There are lots of benefits juicing is said to offer, but you can boil them down to a handful really. And while we don’t want to deny the real value that juicing holds, it’s not the silver bullet some of its fans claim it to be. In the long run there’s surely a better way.
So, let’s take a look at the facts fairly, and chart a course to sustainable health.
The Film That Turned the World on to the Benefits Juicing Offers
Millions of people were inspired by the 2010 film “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. In fact, it was one of the first films that started our family down a life-changing road. And we still enjoy going back to watch it from time to time.
Joe Cross (AKA “Joe the Juicer”) was one of the people who threw a much-needed spotlight on the problems of obesity and all the associated diseases that have been spawned by the modern American diet. His own personal transformation gave lots of people hope. In the 60 days that the film documents, Cross went on a juice-only diet with the following results: he lost 82 pounds, radically reduced his bad cholesterol levels, and got off most of his previous medications.
Juicers went flying off department store shelves, and a movement was born. Here’s what the excitement’s about …
Examining 4 Big Claims of the Juicer Movement
1. “You can get all those essential nutrients you need FAST.”
This is perhaps the biggest of all the benefits juicing offers.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you should eat between 5 and 13 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. That’s quite a broad range, but even if you take an average of 9 or 10 it sure sounds like a lot. Juicing, however, allows you to get the nutrients of all those servings down into a couple of glasses that you can drink quickly. Like a “goodness bomb” that you can set off in your system.
And this is certainly true – drinking the juice of fruit and vegetables will give you a concentrated burst of nutrients; lots of wonderful vitamins and minerals.
BUT, we have to push back a little on the idea that the amount of produce you need to consume in a day is some odious challenge that requires a solution. When we talk about 9 or 10 “servings”, that doesn’t mean “meals”. A single healthy meal will include a number of servings. Just by eating well (and as the human body is designed to eat), getting all the servings in that you need to is not really any big deal.
Faith Durand has provided a wonderful visual of what we’re talking about. Here are 10 different picture examples of the daily allowance you need …As you can see from any one of these photographs, it’s not difficult to get the minimum daily requirement of fruits and vegetables. It’s frankly shocking that so many people still don’t!
2. “It’s easier for your body to digest nutrients when you deliver them in juice form.”
This is quite true, because most of the insoluble fiber is removed in the juicing process. So, your body can put those nutrients to work immediately.
However, this is hardly an unmitigated blessing! It’s a tradeoff. All of that fiber is another essential part of a balanced and healthy diet. Here’s a partial list of what fiber does for you …
- helps the body to eliminate cholesterol by binding it in the digestive tract, lowering the risk of heart disease
- speeds the voiding of waste and toxins from the body
- prevents constipation and regulates bowel action (which reduces cancer risks)
- slows digestion so that you feel satisfied longer after a meal, alleviating the temptation to overeat
- aids the absorption of glucose and fats in the small intestine
- lowers the glycemic index of a meal
- provides fuel for the “good” bacteria in the small intestine, helping the production of vitamin B12
So, do we really want to celebrate reducing the amount of fiber through juicing?
3. “Juicing makes eating fruit and vegetables more appealing for people who don’t like them.”
There’s truth to this too, no doubt. Even the most ardent brussel sprout hater can get them down when they’re juiced in with some nice sweet fruit. And someone may push bitter greens, fennel or beets to the side of their plate, but disguise them in a juice and down the hatch they go.
It’s also a fact that the flavors in fruits and vegetables are enhanced by the sweet-tasting carbohydrates which are released in the process of juicing. To demonstrate this, just compare the taste of raw carrots with the taste of carrot juice.
We have no real argument with this being a benefit of juicing. And if it does help some people begin to change their eating habits, it’s a great thing.
But we do want to point out that people who eat a plant-based diet for a time usually testify how they come to enjoy vegetables more and more – even some that they didn’t previously care for. Quite a bit of what we call “taste” is just a function of our body’s craving for what it needs. And this can be “trained”.
4. “Juicing can be a very convenient way for busy people to eat better on-the-go.”
Imagine someone who’s running from meeting to meeting and doesn’t have much time for a meal break. The answer people turn to far too often is some kind of fast food. They know it’s bad for them, but they need to eat something and it’s convenient.
But what if they can just pull out a flask of juice they’ve prepared in the morning, and drink that instead? Juice bars have also sprung up in lots of cities and towns over recent years, so people can grab one when they need to.
We agree. There’s no doubt that it’s far better to drink juice than make poor food choices.
If you do so, however, you should keep in mind that the process of oxidation accelerates when the skin of a fruit or vegetable is broken. So, to maximize the nutrient value of juice you need to consume it fairly quickly. Therefore, juicing for a few days ahead, and refrigerating it, is probably not a good idea.
Okay, so there we have 4 of the big benefits juicing offers, and we’ve answered them somewhat too. But if those are the “pros”, we also need to point out a few more of the “cons”.
Some Pitfalls of Juicing That Might Make You Think Again
A. People who juice tend to be overbalanced toward fruit.
Joe the Juicer advocates an 80/20 formula; meaning 80% vegetables to 20% fruit. That’s undoubtedly the right way to go. But let’s face it, the juices that have more fruit in them tend to taste sweeter and nicer, and so lots of people end up with a much lower vegetable content.
Here’s the thing. Natural sugar is far better than refined sugar, but it is still sugar nonetheless. You certainly can have too much of a good thing. (By the way, this is a primary reason why juicing over the long term doesn’t maintain weight loss.)
B. Back to that missing fiber for a moment …
It really is a big deal, and for all the reasons we listed above. So, if you must juice, try to leave as much of the pulp in as you can.
C. With juicing you tend not to feel full for very long.
With the fiber extracted, your body makes quick work of processing it. Yes, you get all those nutrients, but then you start to feel hungry again. So, you’re going to need to deal with that “diet feeling”. Perpetual hunger.
One of the great things we love about a starch-based, plant-rich diet is that we never worry about counting calories or whether we’re going to be hungry. Eat the right foods (including all that good fiber) and you really can eat until your satisfied. Then if you get hungry and need a snack, help yourself! Just makes sure it’s the right kind of snack.
D. Juicing can get expensive.
The fact is, you have to juice more fruit and vegetables for a single glass than you would put on your plate to eat. There are certainly smart ways to shop frugally – you can buy seasonal produce, and visit farmer’s markets, and so on. But even the shrewdest shopper will tell you that juicing isn’t cheap.
E. Juicing’s fun for a few days, but all that prep and cleanup gets old.
Preparing produce for juicing requires a lot of cleaning and cutting up. It’s all got to fit in a small tube and not get jammed. And once you’re done, juicing machines are notorious for being tricky to clean properly. There are a bunch of pieces that have to be taken apart, and bits of the food tend to get stuck down in little crevices and can be hard to get out.
Because juicing gets to be a bit of a hassle, lots of people give up on it. It’s just easier to grab something quick and nasty. If you doubt this is true, ask around among your friends how many of them have a juicer at the back of a kitchen cupboard that they haven’t used in a long while.
Our Conclusion … There’s a Better Way
Joe the Juicer, and many others like him, are living testament to the potential benefits juicing can bring. Just like Joe did, a person may initially experience dramatic weight loss, as well as a kind of “detox” of their bodily systems – particularly if their previous diet was poor.
It’s doubtful, however, that such weight loss can be maintained over the longer term with juicing alone. And for all the reasons we’ve talked about, straight juicing is not the healthiest dietary lifestyle for prolonged periods.
The value we see in juicing is 2-fold:
FIRST – As a kickstart to a new life.
Taking up a juice “detox challenge”, for 7 or 15 or even 30 days, can be the big change of behavior that’s needed to set you moving in the right direction. And you will surely see some good results in that short term.
After completing that goal, however, we recommend that you transition to a balanced whole foods lifestyle. Our personal preference is what Dr. John McDougall recommends, as we’ve written about here. However, we recognize that there are other excellent plant-based approaches that you might consider.
SECOND – As an occasional complement to a plant-based lifestyle.
There certainly are those times when it’s very convenient to stop into a juice bar and pick up a delicious and healthy drink.
In fact, it sounds like a great idea right about now. All this writing has worked up a thirst. We’re going to grab a juice ourselves.
Thanks for reading!
Whether you agree or disagree with our take on these “4 Benefits Juicing Offers”, we’d love to hear from you! We all learn from each other. Leave us a comment below. You could tell us your story. And if you have a question, we’ll do our best to answer quickly.