responsible Technology.
Organic means non-GMO, PLUS no use of pesticides and other chemicals. It’s the original, natural form of food. Organic ingredients ensures you’re avoiding chemicals and helping to maximize the nutrients.
Organic options can sometimes be financially prohibitive. At least consider ensuring that the “dirty dozen” produce are organic: Why Organic Matters for Juicing: The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
Preservatives are chemicals used to prolong the shelf life of processed food. Beware of terms like “No Artificial Preservatives,” which almost guarantees that there are other kinds of preservatives. See What are Preservatives? and Finding the “Natural” in “Natural Flavors”.
If your juice (or any drink) comes in a plastic bottle, you may see a label for “BPA-free,” which means the plastic was made without the industrial chemical Bisphenol-A. However, there is concern that the BPA is replaced with other harmful chemicals. (See What the BPA Lebel Isn’t Telling You.) To truly avoid harmful chemicals from your juice container, go for glass bottles and stay away from plastic entirely.
When given the option, I choose raw, organic, locally-sourced, cold pressed juice in glass bottles. However, it can be challenging to find that “perfect” healthy juice, and it can be quite expensive too!
I hope this information is helpful for you to be able to make informed decisions in your healthy juice endeavors. Hooray for your good health!