The Truth about Juicing and Your Health
To Juice or Not to Juice;That is the Question
|A couple decades ago, juicing was something that only overzealously health-conscious people did. You just knew someone was into healthy living if he or she owned a juicer or drank fresh juice regularly. Today, it's much more popular. People are juicing to lose weight, to cleanse and to consume more nutrients. Juicers are popular sold not only via infomercials but can easily be found in department stores. Juice bars have popped up not just in hip California neighborhoods but even in the Midwest.|
In the SparkPeople Community, we get questions about juicing all the time. Should I be juicing? Will juicing improve my health? Does juicing help with weight loss? While you may be looking for a quick answer, it isn't that simple. Like many things in nutrition and weight loss, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to the topic of juicing. Read on to find out if juicing can benefit you and your goals.
What Exactly Is Juicing, Anyway?
Juicing is the process of extracting the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables. A small kitchen appliance known as a juicer is used to extract the juice, and these can range in price from $50-$500. Drinking the juice of fruits and vegetables means consuming their water and much of their vitamin and mineral content; however, the pulp, orfiber, which also has many health benefits, is removed. (Note: Some high-powered juicers do retain most of the pulp in the juice, thus resulting in a thicker juice.)
There are a few main types of juicers out on the market today:
This type of juicer is one of the most common varieties you'll find on the market. A fast juicer (or centrifugal juicer) grinds your fruits and veggies and then pushes the extracted juice through a strainer by spinning at a very high speed. The pulp is extracted and ejected into a special compartment, usually near the back of the juicer. This type of juicer produces pulp-free juice very quickly, but it also tends to extract less juice than other types of juicers. This type of juicer also generates more heat than other types, which some experts say could compromise the nutrients in the produce.
This juicer produces juice in two steps, using one or two gears. First, it crushes the fruits and veggies, and then it presses out the juice. These types of juicers take longer to produce juice, and they tend to be more expensive than most centrifugal juicers. However, they are said to extract more nutrients from the produce. They yield a thick juice with more pulp, yet still produce some pulp extract in a separate compartment.
''Whole Food'' Juicers
These juicers are reminiscient of blenders. Using sharp blades at high speeds, they are able to pulverize whole fruits and veggies into liquid. These do not have a separate pulp compartment.
Fresh juices should not be confused with smoothies, which are usually made in a blender, food processor, or high-powered juicer and include the fibrous pulp of the fruit and vegetable ingredients (and can often contain a blend of fruit, vegetables, juice, dairy and other ingredients).
How Juice Stacks Up against Whole Foods
Proponents of juicing like to say that juice is more nutritious than simply consuming fruits and vegetables. But does that argument really hold up? To compare the nutrition of whole fruits and vegetables to juice, it is important to compare apples to apples (no pun intended). For accuracy, this means that one must compare them based on equal portions of weight (in grams), which is what we've done in the chart below. If using a juicer or blender that retains the pulp, the end result will be similar to the whole fruit. This chart is a comparison of whole fruit vs juice that does not retain the pulp.
100 Grams of Juice vs Whole Foods
By looking at the chart, you'll notice:
One other concern with juicing is the cost. It takes a lot of fruits and vegetables to make a small amount of juice, and these fresh produce items don't come cheap. Especially if you are discarding the pulp, you're spending a lot of money on making fresh juice when your wallet (and body) may benefit more from simply eating the fresh produce. Healthy eating does not have to cost a lot of money, but if budgetary constraints are a top concern of yours, juicing isn't the most frugal choice when it comes to getting the most nutrition for your buck.
So Why Do People Juice? What Are the Benefits?
People who juice usually fall into one or more categories based on the reason they choose to juice.
Does juicing help people reach any of the goals above? I'll be the first to admit that while there is a great deal of research regarding the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, there is very little research-based evidence regarding the juice of such produce. Yet, we can still use science and common sense to answer the most common questions about juicing.
Will Juicing Improve My Health?
Juicing is no healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables. When comparing gram weights, juice is not more nutritious than the whole produce. In fact, it is often lower in many nutrients, and the beneficial fiber is near zero. Contrary to some claims, your body does not absorb the nutrients better in juice form.
That said, juice does contain nutrients. Many people prefer drinking juice to eating whole fruits and vegetables. So if juicing helps you increase your consumption of produce, that is generally a good thing for most people. However, you will get more health benefits from finding ways to increase your daily consumption of whole fruits and vegetables than by only drinking their juice alone, so that should be your main goal if health is your reason for juicing.
Will Juicing Cleanse or Detox My Body?
In a word, no. Juice will not cleanse your body. There is no scientific evidence showing that ingredients in juices help to eliminate toxins. In fact, your body is well-equipped with its own detoxing systems (including the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems). To keep your organs functioning at peak performance, a balanced diet consisting of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is needed. The body cannot survive on the nutrients in fruits and vegetables (or their juice) alone. Therefore, a juicing cleanse may actually be preventing the body from functioning optimally. In addition, healthy adults have no reason to give the gut a rest from fiber intake. In fact, for optimal intestinal function and overall health, it is best to consume nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods every day. Learn more about the truth behind common detox diet claims.
Does Juicing Help with Weight Loss?
Maybe… but maybe not.
First, it's important to remember that no single food causes obesity, and the inclusion or exclusion of any single food or food group will not cause weight loss. Weight loss comes down to consuming fewer calories than you burn on a regular basis. Juicing can either help or hinder this depending on how much you're consuming (and what else you're eating).
Doing the math, on average, an ounce of ''mixed juice'' contains about 15 calories. If you need 1,400-1,500 calories daily to achieve weekly weight loss, you could drink a whopping 96 ounces of this juice (about 12 cups) each day and still stay in that calorie range, which should result in weight loss. On this sample juicing diet, you would, however, only be getting 9 grams of fiber (36% of your need) and 25 grams of protein (41% of your need) each day, which is far from ideal. This unbalanced nutrient intake would result in immediate muscle mass loss and an increase in hunger and food cravings. Other nutrients such as fat, vitamins and minerals would also be severely lacking. Successful and safe long-term weight loss would not be achievable on such a plan. When followed for a few days, this type of juice fast would probably not harm a healthy adult. However, if followed for several weeks, or if followed by people with certain medical conditions, this type of fast could lead to dangerous complications (more on that below).
Remember that the best weight-loss plan helps you achieve balance and moderation with a wide variety of foods that you enjoy and can stick with eating for the long term. Juicing may result in some weight loss, but it's a crash diet at best.
On the flip side, if you add juice to your current diet (and continue eating other whole foods), you could easily over-consume calories and not lose weight at all. A 12-ounce glass of juice typically contains 180 calories. Adding a couple of these glasses on top of your regular daily intake would likely put you out of your weight-loss calorie range and could result in weight gain.
Although most of us would prefer a quick fix or weight-loss boost, remember that weight loss is not so simple. Eating more of any one food likely won't change your weight for the better.
Health Concerns with Juicing
Juicing could have potential food-medication interactions and medical complications for some people. For example:
Anyone with a health condition or taking medication, especially those with kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension should consult their physician or dietitian before making significant dietary changes.
Give It a Whirl: The Right Way to Juice
While there are many reasons why one should not turn to an exclusively juicing diet, there is no need to forgo juice if you enjoy its refreshing taste and endless flavor combinations. You just need to juice with a little common sense and know-how by practicing these tips.