May 23, 2024

Ingredients: Apple, orange, mango (7.5%), lemon, ginger root (4.5%), turmeric root (1.5%), acerola cherry powder, cayenne pepper powder, zinc lactate, vitamin D3 from seaweed, antioxidant (ascorbic acid)

Verdict: there is plenty of vitamin C and D here, and there is some ginger and turmeric, but again in very small doses, so it’s debatable what benefits they could bring. It would be cheaper to buy fresh orange juice, which is about a quarter of the price – and the sugar content is almost identical (10g/100ml) – and take a daily vitamin D supplement.

Supposed benefits

The benefits of each shot will depend on its blend of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.

“Many of the ingredients used are nutrient-rich and, as a consequence, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce the risk of many of the common illnesses including infections, heart disease, cancers and a range of other conditions where there is inflammation such as arthritis,” says Dr Avery.

For example, beetroot shots have been shown to boost exercise performance and lower blood pressure. This is thought to be down to the vegetable’s high levels of nitrate, which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps blood vessels dilate, says Dr Avery.

Turmeric, one of the most commonly used ingredients in juice shots, may help kill virus particles and treat indigestion symptoms, such as stomach pain and bloating, studies suggest.

Ginger, another popular juice shot flavour, is an anti-inflammatory, contains antioxidants, which help manage levels of free radicals (compounds that, in high numbers, damage cells) and is thought to boost the immune system.

Given their small serving size, they also contain less sugar than a smoothie. For example, Waitrose Gut Health juice shot contains 9.4g per 100ml bottle, while high street smoothies can contain more than 40g.

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The big issue is that fruit and vegetables become less nutritious when they’re blended or juiced. The process breaks down the cell wall, causing naturally occurring sugars to transform into “free” sugars – the type that is more rapidly absorbed by the body and that we’re supposed to limit our intake of. “This is on top of some juice shots containing added sugars and other unhealthy additives, so it is important to read labels carefully,” Dr Avery says.

Crushing fruit and vegetables also dramatically reduces their fibre content, though some shots try to compensate for this by adding fibre back in. “Most people in the UK do not currently consume sufficient fibre and yet dietary fibre is so important for gut health – whole vegetables and fruits are good sources,” she says.

“It is always going to be healthier to consume the ingredients in their ‘normal’ form,” Dr Avery says, though she notes that frozen and tinned options can form part of a healthy diet.

Additionally, some juice shots use juice concentrate – the sticky substance left over when the water is extracted from fruit juice – which can contain additives and sugars.

And, despite the tiny portion size, some cram in 10 times more vitamins than we actually need. “[This] is not appropriate and, if the products are used excessively, may have negative health effects,” Dr Avery says.

It is also difficult to back up claims that they turbo-charge our immune, gut and brain health. “Most of these products do not have scientific evidence demonstrating a beneficial effect,” says Dr Berry. 

“If these products have clinical trials to support their benefit to health, then they might lend a ‘helping hand’, however we can’t outwit an overall bad diet without evidence to support this.”

Then there is the eye-watering cost. “Juice shots are so expensive, with the cost being prohibitive to many,” says Dr Avery. For example, the 110ml ginger shot at Pret costs £2.90.

People who are health-conscious enough to splash out on them may not get much from them, she notes. “They are marketed for the ‘worried well’ rather than perhaps to the few people who may gain some benefit but who also would not be able to afford the products,” Dr Avery says. 

“We are almost being overwhelmed by these random ingredients being proposed as having wellness benefits. Wellness is much more than spirulina.”

What you should do instead

“It would be so much better nutritionally for people to try to include at least five portions of vegetables and fruits in their diet each day – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and preferably not juiced,” Dr Avery says.

“This can provide a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential for good health and can also help reduce the risk of inflammation.”

Frozen and tinned can be equally as nutritious and more affordable. Even baked beans count towards the “five a day” total.

To up your intake, include at least one or two vegetables with lunch or dinner, turn leftovers into soup, add fruit to breakfast cereals and mix spices such as ginger and turmeric into stir-fries and curries, Dr Avery suggests.

“All of these ideas perhaps take a little bit more time and may not be seen as quite as convenient as a juice shot, but we really do need to think about our overall diet,” she adds.

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By Sam Rice

Timings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Makes

3 x 75ml shots

Jamu is a traditional Indonesian juice drink revered for its medicinal qualities. Indeed the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are well documented and the gingerol in ginger aids digestion. A little citrus juice is added, not just for flavour, but also for vitamin C to support immunity, along with a tiny bit of honey to sweeten. A pinch of salt adds electrolytes to aid hydration and finally, a grind of black pepper enables the body to absorb the curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric).

The cost of the recipe provided is £1.45 (based on Tesco website prices – half of this is the fresh turmeric, which is quite expensive but worth it!) and makes three shots, so 48p per shot – much cheaper than the shop-bought ones.

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