Move over flat whites. A drink the color and consistency of Labyrinth’s Bog of Eternal Stench is emerging as the nation’s must-slurp beverage: green juice. Drinks made from leafy green vegetables are popping up on supermarket shelves, in juice bars such as Crussh, in recipe books (thanks Gwyneth Paltrow) and on Instagram, currently clogged with #greenjuice selfies. New York is undergoing a “juice bar brawl” as each brand claims its juice is the healthiest.
While vegetable juice is nothing new, with the likes of V8 having been around for years, green juicing uses large quantities of leafy veg and brassicas such as kale, spinach, chard and broccoli. The other main difference between (fresh) green juice and traditional vegetable drinks is the technique — cold-pressing, where the juice is extracted by crushing. Centrifugal juicers use fast-spinning blades that heat up, thus, cold-press converts say, oxidizing and destroying some of the nutrients in the juice. Clare Neill, co-founder of juice company Radiance Cleanse, says juice from a centrifugal machine “oxidizes faster because so much air has gone through the juice while it’s being made.”
Fresh green juice wins several health points over packaged fruit juice and smoothies. First, most fruit juices sold in shops are pasteurized. Nutritionist Vicki Edgson says: “They’re heat-treated so they have a longer shelf-life and no bacteria, but this means a lot of the nutritional value is knocked out.” Second, green juices contain much less sugar than their fruity counterparts. Third, there is a range of nutrients present in those dark green vegetables — kale is packed with beta-carotene, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin K.
So is drinking a glass of green juice as good as eating the vegetables? Not quite. Registered dietician Iona Taylor says: “You’ll get the vitamins and minerals but not the fiber. And the soluble fiber in vegetables is really good for your cholesterol and blood pressure.” There is a potential way around this. Edgson suggests avoiding both standard centrifugal and cold-press juicers, and using a powerful blender instead: “When you pulverize or blend with a Vitamix or similar, you get the benefits of the fiber as well.”
Both Edgson and Taylor say there are some people who should approach green juice with caution. Edgson checks that clients aren’t on anti-depressants or blood-thinning medication, and is also “a little wary when women are in the first trimester of pregnancy”. This is because “many of the ingredients that go into a green juice speed up detoxification through the liver,” she says. She is concerned that the juice could increase the rate at which medication moves through the body.
For the rest of us, green juice seems an easy way to add more leafy veg to our diets. “You can put a lot more in a juice than you could sit and eat,” says Edgson. But how palatable is a big glass of cabbage? I spent a week finding out.
I kicked off with a mini juice fast from Radiance Cleanse, with six 500ml bottles for the day. The juices were delicious. Alka Green — courgette, spinach, broccoli, fennel, apple and lemon — tasted zesty and vital, with no hint of broccoli or spinach. I spent the day hovering between the sofa and loo, though, and missed solid food, so for the rest of the week I incorporated green juice into my regular diet instead. I made my own, following Paltrow’s tasty green juice recipe: