Diet and Nutrition

Should You Be Juicing?

Should I Start Juicing?

According to Jennifer Barr, a dietician from Wilmington, an occasional glass of fresh juice can be a healthy option for snacking. The favorites in her list contain carrots, ginger, parsley, kale, and apples. She remembers to add the left over pulp in the muffins. She feels that it is a very good way to consumer fruits and vegetables especially because she's not a fan of the green leafy ones. “Fresh juice helps to meet the daily recommendations of fruits and vegetables," says Barr, MPH, RD, LDN, who works at Wilmington's Center for Community Health at Christiana Care Health System.

“Juice should not be considered the sole source of fruits and vegetables," cautions Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, CSSD, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesman and founder of Eating Free, a weight management program. Try to include two whole fruits and three to four vegetables in your diet every day. Choose a variety of colors - different colors have different vitamins and minerals.

Juicing can remove the pulp from the fruit, which contains a lot of fiber. Further, making a juice in a machine removes most of the minerals and vitamins from the whole fruits and vegetables as the nutrient rich skin is not used. You can add the left-over pulp into the juice or save it in another recipe. Barr uses the pulp from spinach, kale, flaxseed, celery and pears while making broth for cooking soup, rice and pasta. This helps to fortify the meals further. Some of the juicers further break down the fruit by grinding the core, rind, and seeds.

According to Villacorta, a juicer is not needed to make a juice. A blender is all that is needed for most of the fruits and vegetables to keep the fiber. 

Just like any other food, you need to be careful because the calories add up quickly. A medium sized fruit contains about 60 calories. A cup of vegetables adds up to 25 calories, while three cups of leafy green vegetables has 25 calories. Four ounces of fruit juice provides 60 calories and a typical juice is usually 12 to 16 ounces. It generally takes up to four fruits to make juice and the calories will add up quickly. If it is an all fruit juice, calories are the real concern, says Villacorta. You can make a more balanced juice by mixing in Almond milk, greek yogurt, flaxseed, or peanut butter.

There are few basic safety guidelines for making juices:

  • Wash your hands before touching fruits and vegetables
  • Wash the fruits thoroughly
  • Clean the blender using hot, soapy water and dry it completely before putting it away. This will prevent bacterial growth.
  • If the juicer is cleaned in dishwasher, use the sanitize cycle
  • Do not keep the juice for more than a week. Try to drink the juice on the same day. 

Juices are supposed to have a number of health benefits. Some say that juicing can reduce the risk of cancer and boost the immune system. Although plant-based products are known to reduce the risk of heart diseases and cancer, no specific studies has been done linking the intake of juices and these diseases. There are some studies which have looked into the intake of juice and the functioning of immune system. Any changes in the working of the immune system would have been probably due to the vegetables and fruits rather than the juice, says Barr.

It is said that juicing helps to absorb the nutrients better than eating the whole fruits and gives the digestive system rest from digesting the fiber. Villacorta doesn't agree because he thinks the nutrients might not have the same potential after it has been processed by juicing. Although fiber can sometimes block the absorption of nutrients, many people do not get the recommended quantity of fiber in their diet. It is also better to discuss with the doctor before you begin to juice to avoid any potential interactions with medications. “For example, taking large amounts of food containing vitamin K like kale and spinach may affect the functioning of anti-clotting medications," says Barr.

Many consider juicing an essential part of a weight loss programs. A full-juice diet may not provide the recommended dose of fiber to make you feel full. Dieting with just juice risks the loss of muscle mass. Many studies have shown that adding proteins is essential to preserve muscle mass during weight loss. “Extreme diet including just juicing slows down the metabolism and when the person gets back to the normal routine, they are prone to building fat cells," says Villacorta. According to him, there are no studies that support the view that having juice helps to cleanse the system.