Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Green Goodness. And a lot of sugar

Whilst deciding what to have for lunch in a local Pret a Manger a few weeks ago, I came across their 'Green Goodness Juice'. Packed with with Goodness, its only ingredients are Apple, Cucumber, Celery, Spinach, Lime, Ginger.

It definitely sounds good, but eyeing up the nutritional breakdown on the back gave me a bit of a shock. Each bottle contains an impressive 42.8 grams of sugar. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of more than ten teaspoons of sugar, between 50%-80% of an adult's guideline daily amount (depending on what recommendations you look at); and even their carrot cake slice, the item with the highest sugar content I could find on the menu, has less sugar at 36.2 grams.

I should point out a few caveats: clearly, the Green Goodness Juice has additional nutritional content that the Carrot Cake Slice does not; and the Carrot Cake Slice is a reasonably small portion (112g), whereas the Juice is reasonably large (400g). Nevertheless, these statistics do make me wonder how 'good' the 'Goodness Juice' really is, and whether the 'naturalness' of the sugars make its high sugar content admissible.

There are different types of sugars, the main categories being 'glucose', 'fructose' and 'sucrose'. Sucrose is commonly known as table sugar, and is made up of both glucose and fructose in equal parts. Since sucrose is immediately broken down into its component parts on ingestion, the body only really distinguishes between glucose and fructose.

Glucose can be used for energy by all the cells in our bodies, and is circulated around the body to this end. Any glucose that is not needed by the body is stored for later use, eventually as fat. However, fructose can only be used for energy by a few types of cells, liver cells being the most significant. Fructose is also stored as fat, if not used. There are numerous ongoing debates as to which of these sugars is better or worse. Many arguments point towards fructose as being the worse of the two, due to the by-products created in liver upon metabolism, and its inability to dull our feeling of hunger. However, these accusations have not been shown conclusively, and there are various other arguments in favour of fructose.

So back to the natural sugars in out Green Goodness Juice. Natural sugars are made of both glucose and fructose, though proportions vary depending on the product. Apples and pears have a particularly high fructose content, but many other fruit and vegetables, for example, pineapple, peaches and carrots have an approximately equal ratio. As mentioned, table sugar is also made up of glucose and fructose in equal ratio. So, it seems, there is often little difference between natural and added sugars.

It should be emphasised that this is not to say that there is little difference between eating fruit and eating cake. Not only does fruit offer nutrients that the cake will not, but whole fruit will most likely have a lot less sugar per serving, and the fibre in whole fruit will slow the body's absorption of the sugar, reducing the negative impact it might have on you. Fruit juice, on the other hand, may be packed full of nutrients, but will contain more sugar per serving and less fibre.

So where does all this leave our Green Goodness Juice? Well, it certainly has nutrients aplenty, unlike the Carrot Cake slice. But it also has a whole lot of sugar, which is not redeemed in virtue of it being natural, and nor does it boast the fibre that absolves whole fruit. I guess whether it is 'good' or not really depends on how much other sugar you'll be eating throughout your day: as my grandmother quips, 'Everything in moderation'.


  1. I had one of these, looked on the back and it was 85% apple juice! Only 15% the other stuff, no wonder it's sweet, and it wasn't cheap either, felt a bit conned.

  2. A month ago I headed off to my neighborhood Organic Market and they let me know that Green supplements was most likely the best, so I purchased it. I truly had no clue which one to try for.

  3. Thank you for this article. I had one of these drinks this evening and had such a sugar rush I was wondering if they had also added sugar. Another thing, why is it that they are always the exact same shade of green? I have been making my own green smoothies every day and they never come out exactly the same! I won't be purchasing this again.