How Healthy Is Juicing, Really?
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Juice has come a long way since the days of sipping sugary juice boxes as a kid or having a glass of OJ with breakfast. Now “juicing” has evolved into its own industry, with juice bars and bottled beverage companies selling green juice blends like kale-apple-celery or carrot-orange-lemon.
You can also try juicing at home — though some high-end juicers may set you back hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. And the juicing trend has inspired juice cleanses that claim to promote weight loss — like the questionable “cleanse” of sipping nothing but lemon juice mixed with maple syrup and cayenne pepper).
So what’s the truth about juicing? Is juicing a healthy way to lose weight, or can it be harmful to your body? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Juicing?
“Juicing is simply extracting the juice from fruits and vegetables,” says registered dietitian Bonnie Roney, RD, LD.
This can be done manually with some fruits and vegetables, like oranges and lemons. But if you’re trying to get juice from not-so-squeezable produce like beetroot, carrots, or kale, you’ll probably need a motorized machine called a juicer.
Juicers typically work in one of two ways:
- Centrifugal juicers use high-speed cutting blades to grind fruits and veggies to a pulp before squeezing out the juice.
- Cold-press machines repeatedly crush the foods to get the juice.
Some believe cold-pressed juices are healthier than those extracted by a centrifugal machine, but at least one study suggests there’s no significant difference in nutritional value between cold-pressed and centrifugal juice.
Is Juicing Good For Weight Loss?
No, juicing isn’t the secret to long-term weight loss.
In the short term, you may drop a few pounds on a juice cleanse, because juice cleanses typically require you to severely restrict calories. But any weight loss you see will likely be temporary. “The majority do not keep it off,” Roney says.
That’s because following a juice cleanse isn’t sustainable. Drinking juice — and only juice — for days can make you miserable. “From what I’ve witnessed, juice cleanses cause the consumer to become irritable, often underfed, and more likely to overeat when finished with the cleanse,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN.
In short, you’ll likely regain the weight when you go back to eating a regular diet.
Is Juicing Better Than Eating Whole Fruits and Veggies?
No. Whole fruits and veggies have more nutrients than their juiced counterparts. “When you juice a fresh fruit or vegetable, you are throwing out all of the good fiber, pulp, and skin,” Kostro Miller says. “The fiber in fruits helps keep you regular and keep you full.”
Most of us only get about 16 grams of fiber a day, we should try to get 25 grams (if you’re a woman under 50) and 38 grams if you’re a guy under 50. Men and women over 50 years old should eat 30 and 21 grams a day, respectively.
But juicing does have one advantage: it’s enjoyable. If you wouldn’t dream of snacking on kale, but you’ll happily sip some strawberry-kale juice, then you may squeeze more nutrients from fruits and veggies into your daily diet than you would otherwise — even if they’re not in their optimal, whole form.
Is Juicing Harmful to Your Body?
Juicing can be a great way to get more fruits and veggies into your diet, but there are a few potential issues you should keep in mind.
1. Extra calories
Juicing can add more calories than you might expect, depending on the ingredients in the juice. For example, an 8-ounce serving of Suja Uber Greens contains 35 calories, while Suja’s Sweet Beets variety contains 110 calories per serving.
2. Less fiber
A lot of the fiber from fruit is found in the skin and pulp, which means juicing is likely to be less filling that eating whole fruits and veggies. “Drinking our calories is not as satisfying as eating real foods,” says Kostro Miller. “Without the fiber, pulp, and skin of your fruits and veggies, you are missing out on nutrients and may feel hungry soon after, making you reach for a snack.”
3. Fewer antioxidants
Another reason to reach for whole fruits and vegetables instead: Research suggests juicing may reduce the amount of antioxidants by as much as 54 percent.
4. Sugar content
Keep in mind many green juice recipes call for natural sweeteners like honey or agave nectar, which can quickly bump up the sugar content. If you’re using a juicer at home, avoid adding extra sweeteners.
Is Juicing Healthy?
Bottom line? A “juice cleanse” definitely isn’t a replacement for a balanced diet — if you’re not consuming anything but juice, you won’t be getting the protein and healthy fats your body needs. However, if juicing helps you ramp up your fruit and veggie intake, that’s great. Just keep an eye on sugar and calories, and don’t expect juicing to be the golden ticket to long-term weight loss.
“Moderation is key with everything,” says Roney. “Our bodies are complex and require nutrients from a variety of food sources beyond fruits and vegetables. Adding juice into one’s diet can be healthy, but I don’t recommend anything in excess — including juicing.”