Juice Burn Out - Charcoal

Move over kale and coconut water - there are some new food trends ready to take centre stage in 2015. This week Sanchia Parker lifts the lid on... Charcoal-infused juice

What is it? Charcoal-infused juice is touting detox and heath claims in each black sip. The Gothic-looking drinks are simply juices to which activated charcoal has been added.

Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been heated so it expands and becomes porous. The porous nature means it has the ability to capture and bind to chemicals, removing them from the body. Activated charcoal is used medically in people who have overdosed or ingested poison as it binds to the chemicals and stops the body absorbing them.

Benefits: While medical professionals administer life-saving doses of activated charcoal to the very sick; the jury is still out on whether or not it provides benefits to the average person wanting a health hit. Advocates of charcoal-infused juices claim it can trap toxins and gases from your body to remove them, drawing out impurities and detoxing you from the inside out. It is believed it can help reduce flatulence, bloating and stomach upsets.

We know that activated charcoal can bind to chemicals like fertiliser or bleach and remove them making it ideal in life-saving situations, but there isn’t a lot of information about what toxins it purportedly removes in the average healthy person. In fact, given its highly adsorbent nature (meaning it binds to many chemicals), it could even bind to nutrients in your body, removing them. So sipping on your charcoal-infused juice while eating a huge healthy salad could mean that all the vitamins and minerals in the salad are simple removed as the charcoal recklessly binds to anything it finds in its path!

Negatives: Charcoal is not discriminative; it can remove good and bad from our body. So while it may remove "toxins" it can interfere with medication absorption and potentially remove beneficial nutrients. Take any medication several hours away from charcoal infused juices. The detox and health claims made by juice companies have yet to be verified by scientific studies, so don’t rely on it as a fast-track to improved health.

Other side effects can be spooky-looking black stools, as well as a lighter wallet - pressed juices can cost upwards of $9.00.

Taste: I tried the black lemonade by Pressed Juices, which was infused with cayenne pepper. While I loved the fact it was low in sugar with only 2.4g in the bottle (juices often contain around 20g of sugar or more) it was less lemonade and more lemon flavoured water. 

The verdict: Ever one to love a new food trend, I enjoyed trying it; but the lack of evidence to support its supposed health claims mean I wouldn’t be relying on it as a health fix.

By Sanchia Parker

Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist