Everyday it seems as though a new juice company is opening up shop. To be honest, I don't blame them – it seems like a good gig. Everywhere I look, someone somewhere is sipping on some sort of juice. A fad that started a good 15 years ago has taken root and become a mainstay of diets worldwide. They’re even juicing in Paris – and when something manages to infiltrate the wine, baguette, and cheese diet of Parisians, you know something’s up.
But is juicing all it’s cracked up to be?
Proponents of juice believe that juice is a convenient and fast vehicle for getting in adequate servings of fruits and vegetables. In some respects, they’re right – juice is convenient and fast. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option.
For starters, juice gets rid of all the fiber that whole fruits and vegetables have. Fiber not only helps to prevent certain cancers and reduces cholesterol, but it also keeps our blood sugar stable and helps us feel fuller for longer by slowing digestion. Without that fiber, the transit time of the juice in our intestines is so short, there isn’t necessarily enough time for our bodies to absorb all the vitamins and minerals that those fruits and vegetables have to offer.
Not only that, but some of those vitamins are what we call “fat-soluble” (i.e. vitamins A, D, E, and K). These vitamins actually are absorbed best when combined with fat. But, fat is something that most juices lack since they’re mostly just composed of fruits and vegetables. So, while your dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are loaded with vitamin K, and while your carrot is packed with vitamin A, you may not actually be getting all of those benefits when you drink their juices.
So then what’s left in juice if there is no fiber and we can’t efficiently absorb the vitamins and minerals?
Sugar. Naturally occurring sugar, yes. But sugar nonetheless. Once we drink that juice, it enters our bodies and we experience a surge in blood sugar, which is something we generally try to avoid. Why? Because when our blood sugar spikes, insulin quickly comes out to tell our bodies to use that sugar for energy or to store it as fat. Once the sugar is gone from the blood, we crash and are left craving more food.
Don’t get me wrong...
I’m well aware that some juices are composed of 100% green vegetables and are so low in calories and sugar that to discourage people from drinking them would make me sounds insane. Don’t worry, I’m not. By all means, go ahead. Aside from the fact that these juices likely won’t cause that unwanted hike in blood sugar, I’m also all about the power of the mind – if drinking that green juice puts you in a healthy mindset and keeps you eating and living healthfully, I’m totally on board.
But the majority of juices out there are actually full of hidden calories and sugar from the sweeter culprits like your beets, apples, pineapple, etc – even the juices that still look green. And a lot of people out there are drinking them trying to achieve certain nutrition goals they set out for themselves. What I’m most concerned about are those people sipping mindlessly and expecting to see results and achieve those goals simply because the color of their drink is green. Little do they know, those hidden calories and sugar can add up and make a difference, especially if that juice isn’t staving off hunger, which it likely is not.
All things considered, juicing isn’t the most ideal way for us to get our fruit and vegetable fix.
So what’s the alternative? Getting the fiber by eating the actual fruit and vegetable, achieving optimal absorption of vitamins and minerals by incorporating some healthy fat, and maybe even adding in some protein or whole grains to help keep our blood sugar stable and our hunger satiated.
You might be thinking: this sounds a lot like a healthy salad to me. Or, if you’re someone who likes to drink your meals, a healthy smoothie. And you’re right it does! Both are great options.
The caveat: if you are someone who is following a strict raw diet, getting some of your calories from juice may be the only way to ensure that you get enough calories in throughout the day. But the majority of us are not on a raw diet and don’t have a problem getting in enough calories. (Though I’m sure we wish that were the case!) So for the rest of us, the next time you feel like reaching for your juicer, get out your blender or salad spinner instead. You might thank me in the end!
One last note:
Now let’s put things into perspective – your juice is definitely not going to compare to the piece of cake you could have gotten. But at least you know you’re treating yourself to that piece of cake and are therefore less likely to make a daily habit of it. On the other hand, how many people are on their way to work, or on their way home from the gym, drinking their daily juice, which is void of fiber and likely full of sugar – all without a moment’s hesitation? Now there’s the rub.