Every year or so, a new health food fad makes the rounds of the talk show circuit and leads to a couple of bestselling books.
Keto, paleo, raw food, intermittent fasting, Atkins, South Beach, gluten-free, Mediterranean, and…juicing.
Common sense tells us that, while each of these works for at least some people some of the time, the sheer number of theories suggest that all of them can’t be the last word on nutrition.
So, what’s the story with juicing?
Will it, by itself, make you happier, healthier, and smarter?
Is it something you can take or leave with no real effect either way – or can it actually be harmful?
Read on to find out why juicing is a good idea – and also which pitfalls you should avoid.
The Reason for Juicing
There are four so-called macronutrients, which your body requires grams to ounces of each day: carbs, fats, protein, and water.
If you live anywhere in the Western world, chances are slim that you’re suffering from a deficiency of any of these, except perhaps water.
These will keep you alive – for a while – but aren’t nearly all that your body needs. Micronutrients include minerals and vitamins, and the best source of these is plant material.
The question, of course, is how much.
Experts recommend a minimum of 400 grams (14 oz) of fruit and vegetables per day, but it seems that doubling that amount is a really good idea. Here’s what 800 g (or 28 ounces) of vegetable matter can look like:
Doesn’t look that hard to achieve, does it?
Remember, however, that you have to do this every day, regardless of how much time you have to cook and eat, whether you’re on the road, what foods you happen to be craving, and, frankly, whether you like vegetables to begin with.
Compressing all that plant material into a glass of two of appetizing, easy-to-consume liquid makes getting your micronutrients way, way easier, regardless of your lifestyle or culinary preferences.
In other words: juice isn’t superior to whole fruit and vegetables, but the convenience factor encourages you to get more of them past your lips.
Fresh Juice vs Bottled
Before we start talking about the potential disadvantages of juicing, we should emphasize that this article is really all about the stuff you prepare at home. Store-bought juice, except for a few specialty brands, can’t hold a candle, mainly for the following reasons:
Have you ever wondered why all fast food tastes the same?
Almost every recipe, as it turns out, aims for the “bliss point”: the balance of sweet, sour, and salt that makes you never want to stop eating. This has distorted our palates to the point where many brands add sugar to already-sweet juices. There are many better ways to fuel your body.
Ask yourself, how much juice is in your juice?. Check the label carefully: if it says “Contains real fruit juice!” or even “Fruit-flavored Drink”, you may as well get a soda instead.
Also think about nutrient content. are much gentler and run much cooler than their industrial counterparts. As you’ll drink your home-pressed juice within a couple of hours, you also don’t need to pasteurize (heat) it for about half an hour, destroying further nutrients.
In addition, some valuable antioxidants react with the air. Think of a banana turning brown – which doesn’t have a chance to happen if you consume it immediately.
While we’re on the subject, it’s also worth comparing fresh juicing with multivitamin supplements. Whatever The Jetsons told you as a kid, synthetic alternatives to natural solutions often aren’t cracked up to what they’re supposed to be.
When Juicing Is Not a Good Idea
So far, we’ve seen that drinking juice is the easiest way to get all the nutrition your body needs to function.
In addition, pressing your own juice from whole fruit and vegetables is way better than buying it at the store.
Normally, juicing will boost your immune system, increase your energy levels, and protect you against a whole range of lifestyle diseases. Under certain circumstances and done in some ways, however, juicing can actually do more harm than good.
Let’s take a look at a few juicing no-nos:
A Lack of Variety
Eating your vegetables is good, eating only one vegetable much less so. No single plant can provide all the nutrients you need in adequate quantities, so follow the traffic light rule: eat green, yellow as well as red veggies, along with some fruit.
Don’t just stick to your favorites. Also, as you can imagine, kale tastes a lot better when it’s diluted with…well, anything else.
Juice Cleanses and Fasting
Consuming nothing but juice and water for several days is supposed to help you lose weight, detoxify your body, and improve your health in general.
Unfortunately, there’s little scientific evidence for any long-lasting positive effects from this kind of fast.
Meanwhile, especially if you have an underlying medical condition you may not even be aware of, your blood pressure and sugar may bounce around like a ping-pong ball in a clothes dryer. If you want to try juicing, make it a part of your long-term routine.
Juicing and Weight Loss
Fruit and vegetables are healthy, and being skinny is healthy, so juicing must make you skinny, right?
Research indeed bears out the relationship between eating more plant matter and losing weight, but let’s not get too hasty with our conclusions.
The trouble with juicing is that it separates the fiber-rich pulp from the sugary liquids. This lack of fiber can lead to digestive problems and means that drinking juice won’t curb your appetite.
More importantly, fiber forms a natural buffer against food digesting too quickly. If this happens, your insulin levels spike and your body becomes much more likely to store fat. This means that it’s easy to consume too much of a good thing.
For the same reason, diabetics who can eat fruit should be careful when it comes to juicing.
If you’re trying to shed some pounds, stick to whole fruit instead, or at least watch your juice intake. Fruit juice contains about 135 calories per cup while vegetable juice clocks in at roughly half that.
Generally speaking, drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice is a hugely convenient way of ensuring that your diet really is balanced. As with most health issues, however, the question of whether juicing is good for you isn’t completely black and white.
Overdoing the juicing thing is almost always a bad idea, but incorporating it into your day-to-day lifestyle will have a whole range of benefits. Juicers can be had for as little as fifty bucks, while there’s more than enough guidance available on how to use them joyfully and safely.
Especially if you feel a little guilty about the quality of your diet, why not give it a try?