Green Drinks

Don’t be duped: discover what’s lurking in “healthy” green drinks—why reading the BACK of the container is more important than ever

My, my, how the times have changed. Wasn’t that long ago that drinking anything green was totally left up to those “tree-hugging, health-nut, yogi” types. (This is not a slam, I LOVE trees, being healthy, and occasional yoga myself).

But now, you can go to a freakin’ fast-food chain and buy a GREEN drink. ANYWHERE. I place the emphasis on “GREEN” because they look like various shades of grass and healthy vibrant green bottles of life that just scream—“I will make you feel soooo good about yourself!”

Don’t be fooled by the super-smarty pants companies out there that have totally dropped in on the green-health-drink wave. It only takes a bit of spinach or kale to really green up what they’re puttin’ out. What’s in there besides that bit of green might actually be hijacking your body and mind and sabotaging your efforts to imbibe in nutrient-dense goodness—and could be especially counter-productive if you are trying to lose a few or train smart or just keep your energy and mood stable.

Today more than ever, you have to be label-savvy to protect your own health. Gone are the days when you could just look at that #7 combo and KNOW that it wasn’t a good choice. Today, junk food has gotten much more sophisticated and smart as we enter an age when the masses are starting to wake up to how important what we put in our bodies actually is to our short- and long-term health. They know that we glom onto green, and healthy phrases like “no sugar added”, “heart healthy”, and “made with 7 whole grains.”

Don’t. Fall. For. It.

Instead, read the rest this post, turn that green-drink around and take control of your health. To show you for reals, let’s look at an actual example, shall we?

WARNING: you may be in for a shock

Meet a very popular company’s beverage called “The Green Machine”. On the front, it boasts “100% juice”, “no sugar added”, “boosted”, “looks weird, tastes amazing!” (that’s my personal fave). Oh, and the visual of the raw, healthy fruits and veggies just beckons your body to do something good for itself—Pick me up and drink me! Gold star if you do!

But let’s look at what’s REALLY in this bad boy by quickly checking the official nutrition labeling required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s not hard, promises. You’re smart. And here are the 3 key stats to help you determine whether to drink or dump.

Juice Nutrition

Let’s break it down like a fraction

To put this in perspective, a 20-OUNCE REGULAR COCA-COLA has 65 grams of sugar, or roughly 16 teaspoons. When you do the math, the amount of sugar per ounce is actually slightly GREATER for the green drink. I know some of you will argue that the vitamins and minerals in the green drink still make it healthier than the cola, and sure, the sugar in the green drink is “all natural”.

Yes, however, the scientific community is learning that in such massive quantities, sugar is sugar is sugar, and the body doesn’t really distinguish whether you’re main-lining the white stuff or the “natural” stuff. Because when this much sugar is in liquid form, especially fructose (fruit sugar) you really are main-lining it straight to liver to be stored as fat. YUP.

So, to make sure you’re really doing a body, heart, and mind some good, read the back of that pre-manufactured beverage—EVEN if you’re buying it at Whole Foods or your local health food store!!! They are NOT immune to the purveyance of heavily-sweetened health drinks. Even if it is fruit juice.

When you find one that has veggies as the first several ingredients, I guarantee it will be much lower in sugar. My favorite off-the-shelf green drink is made by Suja, and is from the “essentials” product line, and is called “Uber Greens”. Loaded with veggies, and the only fruit sources included are grapefruit juice (ingredient #3), and lemon juice (#6). The entire bottle has 6 grams of sugar, or roughly 1.5 teaspoons. While I totally love this drink as an on-the-go refresher, I will say that you MUST be hyper-vigilant with the Suja brand as well. This company makes other drinks with names like “mighty greens” and “green delight” among others, and the majority of these have at least 19 grams of sugar per serving—AND to make it even trickier, some of their green drinks include just 1 serving, while others in similar-sized bottles contain 2 servings so 40+ grams of sugar, or 10+ teaspoons down the hatch by the time you’ve finished the bottle.

I’m not picking on green drinks—OK, maybe I am a little. It’s only because we can so easily be deceived by products that look so obviously healthy and pure. It’s important these days to remember that just because it’s natural or organic does NOT mean it’s good for the body. I’ve worked in advertising, I know what goes behind selling a brand to the masses. I know what goes behind finding just the write phrases that will make people WANT to buy a product.

So, be super-smart like I know you are. Take 14.7 seconds and look at those key stats on the back, and then use those truths to help you decide if that beverage is a good choice for you.

Be happy, healthy, fit!

About Amy B. Beausang, PharmD, RPh, Certified Health Coach:

I’m a 40-something who’s decided to veer onto a different career path after almost 20 years in the pharma / biotech industries, and it scares my socks off—but I’m thoroughly loving it! I’m married to a super-creative, all-around-awesome dude named John (aka Distressed Mullet), and I have a brilliant, funny, and crazy-determined kid named Stella who brings wonder to my life on a daily (more like hourly) basis. We recently moved to our dream neighborhood with plenty of big old oak trees, Spanish moss, and great neighbors. Oh, and we have a very frightful (NOT) chocolate lab named Bauer who wags not just his tail, but his whole body when he sees you. It’s pretty awesome.

I’m also a Doctor of Pharmacy (aka PharmD) trained at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy (Go Heels, beat Duke!) and am a registered pharmacist here in the lovely Tar Heel State. Most of my PharmD life has consisted of working as a medical consultant for various pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Back in 2005, while living in New York, I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and received certification as a Health Coach. It was during this time that my mind, heart, and eyes opened to a whole different approach to life. The last decade has been a journey full of highs and lows, and I’m now on the path to doing what I am passionate about: living a life that I love and doing work that is fun—sharing knowledge and know-how and ideas that just might help others start their own journey to a happier life. Oh, and I’m a certified Les Mills BODYSTEPTM instructor because it’s a super fun way to boost fitness, energy, and endorphins—and I’m a sucker for any class that manages to combine a mambo and a half-burpee in the same workout.

I am a fledgling cook and am really getting into it, now that I am willing to remove my pharmacist hat when I’m in the kitchen (ie, must-have-exact-recipe-amounts) and just trust my gut more and experiment with food. I love reading books that make me think—both fiction and non—and I also love music, dancing, and a good movie.

Not all is rosy all the time, however. I constantly work at fending off depression—it’s something I’ve dealt with since my early teens, and it’s gotten really dark quite a few times in my life. But recently, I realized that depression has also been a blessing to me in one sense. It’s made me stronger, and it’s taught me what I can do to (1) prevent depressive episodes and (2) reverse depression when I sense its signals. Most importantly, it’s given me a reason to change my way of life and my career path. Because I’ve lived with depression and anxiety, I am very determined to use my personal experience and my training to help others. And the amazing thing is that the key habits I’ve already developed or am striving to develop aregood for anyone—depressed or not! We all struggle with something, and we all deserve support from each other and the opportunity to figure out the root of our struggle, embrace it, learn from it, and move forward into a healthier, happier, and authentic life. Long story short—depression has helped me see my purpose in life.

I’ll end my spiel with a Chines Proverb I recently came across. It reminds me that it’s useless to wish that anything in the past had occurred differently because what was or wasn’t done is history, and that right now is the time to act and make positive changes. So here it is:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Me and my partner Kate own a startup company in Wilmington, NC called Amity Wellbeing. Why “WellBeing”? The word “wellness” gets used a lot these days, and we automatically thought of “Amity Wellness”. But when we really delved into what we want our business and services to stand for—adjectives like healthy, happy, supportive, hopeful, positive, strong, and whole kept popping up. And then it all came together—we just want to help people be well all over! Therefore—“well-being: the state of being comfortable, safe, healthy, and happy”—fit perfectly. And there you have it—Amity WellBeing.

We help people be well through food, exercise and other lifestyle changes. Kate is a crazy-talented CrossFit instructor and certified wellness coach. Her passion is working with people and helping them figure out how to be healthier and happier! For people who take medications or supplements, Amy is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) and certified health coach who can assess any medications or supplements being used, identify any potential risks or conflicts with their lifestyle, and help people find ways to optimize their health and even reduce or eliminate their need for medications in conjunction with their healthcare provider. In a nutshell, we help people create the lives they want to live. And we have an awesome “28-Day Do-Over” system coming soon, so keep your eyes out for more info on this real, doable, flexible, controllable, yummy, fun, and life-altering way to live like you’re meant to.

For more information about Amity Wellbeing, contact Amy and Kate at [email protected]