June 2019 Is Juicing Worth the Squeeze?
By Nova King
Juicing has been getting a lot of attention, and with that has come a lot of controversy. People rave over their plant-elixirs and promise health miracles, but is juicing really that special?
Fresh juice is made by extracting liquid from fruits and vegetables. It is most often performed with a juicing machine, but can also be done by blending the foods and squeezing the juice through a cheesecloth or strainer. Juicing has become popular due in part to the “juice cleanse” movement. Cleansing with juice involves consuming only fruit/vegetable juice for 3-30 days (or more). Anecdotal health claims declare the potential for detoxification, weight loss and improved gut health through digestive cleansing.
The science behind juicing and cleansing
While there are advantages to consuming fruit and vegetable juices, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that juices and cleanses are a necessity for health. Many health claims presented with juicing and detoxing plans are not based on scientific evidence. In fact, there may be some potential risks for juicers. Risks may include decreased energy, mood swings and headaches. Prolonged juicing can even lead to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition. Some foods used for juicing may be high in oxalates, which can affect kidney health.
Science does not support the notion that juicing and elemental nutrition is necessary for detoxification. While vitamins and minerals found in juice may provide some support for detoxification and housekeeping activities of the body, juicing and “cleansing” is not necessary for this process. Your body has powerful cleansing organs, including your liver and kidneys, which work to filter and detox your body. These organs operate efficiently without the assistance of juicing and cleansing. The idea that juicing upregulates these processes is simply unfounded in research. In summary, juice may not be the magic bullet it is often proclaimed to be.
Relying on juice alone to meet your daily fruit and vegetable quotas, or as a juice cleanse, has some major limitations. First, juice lacks fiber, which is necessary for digestive health and important for appetite regulation. Furthermore, as fiber is extracted from the plants being juiced, important nutrients bound to the fiber are lost. Fiber in whole, un-juiced fruit helps to pace absorption of fruit sugar. Without fiber, these sugars are absorbed into the blood more rapidly causing a spike in blood sugar, which can leave you feeling fatigued and hungry. Juice is light- and oxygen-sensitive, leaving its nutrients vulnerable to damage, which can further decrease the nutrient content and quality compared to the original, whole-food fruit or vegetable.
Juicing vs. whole foods
Let’s take a look at celery juice. While drinking celery juice is considered safe, it has not been shown to be more effective or beneficial than eating the whole intact celery stalk. Sure, extracts of celery have been used in research to demonstrate its anti-inflammatory effects, but this does not suggest that we should be drinking celery extracts alone. Whole plant foods contain the extracts in addition to other vital nutrients that are lost with juicing. Plant foods contain different varieties of phytonutrients and antioxidants that protect our bodies against inflammation and disease. For these reasons, it is recommended to include a variety of whole plant foods in meals and snacks to expose your body to a wide spectrum of health-promoting nutrients.
While these facts make a case for consuming whole foods over juices, juice can still be a safe and healthy part of an eating pattern. Though it is not recommended to use juice as a meal replacement or for a “cleanse,” supplementing a healthy diet with small amounts of juice can boost your day with extra nutrients and hydration.
Best practices for juice consumption
- Focus on vegetables! Choose leafy greens and plants such as kale, spinach, celery, lettuces, collards, and herbs.
- Drink unsweetened fruit juice in moderation (defined as 4 ounces/day).
- Use a cold press or slow masticating juicer to reduce the loss of nutrients.
- Drink fresh juice right away to get maximum nutrient quality and content.
- Blend it! Instead of juicing, toss fruits and veggies in a blender to get all the nutrients AND fiber.
Get to know our author
Nova King is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Nutrition and Food Science with a Dietetics concentration. She has strong interests in biochemistry, epidemiology, and disease prevention. She is currently serving as a practicum student with the KRNC.
For additional resources to healthy eating, check out these programs from our registered dietitian nutritionists. More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board. Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the KRNC monthly newsletter!