Healthy Living

Do You Know What’s In Your Raw Juice?

green raw juiceRaw juice is a serious trend. According to Barrons, raw juice manufacturers pulled in as much as $5 billion in 2012. So it’s no wonder that raw juicers are popping up on every corner. Unfortunately, not all of them are as wholesome as you might think: Unless you’re getting fresh raw juice from organic fruits and vegetables, you might be getting taken. Especially if you’re paying $12 a glass. Here’s what to look for in your raw juice.

Unless you’re getting fresh, organic raw juice, you might be getting taken. Especially if you’re paying $12 a glass. Here’s what to look for in raw juice. First off, can we please say right off the bat that raw juice is not some magic elixir. There is no hard data to prove claims that raw juice can boost immunity, prevent cancer and lose weight. I’ve actually known people who’ve gained weight while raw juicing, simply because they were eating so much more sugar from fruit. (Okay, that was my husband.)

Yet raw juicing does help you eat more fruits and veggies, and studies show that a diet that’s higher in these foods can reduce your risk for obesity, cancer and heart disease. (If you also eat less meat you can also reduce your consumption of carcinogens like dioxin, but that’s another story.)

And it has helped many people stick to a diet and achieve their weight loss goals—perhaps due to the indescribable energy-boosting “buzz” that you get after drinking fresh-pressed, organic raw juice. Whether that’s the sugar talking, I’m not sure, but it’s got to be healthier than ordering another shot of espresso.

But if you’re buying your raw juice in the store, remember that even if a label says it’s “100% juice,” the product can include added flavors, colors and preservatives. “Natural” doesn’t guarantee its purity either: Naked juice was forced to drop the “all natural” label after being exposed for including synthetic sweetener and fibers to their juices. Finally, juice made “from concentrate” contains highly processed ingredients—and it’s definitely not raw. Your best bet are USDA Certified Organic raw juices, which are free of synthetic and artificial ingredients, as well as pesticides and insecticides. With all that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the different kinds of juices on the market.

Pasteurized Juice

These juices are flash pasteurized, which means they are heated to the point that that will kill bacteria, viruses, molds and other nasties that might get you sick—unfortunately, the process also destroys most of the enzymes, nutrients, vitamins, probiotics and minerals that make raw juice so good for you.

Takeaway: Skip it for nutritional benefits, keep it for taste—organic, of course!

High Pressure Processed Juice

High Pressure Processing—or HPP—has allowed the big food players to get into the raw juice game: Hain Celestial Group bought BluePrint after they reported $20 million in sales; Starbucks snapped up Evolution Fresh for $20 million in 2012. Basically, HPP means that the bottled juice is highly pressurized—thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch—so that pathogens are destroyed, while the good stuff isn’t affected. Oh, and it’s “fresh” for two weeks—good news for mass market manufacturers.

However, a class action suit against Hain Celestial alleges that HPP processing “destroys some probiotics and enzymes,” and that BluePrint juice should not be labeled “raw.” Defenders of HPP have stated that most processors—typically centrifugal juicers, which basically pulp and spin fruits and vegetables to extract juice—also involve a small amount of heat, which destroys some of the good stuff in raw juice. With that caveat in mind, HPP juice passes my raw juice test. But I’d still recommend buying that which was pressed most recently, as I would with any produce.

Takeaway: Look for recently-pressed organic HPP raw juice.

Cold-Pressed Juice

The crème de la crème of raw juicing, cold-pressed juice devotees claim that their drink retains more vitamins, minerals and enzymes than any other source. In this process, fruits and veggies are crushed together, then pressurized to extract liquid. Because there’s no heat involved, none of the good stuff is destroyed. Raw juice naysayers may point to Dr. Oz’s 2013 label comparison between raw, cold-pressed juice and pasteurized, in which he found no real difference in nutritional components. But the doctor didn’t measure enzymes and probiotics, which most raw juicers swear are what keep them healthy.

Cold raw juice is best consumed within a few hours of pressing and only lasts up to two days in the fridge. Can’t find a cold-pressed juicery in your neighborhood? You can even get cold-pressed raw juice like BluePrint delivered from Amazon!

Takeaway: Drink it soon after pressing and savor, as you would any treat.

That’s what you need to know for on-the-go raw juicing. But if you really want to capture the maximum flavors and nutrients, invest in a raw juicer like this best-selling Omega and make your own. Now go get your juice on!

Portions of this story originally appeared on my Huffington Post column.


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