Juicing: Is it Healthy?
Since juice pasteurisation was developed in the early 1900s and fruit juice became readily available, juicing has been a topic of interest among the health conscious. Juicing (the extraction of liquid from fruit and vegetables by hand or machine) reappears every few years, bringing controversy with it. Many fad diets include a juicing component, often as an introduction to the diet. Others advocate juicing for improved health or to treat medical conditions.
Benefits of Juicing
One of the most popular claims in support of juicing is the various health benefits that can come from it. It’s very common to hear juicing supporters discuss the improved condition of their hair and skin, more regular sleeping patterns, rapid weight loss and increased mental clarity. While some people doubt the benefits of juicing, a study published in the Nutrition Journal in 2010 by Shenoy et al, found that consuming just eight ounces of vegetable juice each day not only brought a person’s vegetable intake closer to the daily requirements (the participants’ average daily vegetable consumption increased from 2.6 to 4.3 servings), but also reduced blood pressure.
In addition, the study by Shenoy et al found that drinking vegetable juice was a more convenient, cost effective, and portable way for individuals to meet their daily serving of vegetables. Given that many people living in Western societies such as the UK, USA and Australia are not meeting their daily requirements of either vegetables or nutrients, the convenient nature of vegetable juices allows those who dislike vegetables the opportunity to meet their daily requirements.
The Downside of Juicing
While juicing can offer a number of benefits, there are downsides to regularly drinking juice. Store bought commercial juice contains preservatives and added sugar to keep it ‘fresh’ and the alternative – making freshly squeezed juice at home – can be expensive. Making juice at home is considerably healthier than most store bought alternatives but it requires a juicer (which compresses the fruit or vegetable to extract the liquid) and needs a large of volume of fresh fruit or vegetables to make a comparatively small quantity of juice (for example it takes 2-3 oranges to make around half a glass of juice).
Another downside to juicing is the removal of fibre from the fruit or vegetable and the refinement of the natural sugars within the food. Fibre helps to slow the release of sugar into the blood and the removal of fibre by the juicing process increases the rate of sugar absorption. It is the high, easily absorbed sugar content of juices that lead some to say they are unhealthy, but it depends largely on what type of juice you are drinking. Many freshly squeezed fruit juices contain high amounts of sugar resulting in a spike in blood glucose levels. On the other hand, freshly squeezed vegetable juices tend to be low in sugar and high in nutrients, making them a healthier choice.
Juicing for Weight Loss
Juicing is commonly recommended as a method of weight loss. While the claim that drinking juice results in weight loss can be true, it is also misleading. Following a juicing detox regime for a short period of time will likely result in weight loss due to the reduction in calories. Any time an individual significantly reduces their calorie intake, weight loss will occur but this is often in the form of water weight and muscle loss rather than fat loss. Additionally, maintaining a juicing diet (as the sole means of calories and nutrients) is very difficult.
While initial weight loss from juicing can occur, it is not an ideal weight loss method as it is not sustainable. That said, juicing can be used to kick-start a weight loss program. Following a juicing program for the first few days of a new eating plan allows your body to adjust to a new style of eating. The nutrients absorbed from juicing also help curb physical cravings of changing your diet, making it easier to deal with the psychological cravings as well.
Juicing for Cleansing and Detox
One of the most common reasons for juicing is cleansing and detox. It follows the principle that the body is full of toxins that need removal. While it is true that the body absorbs toxins every day, both internally and externally, the body removes them each day via the liver, kidneys and digestive system.
Juicing does however give the body a break from the chemically processed foods that are often eaten regularly. This ‘break’ allows the body to reset itself and the influx of nutrients from juicing assists the body to heal itself internally. This can be very beneficial and can restore energy levels while reducing headaches and digestive issues.
Like many health alternatives, juicing has both supporters and objectors. It’s true that juicing is not the miracle cure many advocates suggest it is but it does provide a number of benefits. Fresh juice (especially those containing vegetable juice) provides additional nutrients, particularly important for individuals who don’t like eating vegetables.
Fruit juices – particularly commercial ones – are very high in sugar, and the removal of fibre impacts on the sugar absorption in the body. Vegetable juices, however, contain very little sugar but are high in nutrients. This is beneficial to the body and helps to restore energy levels, aid digestion and assist the liver with cleansing.
While juicing is not an ideal method of weight loss and is not necessary for detoxing, regularly consuming fresh vegetable juice can improve the condition of the body, assist in kick-starting a weight loss program and increase an individual’s vegetable intake. When consumed correctly, regular juicing can be considered healthy and beneficial, especially for those individuals who are nutrient deficient.