Is Jugo Juice heart healthy?

Is Jugo Juice heart healthy? Certainly you’ll find fruits and vegetables in the smoothies, but how much sugar tags along? Do the sandwiches and wraps have veggies and heart-friendly protein foods without piles of salt? 

If you dine out on rare occasion, don’t sweat your choices here or anywhere else. But if you eat on the go often, it’s worth taking a closer look. 

I dug into it for you and even went for a taste test. Read on to see what I found. 

Smoothies at Jugo Juice: Real fruit but also juice 

Let’s start by assuming you’re not going to dig through the nutrition guide. How can you pick a heart-healthy choice with just a glance at the menu?

My top tip for ordering smoothies

Assuming you’re like my typical reader, living with heart concerns, at mid-life or beyond, and low to moderately active, the most important factor is portion size. Go for a small smoothie or split a large, whether it’s Jugo Juice or anywhere else. 

(Only a handful of Jugo Juice smoothies are available small, but they’ll split a large into two separate cups if you can find someone to share one.)

Why not have a large to yourself? After all, they boast five plus servings of fruit and veggies. The problem is, for most of the smoothies, at least half of those servings come from fruit juice. Even though it’s unsweetened, fruit juice has the sugar from the fruit with little of the fibre.

“A little juice may be okay,” according to Canada’s Heart & Stroke Foundation. “Studies show drinking no more than five ounces a day is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.” But in general they recommend whole fruit.

The American Heart Association agrees that “the majority of fruits and vegetables should be consumed whole rather than as juice because “whole fruits and vegetables provide more dietary fiber and satiety.”

How much juice do the smoothies have?

The large (24 oz) Mango Magic, for example, has 3.2 grams of fibre, which we would find in just over a cup (8 oz) of frozen mango. So the juice should amount to about 2 cups (16 oz). The small (14 oz), on the other hand, would have about one cup (8 oz) of juice, closer to the recommended amount.

I’m not saying to deny yourself if you want a smoothie! They’re so refreshing, and a handy way to get a few extra servings of fruit and veggies. I’m just saying don’t supersize it.

To be clear, if you’re unlike my typical reader, this guidance may not apply. Do you need to gain weight after open heart surgery and a long hospital stay? Training for a marathon? Ordering for a 15 year-old playing in a two-day volleyball tournament? By all means, get a large! 

But for most of us, half (or small) is plenty. 

Fresh energy and immunity and protein oh my!

The smoothie menu is grouped into Classic, Protein, Fresh Energy, and Immunity. The Fresh Energy and Immunity categories are just marketing. There’s little evidence that those concoctions will boost your energy or prevent a cold any more than the others. You’re better off going for a brisk walk. 

Which fruit or vegetables are best for heart health?

A variety of fruits and vegetables with jars of smoothies and juice

The good news is that at Jugo Juice you’ll find a diverse lineup of fruits and veggies. Yay! Is one better for cardiovascular disease prevention than any other? Not really. 

They’ve got raspberries and other fruits for fibre; bananas, orange juice, avocado and others for potassium; spinach for magnesium; and berries, orange juice, and green leafy veggies for antioxidants. They all have something going for them, so get for what you like.

The best evidence is for consistently eating a lot of veggies and fruits, and mixing it up helps you get the various nutrients.

Don’t be misled by the menu descriptions 

Restaurant menu descriptions don’t have to be in order by weight like ingredient lists on packaged food. For example, the Mighty Kale is described as:

  • “fresh kale, fresh spinach, mango, pineapple, orange juice, apple juice.”

Sounds like superfood city doesn’t it?

What if instead it said:

  • “apple juice, orange juice, pineapple, mango, fresh kale, fresh spinach”?

Gives a different impression, doesn’t it? We don’t know the order of ingredients by weight, so I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure kale isn’t first. 

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Mighty Kale is grand. I’m just saying it’s probably more apple juice than kale.

Nutrient check: Fibre

If you have time for just a quick glance at the nutrition guide, hunt for fibre. More fibre in a smoothie generally means more actual fruit, or in a couple of them, peanut butter and dates, which also support heart health. 

For context: We need around 21-38 grams of fibre a day, depending on how much we eat. Health Canada allows packaged food to proclaim “Source of Fibre” with 2 grams or more per serving.

Most of the small smoothies have at least 2 grams, and most of the large smoothies have at least 4 grams, so if you split it you’ll have a “Source of Fibre” at least. Still not that much.

Quite a few have at least 3 grams: 

  • A small Jugo Classico, Mango Magic, Blushing Mango, or Summer Strawberry or
  • Half of a ​​large Green Glow, Jugo Cold Brew, Mocha Protein, Peanut Butter Protein, or Morning Blend Protein.

Nutrient check: Protein

The other helpful thing to look at is protein, so you can make sure you’re getting it somewhere in your meal – either from a smoothie, sandwich or wrap. 

Why protein for heart health? Because it helps you feel more full, so less chance you overeat later, it smooths out the blood sugar boost a smoothie will give you, and it helps maintain your critical muscle mass.

Ideally you’d get at about 30 grams of protein in a meal. Less for a snack, but it’s still good to have some. 

How do the Jugo Juice smoothies stack up?

Half of any “Protein” smoothie will give you at least 13 grams (they’re all only available large). The highest is the Peanut Butter Protein with 16g for half. You could have a whole one, which would cover you for protein, but that would basically be a meal. 

You can also boost the protein in any smoothie by adding protein powder, either a scoop (20-24 g) or a tablespoon (3.4-5.4 g).

Just so you know, the protein powders at Jugo Juice, included in all of the Protein smoothies, are sweetened with stevia. No safety concerns with it in particular, although longer term studies suggest a possible association between so-called “non-nutritive sweeteners” in general and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Those studies can’t prove cause and effect, but the sweeteners certainly don’t seem to help. Plus you may not like the taste.

If you want to go without protein powder, you won’t get much protein from a small smoothie. The highest is Peanut Butter & Chocolate with 6 grams for a small, followed by Raspberry Rush, with 4.5 grams in half a large. But you can pair them with a wrap, discussed below.

What other nutrients does Jugo Juice disclose?

I wouldn’t worry about optimizing for any of these, but if you’re curious…

Calories – While you don’t need excessive calories, we’ve taken care of that by keeping portion size small. The differences between the small/half-large smoothies isn’t significant.

Fat  The guide lists fat, but doesn’t distinguish between saturated and unsaturated, the latter being preferable for heart health. Not too helpful. We can tell from the ingredients though, that saturated fat isn’t a concern, except for the coconut milk in the Jugo Cold Brew smoothie and the Apple Pie Chia Pudding

Carbohydrates – Some of the large smoothies have an astonishingly high carbohydrate content, like the Raspberry Rush at 91 grams. 😳 If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you might want to scan this column. Otherwise, you could unknowingly get over 100 grams of carbohydrate even from a small smoothie, if you pair it with a wrap. (Say the Small Blue Crush and Falafel Wrap, for example.)

Vitamin C – An antioxidant which seems to play a role in heart disease, although studies have not been consistently positive. (At least it can help with colds, right? Actually, that’s iffy too.)

“Xtra” Benefits

In addition to the protein powders, Jugo Juice gives you the option to add other goodies to your smoothies, at an extra cost. Are they beneficial? Yes, for the most part: 

  • Chia seeds give you heart-healthy fats and 4 grams of extra fibre 
  • Hemp hearts add heart-healthy fats and 3 grams of extra protein 
  • Ground flax also has healthy fat, plus 2 grams of fibre, including the kind that can nudge your cholesterol downwards 
  • “Max+ immunity” sounds good, but the evidence doesn’t support the implied claim here that having this shot of vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D will do any real immune boosting.

I’m all for any of the first three if you don’t mind the texture and “Xtra” cost. 

What about the fresh-pressed juices?

Let’s start by looking at the fibre. Generally it’s lower for juice, because bits of fruit/veg are left in the juicer. Remember all of those smoothies that had at least 3 grams of fibre? Not one of the small juices has that much!

The protein in the small juices ranges from zero to 3.5 grams, while you can get much more than that in a smoothie, as discussed above.

Because you’ll likely get more fibre and protein with a smoothie, it will be more filling and hold you over for longer.

If you’d really prefer juice, and you want a heart-healthier choice, go for one of the vegetable juices. Much less sugar. You could pair with a wrap (below) for fibre and protein.

Should you do a “Wellness Shot”?

Can you enhance your well-being by choking down two ounces of lemon juice, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper? Uh, maybe? Do you want to? 

Each of those ingredients might be beneficial in one way or another, but how about using them to spice up dinner instead?

What about the wraps and grilled cheese sandwiches?

Sandwiches and wraps in the cooler at Jugo Juice

What can we learn from the menu descriptions?

First I’d look for vegetables and other plant-based ingredients. The Falafel Wrap wins there, with cucumber, tomato, and spinach, plus hummus and falafel, both made from chickpeas. It’ll give you 14 grams of protein, which is pretty good for a vegetarian entree. 

(There’s a wrap called Crunchy Veggie in the nutrition guide, but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore.)

Not keen for falafel? All of the chicken wraps are great too, with 20-23 grams of protein. Don’t worry about the mayo, which is mostly healthy fat, or cheese, which is fine for heart health too. The GOA dressing is even better, with plain Greek yogurt, lime juice, herbs and spices. Yum!

Next challenge is to find whole grains, and to my surprise, about half of the wraps in the case were in whole wheat tortillas! Yay! This isn’t mentioned on the menu or in the nutrition guide, but if you can get one, it should add 3 or 4 grams of fibre as well as magnesium and other good stuff.

Nutrient check: Sodium and fibre

Unfortunately sodium content isn’t on the nutrition guide, but I found it next to the descriptions of about half of the sandwiches online:

  • Falafel Wrap 850mg / 37% of the daily value (DV)
  • Avocado Chicken Wrap: 870mg / 38% DV
  • Chicken & Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese 960mg / 42% DV
  • Cranberry Turkey Grilled Cheese 1290mg / 56% DV
  • 3 Cheese Grilled Cheese 1290mg / 56% DV
  • Turkey Bacon Club Wrap 1410mg / 61% DV

Restaurant food! Bah. Never great for sodium. But at least some are better than others. If you don’t use the nutrition guide, assume that more vegetables = less sodium. Processed meats like bacon = more sodium.

How about fibre? Can you guess without looking? Haha, of course, the Falafel Wrap wins, with 5 grams. That was probably assessed with a white flour tortilla, so if you can get a whole wheat one it will be higher. 

The Thai Chicken Wrap says zero grams of fibre, but that must be a mistake. Even a white tortilla alone should add one gram or so, not to mention the carrots and cabbage. 

The grilled cheese sandwiches look tasty, but they won’t win any nutrition awards. Really in the mood for one? The Chicken & Carmelized Onion will give you the most veggies and lower sodium.

Don’t overlook the snacks 

The refrigerated case has a few good finds. The Peaches n’ Raspberry Overnight Oats and Yogurt Parfait are packed with fibre (11 and 9 grams!) They’re snacks for a bigger appetite though, with about 400 calories each. A light breakfast or lunch, although short on protein. Still, you could do worse!

The fruit or veggie cups are a great complement to the wraps mentioned above – probably the heart-healthiest combo there, admittedly not too exciting. 🍍❤️🥕

(I’d pass on the Apple Pie Chia Pudding due to the saturated fat in the coconut milk.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Jugo Juice have added sugar?

In 2017 Jugo Juice announced that their “entire beverage line contains no added sugars or artificial ingredients.” However:

  1. It’s nearly seven years later. Things can change. 
  2. Three smoothies use chocolate almond milk, which I’ve never seen without a sweetener, usually cane sugar. One smoothie contains granola, which is usually sweetened with honey or maple syrup. Those may not be refined sugars, but they’re certainly considered added sugars.
  3. In Canada we’ve followed the lead of the World Health Organization and shifted from talking about “added sugars” to “free sugars.” Free sugars include added sugars “plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices.”  

So whether or not they contain added sugars may not be the right question. The beverages at Jugo Juice certainly contain free sugars, and that’s fine, assuming you don’t have a giant one for a snack every day. 

Does Jugo Juice use real fruit?

Absolutely! Jugo Juice smoothies include frozen fruits like strawberries, banana, mango, raspberries, peaches, blueberries, and even dragonfruit. Frozen is just as nutritious as fresh. Hooray!

How do Jugo Juice smoothies compare to McDonald’s? 

In comparison to the ingredient list for a McDonald’s smoothie, Jugo Juice looks fantastic. McDonald’s Strawberry Banana Real Fruit Smoothie contains:

Strawberry Banana Fruit Smoothie Base Ingredients: Strawberry puree, Sugars (clarified demineralized pineapple juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate), Water, Banana puree, Cellulose gum, Natural (botanical source) flavours, Xanthan gum, Pectin, Fruit and vegetable juice for colour, Citric acid, Ascorbic acid, Tumeric oleoresin for colour, Ester of mono & diglycerides. Smoothie Yogurt Mix Ingredients: Milk ingredients, Modified corn starch, Pectin, Carrageenan, Bacterial culture.

Can you even believe that?

How do Jugo Juice smoothies compare to Tim Hortons?

A look at the fibre content is enough for me. The 12 oz Strawberry Banana Fruit Smoothie – With Greek Yogurt from Tim Hortons, clocks in at ZERO grams of fibre and. Uh, fruit fail. (More on that here.)

Could you make a healthier smoothie at home?

A berry banana smoothie next to a window

Absolutely! If you use milk, soy milk, almond milk, or something similar as the liquid instead of fruit juice, it will have less free sugar. It won’t be as sweet, but it will be nice and creamy.

Try my Chocolate Power Smoothie if you feel more comfortable using a recipe. Mmmmmm.

A healthy indulgence

Smoothies are in the gray zone between whole fruits/veggies and juice. But they’re a nice way to add a few servings, aren’t they? 

Make it an occasional treat and keep the portion size down and you won’t have to worry about heart health. 

Most of the wraps and snacks are also fine. As eating out goes, you could do A LOT worse. If all of our quick-serve (aka fast food) restaurants had this much wholesome, minimally processed food, we’d be much better off. 

As with all of my work, this post is not sponsored, and I have no financial relationship with Jugo Juice. Just trying to make nutrition practical and interesting for you!

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A Jugo Juice counter

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