By Monica Purmalek
Vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet. Since 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables are recommended per day, you may be looking for new ways to add vegetables to your diet.1 There is no question that eating your vegetables is good for your health, but what about drinking them? Juicing vegetables is one of the latest health trends, so here’s what you need to know about adding fresh juices to your diet.
1. Juicing is not better than eating whole fruits and veggies.
Vegetables are good for your body. That’s a fact—some of them even help fight cancer. But juicing advocates often claim that drinking juice is better for you than consuming whole fruits and vegetables, because removing the fiber makes nutrients easier to absorb. There isn’t any scientific research to support this. Your digestive system is designed to handle fiber and effectively extract nutrients from a variety of foods, including whole fruits and vegetables.2 While juicing is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, eating them whole and raw is just as good for you, if not better. However, if you have difficulty including the recommended number of servings of vegetables into your diet each day, try juicing them.
2. Do not use juices as a meal-replacement or for weight loss.
Using juices to lose weight is merely a fad diet and it can be harmful to your body. Juice cleanses that are marketed to “detoxify” your body and help you lose weight can slow down your metabolism because they have no protein or fat. A lower metabolism can actually cause you to gain weight once you resume a normal diet. In addition, there is no evidence that your body needs to be detoxified by depriving yourself of certain foods; your body is designed to remove toxins on its own using organs like the liver, kidneys, and colon.
Any weight you lose on a juice diet would be the result of fewer calories, but meanwhile, your body may not get enough protein from a juice diet. Lack of enough protein can cause you to lose muscle mass. Juice cleanses can also lead to blood-sugar problems, severe diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue, so they are not recommended by physicians and nutritionists.3 Enjoy juices as part of a well-balanced diet. Try drinking them with meals or as a snack, NOT as a meal replacement.
3. Juicing eliminates the healthy fiber naturally found in veggies.
Juices are not a perfect replacement for vegetables. When you drink your veggies, you may miss out on the fiber that helps keep you feeling full, reduces your risk of heart disease, and lowers your cholesterol.4 Choose a juicer that preserves the fiber (not an extractor) or add the pulp that is leftover in your juicer to muffins, soups, or sauces so you don’t skip out on the benefits of fiber.
4. Not all juices are created equally.
What you put in your juice can make a big difference. Fruits are higher in sugar and calories than vegetables. Drinking pure fruit juice can lead to a spike in blood sugar, especially true in the case of juice diets, and may raise your risk for diabetes.5 To keep the sugar content low, juice vegetables and then add a small piece of fruit, like an apple or kiwi, if you want a little more sweetness.
5. Juice safely.
If you are making your own juice, try to make it fresh each time and drink it right after you make it. Because homemade juices are not pasteurized, bacteria can grow in them which can cause food poisoning. Juice is not something you should make ahead of time. If you want a juice with breakfast, give yourself some extra time in the morning to use your juicer. Also, remember to thoroughly wash your fruits and veggies before juicing to get rid of any bacteria or chemicals that may be on the skin. It’s important to keep in mind that some fruits and veggies contain high amounts of pesticide residue than others, and that not everything can be washed off. If juicing vegetables or fruits from the Dirty Dozen, try to buy organic. If you’re juicing vegetables or fruits from the Clean 15, which have little or no pesticide residue, you can save money buying conventional.
It’s also important to understand that juicing requires a large volume of vegetables and can provide more vitamins than eating a green salad. While a higher vitamin content may seem like a benefit, too much of some vitamins can have serious negative consequences. For example, green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are high in vitamin K. Large amounts of vitamin K are known to interfere with anti-blood clotting medication.6 If you have any health condition or are on medication, you may want to check with your doctor before making juices a regular part of your diet to learn about other possible food and drug interactions.
6. Juicing may have long-term benefits.
Juicing is a fun way to add more veggies to your diet, but that’s not the only benefit. A study at Vanderbilt University in 2006 showed that those who drank 3 or more servings of fruit and vegetable juice each week were significantly less likely to develop signs of Alzheimer’s over 10 years than those who drank less than 1 serving per week. Juice’s benefits were seen regardless of a person’s educational level or how much fat was in their diet. Interestingly, those who exercised less and smoked seemed to benefit the most.7 The reduction in Alzheimer’s risk may be due to high levels of polyphenols in fruit and vegetable juice, a type of antioxidant that is believed to protect the brain’s neurons and keep them from deteriorating.
A 20-year animal study at the University of Chicago found that celery juice may lower blood pressure. A chemical in celery is shown to relax the muscles that line blood vessels. The study concluded that you should consume about 4 stalks of celery per day to gain this benefit, so you might want to try getting it through juice.8
Juicing is an easy way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet or to add new veggies to your diet. If you want to try juicing, doing it at home will save you money—store bought juices can be very pricey. It’s important to remember that juicing requires large quantities of vegetables (it takes 6 to 8 large carrots to make 1 glass of juice) so the costs can add up even for homemade juices. To make juicing as healthy as possible, be sure to keep your calories, sugar, and fiber content in mind while exploring which veggie combinations you like best!
- How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily or Weekly? ChooseMyPlate.gov. USDA, n.d. Web. 18 July 2013. <http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-amount.html>. ▲
- “Your Digestive System and How It Works”. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/yrdd/>. ▲
- Huskisson, E., S. Maggini, and M. Ruf. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Energy Metabolism and Well-Being. The Journal of International Medical Research 35 (2007): 277-89. ▲
- Health benefits of dietary fiber. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. ▲
- Gray, Katti. ”High-glycemic” Foods Tied to Diabetes Risk. Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/14/us-foods-diabetes-idUSBRE91D17920130214>. ▲
- O’Reilly, R. A. Vitamin K and the Oral Anticoagulant Drugs. Annual Review of Medicine 27.1 (1976): 245-61. ▲
- Dai, Q., A. Borenstein, Y. Wu, J. Jackson, and E. Larson. Fruit and Vegetable Juices and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Kame Project. The American Journal of Medicine 119.9 (2006): 751-59. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266591/pdf/nihms37963.pdf> ▲
- Brody, Jane E. A New Look at an Ancient Remedy: Celery. The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 June 1992. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/09/health/a-new-look-at-an-ancient-remedy-celery.html>. ▲