Nutrition Articles

The Truth About Juicing and Your Health

To Juice or Not to Juice;That is the Question

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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:

  • Increasing foods high in vitamin K, such as spinach and kale, may affect anti-blood clotting medication.
     
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interact with more than 30 common medications.
     
  • Increasing fruit juice intake can increase carbohydrate intake and raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. 
     
  • The higher potassium intake from fruits and vegetables may be dangerous to someone with kidney disease.


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.

  • Turn Yucky into Yummy. Juicing can be a way to incorporate produce that you normally might not eat due to flavor or texture issues.  Beets, kale, and spinach tend to be less noticeable when combined with the flavors of fruits and berries, so experiment by combining your least favorite produce items in different flavor combinations.
     
  • Don't Pitch the Pulp.  You can still reap the benefits of that fiber-rich pulp by adding it to soups, stews, grain and rice dishes, pasta sauces, muffins and quick breads. Don't let those nutrients go to waste—get creative with them in the kitchen. 
     
  • Try a Juicy Smoothie.  Use the fresh juice you make as the liquid component in your favorite smoothie.  You can also add the discarded pulp as well.  Blend in some ground flaxseed, nut butter or avocado for healthy fats and some yogurt for protein.  You'll end up with a complete balanced meal.
     
  • The Five-a-Day Challenge.  Juicing can help you meet your 5-servings-a-day minimum of fruits and vegetables; that means no more than 1 cup of juice daily, which counts as 2 produce servings.  Just make sure you are incorporating enough whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes and lentils to meet your 25 grams of fiber as well.  You may even surprise yourself by getting more than 5 servings!
     
  • Rotate and Renew. Instead of limiting your produce juicing selections to the same few every time, rotate in new offerings based on what's fresh and locally available at your farmers market.  Incorporate a variety of colors into your juice, as each color represents a different nutrient profile. 
     
  • Boost Flavor.  Use herbs, spices and extracts to add flavor to your juice blends and smoothies.  Think basil, mint, cilantro, cayenne, ginger, and cinnamon.
     
  • Remember Food Safety.  Wash your hands before touching the fruits and vegetables.  Then, be sure to thoroughly wash the produce. Make sure to properly clean the cutting board, knife and preparation area. Wash your juicing machine carefully after each use with hot soapy water according to the manufacturer's directions. Just rinsing it out won't do!
     
  • Drink Now, Not Later!  Freshly made juices and smoothies are highly perishable since no preservatives or pasteurization is used.  So drink or freeze your mixture shortly after juicing or blending. If you can't consume it all, freeze the leftovers immediately in ice cube trays and then pop them into freezer bags. These make great additions to smoothies later!
The bottom line? When enjoyed in moderation, fresh-squeezed juice is a tasty way to obtain vitamins and minerals in liquid form. However, the best way to lose weight and promote optimal health is to eat a well-balanced diet that comprises all of the food groups.

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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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