When you walk into the supermarket now, have you noticed there’s juice being sold in every part of the store? In a store like Whole Foods, it’s almost unbelievable how many different types of juices are being marketed and sold. In malls now, there are even entire high-end stores devoted to distilling juices, and I’m not referring to the Jamba Juices of the world. But with Google Trends showing searches for “juicing” and “smoothies” rising significantly over the past decade, there’s clearly a demand for juice.
Not only are more fruits and vegetables being squeezed and bottled for you, but an entire culture has sprung up around doing the juicing yourself. It has become a so-called “art”. People are buying and equipping their houses with high-end juicing machines and then crafting and exchanging juicing recipes.
Is there anything wrong with our obsession over juice? Fruit and vegetable juice is healthy for you, right? Well, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of juicing.
Not All Juices Are Created Equal
First, not all juices are created equal. Freshly-squeezed juices made from organic fruits and vegetables are far superior to juices that come from concentrate. When a juice is made from concentrate, it means after the fruit or vegetable was harvested, the fruit or vegetable was pressed and heated to remove the water. This process makes the product less perishable as well as easier to store and transport. The juice concentrate is then sold to a manufacturer who can reconstitute it with water. Unfortunately, the process of making juice concentrate damages the juice in three ways:
- Essential vitamins and nutrients are damaged by the heat
- Healthy fiber is all but removed from the final product
- Sugar content increases significantly
Some manufacturers will fortify their juice made from concentrate with vitamins and minerals, but it’s not enough to make up for the damage that has already been done. High in sugar, low in essential nutrients, and packing a calorie count that would probably surprise you, juices made from concentrate are not much healthier than soda — despite what good marketing may imply.
Freshly-squeezed juice, on the other hand, presents an entirely different story. Not having been treated with heat, the vitamins and minerals remain intact and a glass of freshly-squeezed juice contains plenty of essential and healthy nutrients. But, does that mean you should run out, buy a juicer, and follow one of the many juice-based fad diets that are so popular right now? Not exactly.
The Pros Of Juicing
- Packed With Nutrients – The modern diet is heavily dependent on processed and refined foods, which are low or entirely devoid of many of the essential nutrients we need to stay healthy. Many, many people could benefit from consuming more vitamins and minerals to help bring their body back into balance. A freshly-squeezed batch of juice is loaded with healthy and essential vitamins and minerals, and juicing provides an easy approach to flood the body with these healthy nutrients on a daily basis. Remember though, if you’re not juicing your own fruits and vegetables, turn to freshly-squeezed juice and not juice concentrate to take advantage of these nutrients.
- Convenience – Juicing is a convenient way to ensure you’re eating at least five portions of fruits and/or vegetables each day. Not everyone enjoys fruits and vegetables, and juicing can allow you to consume a lot of fruits and vegetables in a single serving. Plus, you can combine fruits and vegetables to yield a veritable cocktail of vitamins and minerals without having to do a lot of chopping, peeling, or cooking. Talk about a time saver!
- Great Taste – Let’s face it, juice tastes good. With so many different types of fruits and vegetables, you can summon your creativity and come up with new recipes every day. By adding other natural flavors like ginger, vanilla, and cinnamon, you can tweak recipes to make even tastier concoctions without adding hardly any additional calories. With all the variety, experimenting, and fun to be had, it’s no wonder a “culture” has sprung up around the art of juicing.
The Cons Of Juicing
- Too Much Sugar – The biggest concern to be aware of with juicing is too much sugar. Sugar is a concentrated form of energy that can wreak havoc with your insulin and blood glucose levels, not to mention the health of your teeth. It’s a great source of quick energy if you’re very active, but is easily converted into body fat if you’re not. A big dose of sugar will cause an initial blood glucose spike, which is almost always followed by a big drop in blood glucose. This will leave you tired, unable to concentrate and craving another hit of sugar. With too much sugar in our modern diet already, it’s a perpetual cycle that too many people already find themselves in.
While vegetables are naturally low in sugar, fruit is not. Fruit actually contains high amounts of sugar. That doesn’t mean you should avoid fruit. In fact, an essential part of a healthy diet is consuming fruit for the antioxidants and vitamins it offers. Plus, our body needs some sugar to function. But, it’s important to moderate your sugar intake. Unfortunately, with juicing, it becomes very easy to indulge in too much fruit. We like the taste of sweet things, and to offset the more bitter taste of vegetables, we continue to add more and more fruit into the juicer. Blending too much fruit together has notably presented itself as a problematic trend in the rise of smoothies. Many think they’re consuming a “healthy” beverage when in fact it’s absolutely not. Some people will load the blender with bananas, all types of berries and melons, maybe add some peanut butter (more sugar), a little honey (more sugar), and top it off with some milk or yogurt (more sugar). This would definitely not be a healthy post-workout option. When you’re juicing or making a smoothie, a very small portion of fruit will do.
- Lack Of Insoluble Fiber – Fiber is a very important part of our diet, and many Americans are not getting enough fiber in their diet. Fiber is essential to good digestive health and has been linked to a healthier gut, less heart disease, and maintaining a healthy weight. Fiber comes from plants, and we consume it in the form of whole grains, nuts, vegetables, legumes, and fruits. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs in water (think of what happens when you add water to oatmeal), whereas, insoluble fiber does not (think of what happens when you add water to broccoli). Insoluble fiber cannot be digested by your body and helps push everything through your digestive system. Soluble fiber can be digested by your body and helps to soften and make everything pass more easily through your digestive system.
In fruits and vegetables, the flesh is a rich source of soluble fiber and the skin contains most of the insoluble fiber. During the juicing process, the flesh of fruit and vegetables is primarily affected and not the skins. The fruit or vegetable is mercilessly chopped and pummeled, squeezing the juice and water out. The skin is left as a useless byproduct that is just discarded. So while juicing can be a convenient way to get a healthy portion of fruits and vegetables in a single serving, you’ll be missing out on consuming enough insoluble fiber if juicing is your main source.
- Lack of Protein – Fruits and vegetables offer plenty of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, but they contain only trace amounts of amino acids and very little protein. Protein is all but essential for muscle growth and repair, especially in relation to exercise. Protein also has a muscle-sparing effect during low-calorie diets and can help with fat-burning due to having a high thermal effect. In a nutshell, protein increases your metabolic rate leading to a greater daily expenditure of calories. A diet overly reliant on juicing fruits and vegetables to substitute for nutritionally-balanced meals will result in a macronutrient imbalance, leading to muscle loss and likely weight gain.
- Lack of Fat – Contrary to popular belief, new research shows healthy fats are essential to good health. We need fat for many essential bodily functions, including: inflammation, joint health, and the production of hormones and energy. Fruits and vegetables don’t contain fat, which means a diet built around juicing fruits and vegetables will leave your body starved of essential dietary fats.
- Too Rapid Weight Loss – Very low-calorie diets, such as “juice-only diets”, can lead to rapid weight loss, however, this is not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight. Not only will your body release fat, it will also lose muscle mass. Plus, consuming too few calories can trigger a rapid drop in leptin levels. Leptin is a signaling hormone produced by fat cells. The sudden drop in leptin can trigger your body into having a starvation response, which will prime your body for fat storage rather than fat-burning. For these reasons, many people experience gaining weight rapidly back when they return to eating solid foods.
- Increased Hunger Levels – Your stomach is lined with stretch receptors that send a message to your brain that it’s full. Solid foods will be more effective than liquids at distending your stomach and letting your brain know you’re full. With a high fiber content and larger general bulk, whole fruits and vegetables will satisfy your hunger longer than liquids. Eating an apple will appease your hunger for awhile, whereas, you could drink the juice of several apples without feeling satisfied at all despite consuming more calories and sugar. You’ll probably then turn to another snack or meal, consuming even more calories!
- Cost – Juicing can be expensive! Organic, whole fruits and vegetables are not cheap. You’ll need to buy a lot of them just to produce a small amount of juice. That also means a lot of trips to the grocery store. Plus, the machines are pricey too. You’ll have to dole out a few hundred dollars for a mid-range machine, and a higher-end machine will set you back more than a couple thousand dollars. So for many people, daily juicing can be prohibitively expensive and instead their money could be better used purchasing more types of other healthy, filling foods.
- Time and Hygiene – We mentioned that juicing can be a more convenient way to get your daily recommended share of fruits and vegetables, but it may not be as convenient as we might think. Juicers need to be thoroughly cleaned to maintain a good standard of hygiene, and even the expensive juicers are a pain and time-consuming to clean. A poorly cleaned juicer could harbor all manner of germs and bacteria. Between thorough cleanings and all the trips to the grocery store, any perceived time saving from juicing may have to be discounted.
In the end, I think it’s fair to say there’s nothing inherently wrong with juicing or consuming juices as a standalone practice. In fact, balanced juices in moderate amounts can provide health benefits. But, juices should not serve as the cornerstone of your diet as they do not nearly cover all of your essential nutritional needs. In addition, be aware of how much fruit and sugar is in the juice or smoothie you’re thinking of consuming and make an informed decision on whether there may be a healthier, more-filling option.This post contains advertisements and/or affiliate links. For more information, see our disclosure here.