What’s The Deal With Juicing?
No, we're not talking about performance-enhancing drugs; we're talking about juicers -- as in, machines that turn fruits, veggies and whatever else you want into juice. Whether you’ve seen them on infomercials, on store shelves or heard a friend gushing about them, juicers seem to be all the rage. Some even claim that juicing is healthier than eating.
Drinking nutrient-rich liquid is definitely a popular weight-loss option, but does it really work? And how healthy is it?
The Rumor: Juicing can enhance your diet, detox your body and help you lose weight
It makes sense: Drinking your fruits and vegetables is the same as eating them, right? But are you missing something in the conversion from food to juice?
The Verdict: Juicing is a quick, healthy way to consume fruits and veggies, but that's no reason to give up eating solid food
"The general messaging around juice and juicing is that… it’s healthy for you. It’s fruits and vegetables," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Flexitarian Diet. "A little juicing is a good thing because you’re getting vitamins and minerals."
But some people take it too far, drinking juice in lieu of eating complete meals every day. Sure, you're consuming fruits and veggies, but liquefying them doesn't enhance their nutritional content in any way. According to the American Cancer Society's website, "There's no convincing scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than whole foods." In fact, regardless of how healthy the juice itself is, we still need to eat solid food. (More on that in a bit.)
First, you need to know that there are two basic types of juicing. One is traditional juicing, wherein produce is put through a juicer, but fiber won’t be in the juice because it’s in the leftover pulp. Then there's complete juicing, wherein you’re using a high-powered blender and the entire carrot, celery, kale leaf, etc. is actually in the juice itself. In the case of the latter, you are getting the fiber, but you're also getting less concentrated nutrition, because you're not using as many fruits and veggies as you would with traditional juicing.
One of the most common reasons people start to juice is to lose weight. Some think juicing will help them quickly shed pounds, while others believe it's a magical detoxicant that rids the body of all pollutants and poisons. "[Juicing] does neither of those," says Blatner. "If you’re a healthy individual and you think juicing is going to win the war against your weight, you’re wrong."
Some people engage in a juice fast, which includes having juice for each meal and several snacks throughout the day. "Are you getting a lot of vitamins and minerals? Absolutely!" says Blatner. "Is this going to be a miracle? No, because what you do for a few days won’t be able to make up for the other 362 days. You might lose water weight by doing this for a few days, but it likely won’t be weight loss in the real sense. Maybe you’ll get a mental jump-start, and you’ll feel better… [and you'll be ready] to make healthier decisions moving forward."
Blatner says that for most people, it’s safe to replace meals with juices for up to three days, as long as you don’t have pre-existing health conditions and you OK it with your doc first. "But when it’s more days than not in the week that you’re juicing, you’re not getting enough full nutrition, whole grains, protein or healthy fats," she says. "More days than not, I’d like someone to follow a healthy diet."
The upshot: Juicing can be healthy, but we also need to eat whole foods. One of the unfortunate side effects of juicing is the loss of fiber that occurs when skin, pulp and other components of the fruit or vegetable are removed. Fiber is essential to the diet for many reasons, and the sad truth is that Americans aren't getting enough of it, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, and manager of wellness nutrition services for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. "[Fiber] keeps us fuller, longer, so we're better able to manage weight or lose weight," she says.
It's fine and safe to do juicing, but make sure you consume plenty of other plant-based foods from other sources, such as brown rice, 100 percent whole-grain pasta and breads, legumes and, yes, even whole fruits and vegetables (with their skins on).