Almost any variety of 100 percent vegetable juice is a low-carb juice in comparison to fruit juices. While 100 percent fruit juices are high in carbohydrates, they're healthy beverages as long as you don't drink too much. Limit your intake of either kind of beverage to one-half cup per day.
Vegetable juices are much lower in carbs than fruit juices.
Carbohydrates Aren’t Villains
Over the years, carbohydrates have become nutritional villains, opines Harvard Health. In reality, carbohydrates are an essential nutrient, providing a major part of the body's energy supply. However, rather than focusing on the distinction between high and low carbs, it's better to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy carbs.
The carbohydrates found in fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy because the foods are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. They're nutritious whether they're consumed as food or as a juice. The thing to remember about juice is that the carbohydrates are more concentrated, so you need to be careful about how much you drink.
It's fine to drink 100 percent fruit juice and 100 percent vegetable juice, but limit the amount to one-half cup per day, advises the American Heart Association.
In contrast, the carbohydrates in sugary beverages are unhealthy. Instead of drinking fruit punch, fruit drinks and lemonade, all of which have added sugar, opt for seltzer with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, suggests Harvard Health.
Also try water with a large squirt of fresh lemon or lime juice added. It's refreshing, nutritious and low in carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates in Fruit Juices
Some consumers may look for a sugar-free orange juice or a no-carb orange juice. There is no such thing because oranges, like all fruit, contain natural sugars.
To give you an idea of the natural sugar content in fruit, some brands of orange juice have 27 grams of carbohydrates per cup, and some brands of apple juice have 30 grams of carbohydrates per cup, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Because these are hefty amounts, health experts promote the one-half-cup serving per day limit.
Eating fruits rather than drinking the juice is beneficial because of the content of fiber, a food component linked to various aspects of wellness. Fruits are a healthy food, even for people with diabetes. One serving should have 15 grams of carbohydrates, says the Mayo Clinic.
The amount of natural sugars in fruit varies, but the advantage of choosing one lower in carbohydrates is that you can eat more of it. Below are quantities of various fruits that contain 15 grams of carbohydrates:
- 1 cup cubed honeydew melon or cantaloupe
- 1/2 banana
- 1/2 apple
- 1 1/4 cups strawberries
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 3/4 cup blueberries
As you can see, strawberries contain less carbohydrate than the other kinds of berries, so you can eat more of them before reaching the 15-gram-per-serving limit.
Michigan State University provides the following list of fruits that are lower in carbohydrates:
- 1 cup of watermelon — 11 grams
- 1 cup of avocado — 13 grams
- 1/2 medium grapefruit — 10.5 grams
- 1 cup of cranberries — 13 grams
- 1/2 cup of pineapple — 11 grams
- 1/2 cup of cherries — 11 grams
- One medium orange — 15.5 grams
- One medium peach — 14.5 grams
The American Diabetes Association notes that the healthiest choices of fruit are those that are fresh, frozen or canned without extra sugar. When buying canned fruits, look for those that are packed in either juice or light syrup.
To help you estimate the carbohydrate content of fruit, keep in mind that a small piece of fresh fruit or one-half cup canned or frozen fruit has approximately 15 grams, says the ADA. Serving sizes for most melons and berries range from three-quarter cup to 1 cup. Two tablespoons of raisins constitute a serving.
Carbohydrates in Vegetable Juices
If you choose to buy vegetable juice, read the label to note the amount of carbs per serving. One cup of most brands on the market would likely contain less than 15 grams of carbohydrates, but experts still recommend a one-half-cup serving-per-day limit.
Juicing vegetables at home is a wonderful way to get a beverage rich in vitamins and minerals. Choose a variety of nonstarchy vegetables.
Starchy vegetables are potatoes, peas and corn. The list of nonstarchy vegetables is quite long because it includes most other vegetable varieties. Examples are cucumbers, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, beans, tomatoes, lettuce and other salad greens, notes the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Like fruits, when you eat vegetables rather than drink their juice, you get fiber, so in addition to juicing them, also eat them.
Some foods are so low in carbohydrates that you don't need to count them unless you eat copious amounts. Most nonstarchy vegetables would fit into this category, says the NIDDK. For instance, a 1-cup serving of raw vegetables contains about 5 grams of carbohydrates.
Keto Diet Beverages
What beverages meet the low-carb requirements of the keto diet? First of all, approach this diet with caution because little is known about the long-term effects, states Harvard Health. It restricts some very healthy food groups while promoting notoriously unhealthy foods like meat and high-fat processed foods.
Permitted beverages include unsweetened coffee and tea, whole milk and unsweetened almond milk. Although the keto diet allows diet juices and diet sodas, these beverages contain artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to an array of adverse health effects.
Many store-bought smoothies are high in sugar, so they wouldn't be appropriate for the keto diet. You can make your own smoothies at home using unsweetened almond milk, water or ice for the liquid part. Add nut butters, avocados or low-carbohydrate vegetables.
Artificially Sweetened Juices
People who are interested in a low-carb juice may wonder if artificially sweetened beverages are a good alternative to fruit juices and sugary drinks. Products made with these chemicals are marketed as "diet," "light," "low calorie" or "low carb." Beverages with such labels as "low-sugar fruit juice drinks" are likely to contain them.
Whether artificial sweeteners are safe depends on your definition of safety, notes Harvard Health. Studies indicate these chemicals aren't the solution to obesity and diabetes that they're purported to be.
A study published in Current Gastroenterology Reports in November 2017 reviewed the body of research pertaining to artificial sweeteners and obesity. Sweeteners were developed to reduce insulin resistance that leads to diabetes, along with providing a tool to help prevent weight gain, but studies show they have the opposite effects, said the authors, concluding that they appear to contribute to both maladies.
Artificial sweeteners are also linked to adverse changes in the bacterial community in the gut, states the Cleveland Clinic. An additional problem is that the chemicals are addictive, which makes it hard for people to give up diet beverages once they start drinking them.
Although studies that led to the approval of artificial sweeteners didn't show a cancer risk, they were conducted with much smaller amounts than the 24 ounces per day consumed by many diet soda drinkers, says Harvard Health. Researchers don't know the long-term effects of drinking larger quantities.
A way to avoid artificially sweetened juices is to look for those labeled 100 percent fruit juice. They contain neither the chemicals nor added sugar.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Smart Way to Look at Carbohydrates"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "USDA Food Composition Databases"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes Diet: Should I Avoid Sweet Fruits?"
- Michigan State University: "Low Carb Fruits – 15 Grams or Less per Serving"
- American Diabetes Association: "Fruit"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Carbohydrate Counting & Diabetes"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Artificial Sweeteners: Sugar-Free, but at What Cost?"
- Current Gastroenterology Reports: "The Association Between Artificial Sweeteners and Obesity"
- Cleveland Clinic: "5 Best and Worst Sweeteners: Your Dietitians’ Picks"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Ketogenic Diet: Is the Ultimate Low-Carb Diet Good for You?"
- American Heart Association: "Fruits and Vegetables Serving Sizes"