Green drinks have become increasingly popular in recent years as more people look to boost their nutrient intake through healthy beverages. But what exactly are green drinks, and what effects do they have on your body? Here’s a comprehensive look at how these earthy elixirs can benefit your health.
Green drinks are made by blending leafy greens and vegetables with water and sometimes fruit. Common ingredients include kale, spinach, parsley, celery, cucumber, lemon, ginger, and apple. While recipes vary, the key components are nutrient-dense greens that provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
Unlike juicing, which extracts the juice from produce and removes the fiber, blending creates a thick, smoothie-like beverage that includes the whole fruits and veggies. This means the fiber is retained, which is important for gut health. The chlorophyll in greens also gives these drinks their distinct dark green hue.
The exact nutrient composition depends on the ingredients used, but green drinks are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Some of the key nutrients found in green drinks include:
– Vitamin A – Important for immune function and eye health.
– Vitamin C – An antioxidant that supports immune function and collagen production.
– Vitamin K – Plays a role in blood clotting and bone health.
– Potassium – Helps control blood pressure and prevent muscle cramps.
– Calcium – Vital for bone health, muscle function, and nerve signaling.
– Iron – Helps transport oxygen in the blood to cells and tissues.
– Magnesium – Supports nerve and muscle function, blood sugar control, and energy production.
Additionally, green drinks provide antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin that help neutralize damaging free radicals in your body. They also contain a variety of beneficial plant compounds like chlorophyll, flavonoids, and glucosinolates that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Many people start drinking green drinks to lose weight, but their effectiveness for weight loss depends on several factors.
On their own, green drinks are low in calories and high in nutrients. By substituting a green drink for higher calorie beverages like juice, soda, or coffee drinks, you can cut calories and potentially aid weight loss.
Here is a nutrition comparison of a 12 ounce serving of common beverages:
|Coffee drink with cream and sugar||100|
|Green drink smoothie||100-200|
As you can see, green drinks are equal to or lower than many other caloric beverages. Replacing higher calorie drinks with green drinks can help reduce overall calorie intake.
However, green drinks alone won’t lead to significant weight loss if your overall diet is still high in calories, refined carbs, sugar, and unhealthy fats. To lose weight, you need to follow an overall healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity. Drinking green smoothies can be a beneficial part of your weight loss plan by providing nutrients and reducing calorie intake.
Some research shows that the nutrients and fiber in green drinks may also increase feelings of fullness. This effect on satiety could support weight loss by helping you eat fewer calories throughout the day. More studies are needed to confirm this benefit conclusively.
Many people start drinking green juices or smoothies to “detox” their bodies. But it’s important to understand that our bodies already have highly effective, natural detoxification systems in place – mainly in the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system.
There’s no evidence that specific foods or drinks can “detox” our bodies by removing harmful toxins. However, green drinks may support normal detoxification in a few ways:
- – Providing antioxidants that help neutralize toxins and oxidative stress.
- – Supplying nutrients like vitamin C and glutathione that support liver detoxification.
- – Containing chlorophyll that may bind to toxins and aid their excretion.
- – Increasing urine output and promoting regular bowel movements to eliminate waste.
So while green drinks don’t offer a magic detox solution, their nutrient content and effects on kidney function and digestion may provide some secondary support for the body’s natural detoxification processes.
The high fiber content in green drinks makes them beneficial for digestion and regularity.
Soluble fiber in greens helps feed the healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome. These bacteria ferment fiber into short-chain fatty acids that nourish colon cells and improve gut health.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps food pass more quickly through your digestive tract. This promotes regularity and prevents constipation.
One study in 51 young women found that consuming a green plant-based drink containing broccoli, kiwifruit, celery, apple, lemon, and ginger increased beneficial gut bacteria levels and supported healthy bowel function.
Research also shows that probiotics in fermented green drinks can improve digestion and protect against gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea.
The nutrients in green juices and smoothies can provide an energy boost.
Carbs from veggies and fruits are digested more slowly than refined sugar, resulting in a steadier rise in blood sugar. This prevents energy crashes from spikes and drops in blood sugar.
B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants in green drinks also support energy production and oxygen circulation throughout the body.
One study in 17 healthy volunteers showed that drinking a green juice containing celery, apple, cucumber, kale, lemon, and parsley increased blood oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), which helps fight fatigue.
However, some green drinks made with lots of fruit can be high in natural sugars and calories, so they should be consumed in moderation to prevent energy crashes from blood sugar spikes.
Improved Skin, Hair, and Nails
Anecdotal reports suggest drinking green juices and smoothies on a regular basis can lead to glowing skin, shiny hair, and strong nails – likely because of their stellar nutrient profile.
Green drinks provide antioxidants that protect against skin damage from sunlight and pollution. Vitamins A, C, and E prevent collagen breakdown and support tissue repair for smooth, firm skin.
Biotin and vitamins A, C, and zinc in green drinks also promote healthy hair growth and strength. Silica in greens may stimulate nail growth and prevent brittle nails.
While these benefits are generally associated with whole foods rather than extracts, the concentrated form in green drinks may provide beauty-boosting benefits. More research is needed specifically on green juices and smoothies to prove their effects.
Chronic inflammation drives most diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. The nutrients and plant compounds in green drinks help fight inflammation in various ways:
- – Antioxidants neutralize inflammatory free radicals.
- – Omega-3s, magnesium, and flavonoids dampen inflammatory pathways.
- – Fiber curbs inflammatory microbiome changes.
- – Greens provide anti-inflammatory compounds like sulforaphane and quercetin.
One study found that drinking a green antioxidant juice reduced inflammation in overweight or obese adults over a 12-week period. Participants drank 330 ml of green juice made from collard greens, green apple, cucumber, and ginger daily.
More clinical studies are needed, but these anti-inflammatory benefits suggest green juice may aid chronic inflammatory conditions.
Some proponents claim that green drinks provide alkaline nutrients that promote the body’s pH balance. It’s true that many whole vegetables and greens are considered alkaline foods.
However, beyond promoting overall nutrient intake, green juices likely have minimal effects on the body’s acid-base homeostasis. Any alkalizing effects are short-lived as the body tightly regulates blood pH levels between 7.35–7.45.
That said, the minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and plant compounds in green drinks are certainly beneficial for overall health – even if claims about increased alkalinity are overstated.
Downsides of Green Drinks
While green juices and smoothies have many positives, there are some potential downsides to consider:
- – High in natural sugars if containing a lot of fruit – moderation is key.
- – May cause digestive issues like bloating or diarrhea initially.
- – Oxalate content may be high depending on ingredients used.
- – Not a long-term balanced meal replacement due to low protein.
- – Fiber content lower in juices because pulp is removed.
- – Nutrient content varies widely depending on ingredients.
- – Can be expensive compared to just eating whole fruits and veggies.
To maximize benefits, keep total fruit content low and rotate a diverse range of veggies. If you have kidney stones or a history of oxalate-related issues, talk to a doctor before adding high-oxalate greens like spinach to your diet.
The Bottom Line
Overall, incorporating green juices or smoothies into your routine is a nourishing way to increase your veggie intake and flood your body with health-promoting vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.
Benefits include improved digestion and gut health, increased energy, weight loss support, skin health, and reduced inflammation. Just be mindful of sugar content, especially if weight loss is your goal.
While no drink offers a miraculous health cure, quality green drinks made primarily from greens can be a tasty supplemental beverage for supporting whole body health. As with any diet change, introduce gradually and listen to your body’s response.