The Skinny On Juicing

Juicing has become so popular that many people have the misconception that juicing is actually healthier than eating whole fruit. You may have read or heard things like “juice cleanse,” “detox,” or that juicing is a good way to lose weight. But is that really true?

Juicing is a term that refers to combining fruits and/or vegetables in a juicer or juicing machine. This essentially breaks down whole fruit into a liquid form literally stripping it of all its fiber, and you end up drinking just sugar. In other words, juice is a higher sugar, lower nutrient version of the fruit. Do you know why juicing is so delicious? Because it’s all sugar! I’ve heard people say that juicing is healthy because you are able to eat more fruit than you would normally be able to eat in a single sitting. Maybe so, but the truth is, fruit is carbohydrate, and all carbohydrates break down to sugar in our bodies. When teaching patients about balanced eating, we usually recommend having a protein and a healthy fat along with a carbohydrate. In practice, I would not recommend that anyone eat 2 bananas or 3 apples or 4 oranges in one sitting.  2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults consume one and a half to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables daily.  What about juicing vegetables?  Vegetables are slightly different since they are not as high in carbohydrates as fruit.  The downside is that juicing removes the fiber you would normally get eating whole vegetables.

Juicing is not appropriate for everyone. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may need to limit, or avoid nutrients such as carbohydrates, potassium or phosphorus, and adding certain fruits or vegetables may not be recommended. For example, fruits such as melon, banana and avocado are high in potassium, and someone with CKD may be instructed by their doctor or dietitian to avoid these foods. Also, a juice made of mostly fruits is mostly carbohydrates, and can cause a steep rise in blood sugar, which could be problematic in diabetics.  There is also no evidence proving the benefits of a juicing detox, juice cleanse or juice fast, which is when one drinks only juice and does not eat any solid foods for a set period of time. Doing this doesn’t detoxify your body. Your body naturally filters and removes most toxins.

Instead of juicing, a better option would be to make a smoothie in a blender. By blending up fruit and vegetables you are not destroying the fiber, and with the right ingredients you are also able to make it into a balanced meal or snack. Whatever you blend ends up in your body as opposed to being removed by a juicer. To make a balanced smoothie, you need a protein (such as whey protein powder or soy protein powder, yogurt, tofu or lowfat or soy milk), a portion of healthy fat (half an avocado or 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter) and blend it with fruit. You can also add chia seeds, flax or berries for additional antioxidants.  By blending vs. juicing, you get the same nutrients that are in juice, but keep the added fiber as well as any added nutrients you use, such as milk, yogurt, and nut butters.

My suggestion is to opt to blend fruits and vegetables rather than juice them. Smoothies are a great way to increase your daily fruit and vegetable consumption, all while increasing your fiber intake. As long as you are being mindful of the extra ingredients you add to your smoothies, you can end up with some delicious, healthy meals that can keep you full throughout the day.

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