Food Court: Juicing Your Fruit, Healthy or Skip?

kim tierney Blog

On Trial: Juicing 

Sounds like a superior and tasty way to inundate our bodies with a ton of vitamins and nutrients, in a glass. There are all sorts of health claims out there on the juicing craze - alkalizes, detoxes, fights disease, etc. But before you go and spend your entire paycheck on a juicer, you might want to re evaluate.

The biggest issue: While fruit juice contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants our bodies need, it lacks the fiber that whole fruits provide, resulting in nearly all of the juice's calories coming from sugar. It takes several fruits to make just one glass of juice - for example, about 3 to 4 oranges to make an 8oz glass of fresh juice, which adds up to about 40 grams of sugar! would you ever eat that many oranges in a sitting? Good luck.

It is very easy to overload on sugar in just a small amount of juice. Eating whole fruit requires more of an effort in chewing and swallowing, and the fiber in the fruit fills you up quickly and helps to slow down the digestion of the sugars. Because of the fiber, the sugar is sent to the liver in smaller doses, and the liver can more easily metabolize the sugar without being overloaded. On the other hand, consuming an average sized glass of juice packs several fruits' worth of sugar, consumed in a short amount of time, with no fiber to buffer the digestion. When the liver is overloaded with more fructose (fruit sugar) than it can handle, blood sugar levels soar and the excess fructose is converted to fat. Repeatedly overloading the liver with sugar can eventually lead to fat buildup in the liver and insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 Diabetes. (1).

There is a healthy way to juice, and it does not involve tossing 10 whole fruits into your juicer. Try juicing mostly vegetables, and throwing just one fruit in (if you need the sweetness), to get the most amount of nutrients while keeping sugar low. Some veggies are better to juice than others.

Best veggies to juice:

  • Beets: cleanses liver
  • Carrots: cleanses liver and gall bladder. Use sparingly, as sugar is a little higher than other veggies.
  • Celery: anti-inflammatory, alkalizing.
  • Cucumbers: good for skin health, cleansing.
  • Fennel: helps digestion and bloating.
  • Ginger: amazing for digestion and adds a kick.
  • Romaine lettuce: boosts nutrient content and volume of juice with hardly any calories/sugar
  • Wheatgrass: Add to juice for detoxing and alkalizing benefits

To yield ALL the benefits of these veggies, try blending them to a smoothie, especially if you did not already spend the money on a juicer. You will get all of the benefits listed above plus the fiber from the vegetables in their whole form.

Avoid juicing raw kale, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, collards.
Cruciferous vegetables are goitrogenic: they contain substances that suppress thyroid function when consumed raw (2). These veggies are best consumed lightly cooked/steamed, as cooking deactivates the goitrogens.

Kids and juice:

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics verifies that fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruits, and often leads to excess sugar and calorie intake in children. The Academy recommends that juice should not be introduced to infants under 12 months unless clinically indicated. For toddlers 1-3 years, the intake of juice should be limited to, at most, 4 ounces/day. For children 4-6 years old, no more than 6 ounces/day. For children 7 to 18 years of age, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces, or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2.5 cups of whole fruit per day. (3) Keep in mind that if you are going to give children juice, it should be 100% juice without any added sugars/flavors/colors.

The Verdict: small amounts of fruit juice consumed moderately will not cause any major problems for otherwise healthy individuals. However, for individuals who already have diet-related diseases or are overweight, juice can exacerbate these health conditions, or at least inhibit health promotion (4), depending on how and what you are juicing.