Proponents of “juicing” claim that it can alleviate skin diseases, immune disorders, obesity, cancer and everything in between. Not to mention increasing energy levels and detoxifying. In short, by simply buying a blender – or a very expensive different type of blender just for juices – you can fix everything that is wrong with your diet and health!
Depending on the source there are a variety of reasons for taking the time (and expense) to blend and drink your vegetables rather than eat a salad. Is juicing the key to health and longevity or is it just a vicious rumour?
1. Increased Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
One of the most commonly mentioned reasons for juicing is to meet the recommendations for fruits and veggies. It’s true that most people don’t get enough veggies and fruit; however, is gulping down juices or smoothies really the way to do it? While juicing may be a way to boost antioxidant intake, you’re missing out on OTHER important nutrients that produce derives its benefits from (more on that later). Moreover, the quantity of antioxidants in some juices may be less than in the whole food and all juices are not created equal (1).
If you are trying to supplement an “unhealthy” diet with juices, last we checked drinking high-calorie and low-fibre beverages was not the solution. Consuming the 300 Calories in a juice or smoothie (Jugo Juice Mighty Kale Veggie Smoothie), in addition to your regular diet, sounds like a recipe for weight gain, not health.
Are fruits and vegetables so horrible they have to be “hidden” in order to get people to eat them? We’ve tried kale juice, and actual kale goes down a lot smoother taste-wise! We suggest replacing some of the unhealthy choices in your diet with fresh veggies and fruits rather than juice. If you already have a healthy diet, you don’t need to drink a smoothie containing 10 servings of fruits and vegetables.
2. Weight Loss
This one has us mystified. As popularized by Reboot with Joe – Juicing for Weight Loss, you “reboot” your system by consuming only fruit and vegetable juices. For how long? The website mentions anywhere from 3 days to (gulp) 30 days. Apparently, this will help you break all of your bad habits. Unless a juice fast will somehow change everything about your lifestyle, environment and current society that made those unhealthy lifestyle choices so easy to make in the first place… how could any of this have long-term benefits?
What if you drank the kale smoothie mentioned above instead of eating a meal? Well, you would probably lose weight. Wonderful, obesity epidemic solved! Except that we guarantee you will be hungry later on. Many juice cleanses are missing something valuable that is linked to sustainable, long-term weight loss – PROTEIN.
Liquid foods digest more quickly and have a lower satiety value, which may actually lead to increased food intake AND calories later on. A study in 52 adults found liquid foods resulted in increased hunger, lower feelings of fullness and quicker digestion than solid foods, causing the researchers to conclude that liquid foods put people at risk of increased caloric intake (2). You might be able to ignore those hunger pangs for awhile, but what about after day 3?
3. Easing Digestion
Digesting solid foods is not a problem for healthy adults. Your gastrointestinal tract has your back on this one! Stomach acid, bile, hundreds of digestive enzymes and the bacteria living in your gut make sure that you are able to effectively digest (nearly) everything you eat. You may have also noted that food already goes into the stomach in small mashed up pieces – thanks teeth! So, unless you are wolfing down meals whole, in which case you should S-L-O-W down and practice mindful eating, juices won’t help much. No need for the blender; you will digest everything just fine.
Could juicing be detrimental for digestion? We think so – most juice (even with pulp) contains negligible fibre. Consider the orange: one orange contains 62 Calories and 2.3 g of fibre, while 1/2 cup of juice gives your roughly the same calories BUT 0.4 g of fibre. Given that inadequate fibre is linked to an increased risk of nearly every digestive disorder (see our Make Fibre Your Friend) and even a month-long gluten-free diet reduces beneficial gut bacteria (3), we’d say short term juice cleanses are not the ticket to better digestion, likely just the opposite. That’s why some juice diets suggest taking a laxative concurrently… no, thank you.
4. Eliminating Toxins
Sigh… those toxins again! Your body has built-in mechanisms to clear toxins. It dedicates one of the largest organs to of the body to that cause. What would your liver do otherwise? Sorry, but juicing is not going to clear toxins from your body – whatever those vague toxins may be.
We have yet to see any scientific proof that blending your vegetables in any way increases toxin clearance. As for the laxatives and diuretics sometimes recommended, they are not going to be effective at reducing toxins either. Any toxins in your gastrointestinal tract will likely be absorbed and stored in your fat cells. Diuretics won’t help. If you really want to minimize toxins consider your food choices and eat low mercury fish, avoid BPA and choose pesticide-free produce.
No Baloney’s advice? A smoothie once in a while can be a healthy choice. They can provide great recovery nutrition for athletes (check out some of Kristin’s recovery smoothie recipes) and quick and nutritious options if you are on the run. Moderation is key though.
A diet based purely on juice is not going to be healthy no matter how much kale you add! Juice cleanses resulting in excessive intakes could be down right dangerous – as seen in this case study where they caused kidney failure (4). Not to mention they are expensive. They may also promote an unhealthy attitude towards whole foods and disordered eating as one reporter suggests.