Juicing: How Healthy Is It?
What to know before adding fresh juice to your diet.
As with any food, it’s important to consider calories and sugar content.
A medium piece of fruit has about 60 calories. A cup of vegetables has about 25 calories, and 3 cups of leafy greens have about 25 calories. Each 60-calorie serving of fruit equals about 4 ounces of juice. A typical juice is usually 12 to 16 ounces.
Those calories add up.
"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.
To make a juice more balanced with protein, some good sources are almond milk, Greek yogurt, flaxseed, or peanut butter.
Food Safety and Juicing
When juicing, follow these food safety guidelines:
- Wash your hands before touching the fruits and vegetables.
- Thoroughly clean the produce.
- Use hot, soapy water if you have to hand wash the juicer or blender. Let all parts completely dry before putting away, to prevent bacterial growth.
- Use your dishwasher's sanitize cycle if the juicer is dishwasher safe.
- Don’t keep juice longer than a week. It’s best to drink it the same day, since the juice isn’t pasteurized.
Juicing Health Claims
There are many health claims about juicing on the Internet. For instance, juicing fans say that juicing can reduce your risk of cancer and boost your immune system.
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 immune system, but any immune system benefits probably come from eating fruits and vegetables, whether it's in juice or not, Barr says.
Fans of juicing also say that juicing is better than eating whole fruits and vegetables because the body can absorb the nutrients better and it gives the digestive system a rest from working on fiber.
But "the nutrients might not have the same potential because you’ve processed them," Villacorta says. "There’s nothing like eating the whole fruit or vegetable."
It's true that too much fiber can sometimes block the absorption of nutrients. But most people don't even get the recommended amount of fiber per day, Villacorta says.
It’s important to speak with your health-care provider before integrating juicing into your diet to avoid any potential food and drug interactions.
For instance, large amounts of foods high in vitamin K, such as kale and spinach, may change how an anti- blood clotting medication works, Barr says.
Juicing for Weight Loss and Cleansing
Juicing as an extreme weight loss measure is a fad diet. You can't stick to it for long -- and you shouldn't.
On a juice-only diet, you may not get enough fiber to make you full. And it's so limited that you may rebel.
“If you’re doing a juicing diet, you’ll be so tempted to eat something like a cake or donut because you’ve restricted yourself,” Barr says.
You may also not get enough protein. If you are trying to lose weight by only juicing, then you are putting yourself at risk to lose muscle mass. Research shows that adding protein is essential to preserve muscle mass during weight loss.
By the end of any extreme diet, your metabolism may have temporarily slowed down. Once you start eating a more normal diet, you’ll be prone to building fat cells, Villacorta says.
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.