Juicing for Health and Weight Loss

What to know before adding fresh juice to your diet.

From the WebMD Archives

Ready to give juicing a whirl? It's an easy way to get more fruits and veggies into your diet.

Before you get started, you should know a few things about what you can expect juicing to do for you, and what's just hype.

The Biggest Advantage

“If you’re not big into fruits and vegetables, it’s a good way to get them in," says nutritionist Jennifer Barr, RD, of Wilmington, DE. You should still eat fruits and vegetables, too, says Manuel Villacorta, RD, founder of Eating Free, a weight management program.

Aim to eat two whole fruits and three to four vegetables a day. Choose them in different colors, so you get a good mix of vitamins and minerals, Barr says.

Fiber Factor

When you juice, you don't get the fiber that's in whole fruits and vegetables. Juicing machines extract the juice and leave behind the pulp, which has fiber.

So you don't miss out on the fiber, you can add some of the pulp back into the juice or use it in cooking.

Barr adds it to muffin batter, or to make broth for cooking soup, rice, and pasta. That's "going the extra step to fortify your meals," she says.

Do You Need a Juicing Machine?

Juicers can be expensive, ranging from $50 to $400. Some more expensive juicers will break down a lot of the fruit by grinding the core, rind, and seeds, Barr says.

You may not need a juicing machine to make juice. You can use a blender for most whole fruits or vegetables to keep the fiber. Add water if it becomes too thick, Villacorta says. You’ll want to remove seeds and rinds, and some skins.

Once your juice is ready, it's best to drink it the same day you make it, for food safety. Wash your blender or juice machine thoroughly, so it's ready for your next batch.

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Watch the Calories

How many calories are in your juice? That depends on what's in it.

"You could be taking up to four fruits, and now the calories start adding up. If you use vegetables to juice, the calories are a lot less. If they use mainly vegetables, add an apple or kiwi for flavor. Calories are a concern if it’s pure fruit juice," Villacorta says.

You can make your juice more balanced by adding protein. Some good sources are almond milk, Greek yogurt, flaxseed, and peanut butter.

Juicing for Weight Loss and Cleansing

Juicing might seem like a simple way to lose weight, but it can backfire.

On a juice-only diet, you may not get enough fiber or protein to make you full. You might rebel.

“If you’re doing a juicing diet, you’ll be so tempted to eat something like a cake or doughnut because you’ve restricted yourself,” Barr says.

Not getting enough protein could also mean you lose muscle mass.

The bottom line: It's too extreme, and the results aren't likely to last.

What about juicing as a way to detox or cleanse your body? “I haven’t seen any research or science paper to support that cleansing is happening from juicing,” Villacorta says.

Your liver and kidneys take care of that -- whether you're juicing or not.

Other Health Claims

As for other health claims, it's true that eating a plant-based diet is linked to lower risk of heart disease or cancer. But there hasn't been a lot of research done that's specific to juicing.

There is some research on juicing and the immune system. But any immune system benefits probably come from eating fruits and vegetables, whether it's in juice or not, Barr says.

If You're Taking Prescription Drugs

Check with your doctor before doing a lot of juicing, so you can avoid any potential problems.

For instance, large amounts of foods high in vitamin K, such as kale and spinach, may change how the blood thinner warfarin works.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on February 25, 2014

Sources

SOURCES:

Jennifer Barr, MPH, RD, LDN, owner, Downingtown Nutrition & Weight Management Center; adjunct instructor, West Chester University, West Chester, PA.

Institute of Medicine. "Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids," The National Academies Press, 2005.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Phytonutrient FAQs.”

Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, founder, Eating Free; owner, MV Nutrition, San Francisco.

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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