How Is Juicing Healthy?
There are two ways to consider the question, “How Is Juicing Healthy?”. One way is to expect me to list all of the benefits of juicing. The other is the opposite viewpoint, that juicing removes the fiber from whole fruit and vegetables and leads to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. So what is the right answer?
First, let’s investigate How Is Juicing Healthy from the benefits side.
Benefits of Juicing
One major benefit of juicing is that you are more likely to take your recommended daily allowance of fruits and veggies from drinking juice rather than eating them whole.
in 2009, an estimated 32.5% of adults consumed fruit two or more times per day and 26.3% consumed vegetables three or more times per day, far short of the national targets.
This means that over 2/3 of American adults are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. There is strong evidence that eating a diet high in fresh produce leads to a reduced risk for death related illness and is an important part of a good weight management program.
Absorption of Nutrients
Proponents of juicing say and experts acknowledge that the nutrients in juice are absorbed by the body faster than when they are chewed. Also, the reduced fiber load gives your body’s digestive system a break. However, this is a double-edged sword. The faster digestion leads to quicker and more extreme hunger. So, now you want to eat more in between meals, often of the high-calorie junk food variety, thus negating the health benefit of the increased fruit and veggie intake.
Since we’re talking juicing here as opposed to drinking store bought juice let’s discuss the benefits of homemade juice over packaged. In order to extend shelf life and attractiveness of packaged juice, manufacturers pasteurize, i.e. heat up the juice, or add chemicals and sugar to the product. These are additives that are not good for you, adding workload to your liver and kidneys and increasing your sugar intake in a modern diet already high in sugar.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommends limiting total intake of discretionary calories, including both added sugars and solid fats, to 5%–15% per day. Recent analyses indicate that children and adolescents obtain approximately 16% of their total caloric intake from added sugars.CDC report
Naturopaths and proponents go so far as to recommend juicing as a diet to cleanse toxins from your system and to treat diseases like cancer. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support these claims but as yet scientific studies do not back up these claims. I’ll leave that discussion for another time.
Interested in juicing? Check out my Juicers page.
Now, let’s discuss How Is Juicing Healthy from the opposite viewpoint.
Dangers of Juicing
Firstly, one of the dangers of juicing is the removal of beneficial fiber from fresh produce. Fiber is an important element of your diet that has four beneficial effects:
- It slows the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream.
- Your intestines move faster when the fiber is present, signaling your brain that you are full.
- Fiber cleans your colon, acting like a scrub brush reducing the risk of cancer, and
- it helps keep your bowel movements regular.
Secondly, the other issue is sugar. Juicing fruit results in a faster intake of sugar leading to sugar spikes that are dangerous for diabetics, see the heading “Juicing For Diabetics” below.
Read this article by Dr. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. of the Mayo Clinic, discussing “Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits or vegetables?“
Juicing For Weight Loss
Juicing for weight loss can easily backfire. Our taste for sugar, developed over years of added sugar in our packaged and restaurant foods, makes us want pure fruit juice or more fruit in our mixed fruit and veggie cocktails. Fruit is higher in calories than vegetables.
By juicing our fruits and veggies we may not get enough fiber or protein to make us feel full, leading to eating in-between-meal snacks and the temptation to cheat with lattés and doughnuts.
Juicing For Diabetics
Diabetes is a progressive disease that causes heart disease, blindness, kidney
failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Liquid sugar is absorbed into our bodies much faster than when it is part of the solid food. Thus, in diabetics and pre-diabetics who may not even know they have the disease, drinking fruit and vegetable juices causes a dangerous spike in blood sugar readings.
Therefore, to avoid this, diabetics should not drink pure fruit juice, especially the packaged kind, as a meal substitute. Eat whole food high in fiber and protein or make vegetable smoothies with a small amount of fruit added to sweeten.
So, to summarize How Is Juicing Healthy – there are definite benefits to juicing but also hidden dangers. To get the most out of juicing:
- Use juicing as a supplement, not a stand-alone meal substitute. Add a low-fat, nutrient-rich energy surge to a diet that is high in fiber and protein. This will counter the hunger attack that can follow a juice drink alone.
- Experiment with different vegetable juices to find the combination that has you wanting to go back for more. Try leafy greens, kale with cucumber, and add a citrus fruit like grapefruit or orange. Other good choices are spinach, collard or mustard greens, swiss chard, carrots, and beets. Add a small amount of fruit for sweetness.
- Drink your juice immediately after making it. Some juicers, (masticating type), produce juice with a longer shelf life than others, (centrifugal type). But nutrients start to degrade the minute after they are made.
- Don’t throw away that fiber-rich pulp. Add to the mix when making muffins or crumble it over your oatmeal to enjoy its many benefits.
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