The Pros and Cons of Juicing
The elaborate juice concoctions available in craft juice shops and on grocery store shelves today make some big promises, from detoxification to jump starting the immune system to making your skin glow. But does drinking kale, cucumber lemonade really live up to the hype?
Like most integrative health care practitioners and physician nutritionist, I will tell you it is more important to chew your vegetables and fruits rather than to juice and drink them. Most of the nutrients are found in the fiber of the veggies. That is not to say juicing doesn’t have some benefits, but juicing is meant to supplement your fruit and vegetable intake, or be enjoyed as a healthy snack or alternative to your morning coffee. Juicing should not be a meal replacement or considered a replacement for the 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables your body needs each day.
It is also key to consume your foods in a form that is as close as possible to how they were plucked from the earth or a tree. Always aim for minimal processing. Juicing is processing, certainly more innocuous than the vast majority of processing that goes into many packaged foods, but it’s highly processed nonetheless. This is something you will be very well aware of if you’ve ever watched how five pounds of whole carrots juices into a single shot glass of carrot juice.
Upside of Juicing
Juicing in and of itself is not a bad practice, and there are various benefits to it:
Nutrient boost – Juicing is one way to squeeze more fruits and vegetables into your diet, and while chewing your produce is preferable to drinking it, consuming juiced produce is certainly preferable to not consuming it at all.
Convenience – You can purchase pre-made juices if you’re in a hurry or on-the-go, rather than putting in the time and effort to make them yourself.
Variety – One serving of juice can contain a variety of fruits and vegetables, some of which you may rarely or never consume. Everyone has that one fruit or vegetable they just don’t get around to befriending. Dandelion greens, turmeric root anyone?
Downside of Juicing
Incorporating juicing into your daily routine may have its drawbacks:
Price – It can be tough to swallow paying $12 for a 16-ounce beverage. Two reasons it costs so much: labor and raw materials. If you’ve ever made juice at home, you know how labor-intensive juicing can be - buying, washing, slicing, and juicing your vegetables. Plus clean-up of the juicer is tedious. It is expensive even if you make it at home. A good quality juicer is an expensive investment, as is purchasing the massive quantities of produce you need to make a reasonable amount of juice.
Failing on the Fiber Front – When you extract the juice from fruits or vegetables, you don’t get the nutritious pulp and fiber. Most of the key vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients are trapped in the fiber portion of fruits and vegetables - there are lost when you juice. Unfortunately, the average American eating a diet of processed foods gets only about one-third of the fiber they need each day. Low dietary fiber can be linked to increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, constipation, and diverticular disease.
Sugar overload – Store-bought juices often contain large amounts of fruit-based or added sugar, and have little or none of the more healthful produce like kale and spinach. High loads of sugar can cause inflammation, and contribute to weight gain, heart disease and cancer. See my previous article on The Sugar & Cancer Connection. Know what you’re putting into your body, and always read the label. If you want a green juice, make sure kale and spinach or one of their brethren are listed first on the ingredient list.
The right way to Juice
If you decide that juicing should play a role in your healthy, fruit-and-vegetable–rich diet, consider these tips:
Select Quality Produce
If there were ever a reason to buy organic, it’s when you use produce in juicing and smoothies. This is because most pesticides are water soluble, which means the pesticides are extracted right along with the juice, giving you not just a shot of healthy vitamins and minerals, but also of pesticides!
Choose Enjoyable Flavor Combinations
Sure, spinach and strawberries might taste great tossed together in a salad, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be music to your mouth in liquid form. This sounds simple, but make sure you want to drink the juice you make. Experiment and find what tastes best to you. Or, purchase pre-made juices whose flavor combinations have usually been vetted by the masses.
Drink Your Juice Immediately
It’s tempting to fill a bunch of your crafty mason jars with juice on a Sunday for the whole week, but juice is best enjoyed fresh, as the nutrient value decreases the longer juice is stored. You can store juice for 24 hours in the refrigerator in a dark, airtight container.
Save the Pulp
If you’re juicing at home, there are numerous uses for the leftover juicer pulp. It has no place in your trash, though a compost pile is an ok place for it. A few other ways you can use the pulp include:
Blending it into a smoothie to boost fiber
Using it to make a vegetable broth
Boiling it with water and cinnamon or ginger to make a fruit tea
Eating your greens is one of the most important things you can do for your body, which is why you need to know how to make a simple green juice - or better yet a green smoothie.