January 28, 2015

To juice or not to juice? Pros and Cons

A question I get asked over and over again is about juicing; it is such a hot topic right now. Juicing continues trending strong in 2015 - another article about it just came out today in the LA Times, actually. Juicing is especially popular in the detox and weight loss circuits and, of course, with my patients going through a cancer diagnosis. Somehow, many people now believe that you have to juice to be healthy and then experience juicing-guilt if they aren't utilizing this practice as much as they have heard they should. So where did the juicing phenomenon come from and should you be participating?  *For the purpose of this article, I’m going to refer to juicing and blending interchangeably, naming them both  “juicing” though there are certainly differences. The reason for this is the questions I get are about both topics and the inquiries are covering similar topics: a concentrated form of veggies or fruit in liquid form. 

History of juicing: There is evidence of juicing fruits and veggies from ancient times. In modern day, a famous scientist from the 1920's, Max Gerson, popularized the practice as a cancer cure. I have many patients who come to me still on this Gerson diet. In the 1930's, Doctor Norman Walker wrote a book and practiced juicing as a form of consuming a living diet - you can still buy Norwalk juicers. The Champion juicer was invented in the 1950's, after which followed a plethora of juicers, becoming very popular in the 1990's with celebrities and health promoting figures. In 2010, the Fat Sick and Nearly Dead documentary came out where Australian Joe Cross teaches unhealthy Americans the benefits of juicing and sees vast improvements in his own health. I'm not affiliated with any of these people, but I do like the work Joe does and believe he and his dietitian Kristen DeAngelis (a good friend of mine) are great resources for more information on healthy juicing.   

Pros of juicing:
  • It is hydrating
  • It is a concentrated form of nutrients: there are antioxidants in the juice
  • Juicing can be really healthful and a way to hugely increase dietary plant-intake
  • You might juice produce that you otherwise don’t eat much of (beets, cilantro, lemon)
  • It’s a great on-the-go health food
  • It can taste great
  • Juice is easy to digest; without the fiber in a whole plant, you can take in a larger volume
  • People say it makes them feel good. 

Cons of juicing:
  • Juicing too much fruit can be too many calories or sugar for some people
  • Heat from the blender/juicer and time if you don’t drink it right away can destroy some nutrients
  • Juicing gets expensive (you have to buy a lot of produce)
  • It can be time consuming (preparation of veggies and cleaning equipment)
  • A lot of folks don’t want to juice during cold months
  • If you’re juicing (vs. blending), you remove the fiber from your produce
  • There is a risk of food borne illness
  • Drinking juice only (a cleanse) doesn’t give your liver all of the nutrients it actually needs to detox
  • Juice can be unbalanced: I like each meal and snack to contain a source of protein, fat and carbohydrate; juice is mainly carbohydrate. 
  • It can taste gross. 

Do I juice?  Not often; I don’t really care for it. I love eating veggies of all kinds and that’s how I get my nutrients.  If you like juicing or making smoothies, go for it! But don't have juice-guilt if you miss a day. Just be sure that you are also eating a variety of vegetables, both raw and cooked, and that you aren’t juicing too much fruit. Some people come to me with a prescription they’ve heard: “you must juice 16 ounces three times per day”….I tell people that juicing 8-12 ounces once per day should be adequate, depending on their goals, if they want to add juicing to an already healthy diet.  Feel free to leave me a comment if you agree, disagree or have more questions!

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