Odwalla SUPERFOOD Green Smoothie - Too Good to Be Food?

Keri Glassman investigates

Green juices continue to pop up everywhere nowadays. From ordering a glass off the gym café’s menu, to stocking up with gallon jugs of it from the grocery store, green juice is as easy to get your hands on as good ol’ OJ. But what’s in it that makes it so good for you, yet still palatable in the morning? Is guzzling down this “micronutrient fruit juice drink” really going to make you healthier? While Odwalla Superfood Smoothie Blend boasts antioxidant vitamin C and no added sugar, is it Too Good to Be Food?

What’s in it:

APPLE JUICE, PEACH, MANGO, STRAWBERRY, AND BANANA PUREES, SPIRULINA, SOY LECITHIN, VITAMIN C (ASORBIC ACID), WHEAT GRASS, BARLEY GRASS, WHEAT SPROUTS, JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE, LEMON BIOFLAVONOIDS, NOVA SCOTIA DULSE

Let’s take a closer look:

Apple Juice – Apple juice or apple juice concentrate is used as a sweetener in many products labeled “all natural” or “unsweetened/no sugar added.” A-plus for the use of real fruit juice, but remember, it’s the first ingredient on the list! This means it’s the primary ingredient by weight in this smoothie, and lots of juice means LOTS of sugar!

Peach, mango, strawberry, and banana purees – Fruit purees add sweetness and yummy flavor to “green” juices, which can be plant-y or bitter without natural sugars to perk things up. Fruit purees that include the whole fruit and peel can also provide soluble and insoluble fiber, which are critical for digestion and for stabilizing blood sugar. Odwalla Superfood does not contain much dietary fiber, which means these fruit “purees” are probably closer to fruit juices than to pureed whole fruits.

Spirulina - A type of blue-green algae rich in protein vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help protect cells from oxidative damage. Research has found that spirulina may boost immune system function, helping to protect against allergic reactions! Check mark here!

Soy lecithin - This one of the most common emulsifiers added to foods to keep them from separating. Soy Lecithin is derived from soybeans and creates a smooth, consistent texture in mixtures that might otherwise be grainy or clumpy, like dressings, sauces, and smoothies. While it’s not as controversial an additive as soy protein, non-organic soy lecithin may have high concentrations of pesticides.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) - Ascorbic Acid is another word for Vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties and is also a precursor for the production of collagen, which contributes to firm skin and healthy, flexible blood vessels. Vitamin C acts as a preservative when added to foods and as a bonus boosts the vitamin C content. This additive tends to give products a tart flavor, which is not necessarily a bad thing!

Wheat grass - Wheat grass is young, green wheat, which is rich in vitamins A, C, and E and the plant pigment chlorophyll, which gives plants their green color! Chlorophyll acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from free radical damage. Wheatgrass is touted for its possible antiviral and antibacterial properties. Give this stuff a try!

Barley grass - Sprouted from barley seeds, this grass is best consumed by juicing the sprouts into green liquid. It is packed with protein, iron, vitamin C, and calcium, so it adds a nutrient boost to any healthy shake or juice.

Wheat sprouts - Like other sprouted grains, wheat sprouts are kernels of wheat grain that have been given enough moisture and light to crack open and grow a new plant, or "sprout." Sprouted grains may have higher vitamin and mineral content than non-sprouted whole grains due to this new, growing plant's increased nutrient needs.

Jerusalem artichoke - Jerusalem artichokes, aka "Sunchokes," contain naturally-occurring plant compounds inulin, a type of fiber, and fructo-oligosaccharides, a type of sugar. Inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides both act as prebiotics, by providing soluble fiber and attracting moisture to the GI tract for quicker transit.

Lemon bioflavanoids – A specific type of flavonoid (a family of compounds found in many plants), these natural plant pigments act as helpful antioxidants.

Nova Scotia Dulse - Dulse is leafy red algae that grows in northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans (cold water!). This algae is high in vitamins and fiber and has a soft, chewy texture. Because it needs no cooking or soaking, it is commonly enjoyed as a snack in areas where it grows!

Bottom Line:

The high sugar and carb content of Odwalla Superfood (37 grams and 40 grams, respectively) come from real fruits and vegetables, without added sugars or artificial sweeteners—a big plus! This green goodie is not Too Good to Be Food, but there is a caveat: major liquid calories and sugar, even if in fruit form. This smoothie is packed with real produce (strawberries, bananas, peaches, apples, and mangoes in each bottle!), which contain calories from natural sugars in addition to their great antioxidants and vitamins. This is a of great option on-the-go, but watch your portion size! Have half the bottle with a handful of nuts makes for a better proportioned snack. Or better yet, make your own juice at home with kale, spinach, lemon juice, seaweed leaves, and a few slices of apple for fiber and sweetness.

Nutrition Information: Odwalla Original Superfood

Serving size: 1 bottle

Calories: 190

Total Fat: 0.5 grams

Sodium: 15 mg

Potassium: 550 mg

Total carbohydrate: 44 grams

Dietary Fiber: 2 grams

Sugars: 37 grams

Protein: 2 grams

Keri Glassman is a Registered Dietitian and founder of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life. She contributes to Women's Health Magazine and is an author of 4 books, including her latest: The New You and Improved Diet, (Rodale) which hits stores Dec. 2012. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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