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The pros and cons of juicing

Before you put the squeeze on fruits and veggies, here’s what you need to know.

You just went bananas at the local farmers market. You bought 2 bags of apples, 3 stalks of celery, 5 carrots, 2 bunches of kale, and a few pieces of ginger. But when you get home, reality sets in: You have no idea what to do with any of it. And it won’t all fit in your refrigerator.

One way to make sure none of it goes to waste: juicing. That’s when you cut up all the ingredients, put them in a blender or juicer, and then strain out all but the liquid, removing any pulp. Not only will it save you space, but it’ll also be a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.

But while that brightly colored juice might taste great and contain vitamins and nutrients, it might not always be the healthiest option. Below, learn some of the pros and cons of juicing.

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Pro: Juice is packed with healthy vitamins and nutrients

The product you’ll get from all that blending will be a cocktail rich in vitamins and nutrients — and a good source of hydration.

“Juicing is a great method of hydrating with exotic flavors that naturally come from fruits and vegetables,” says Sharon Zarabi, a registered dietitian. She’s the director of program development at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, Northwell.

“Our bodies can easily absorb the vitamins in liquid form,” Zarabi says. “For those of us who have digestive issues, juicing is an easy way to boost your immune system with a dose of vitamins without putting too much demand on the stomach.”

Zarabi also says juicing is a good way to get disease-fighting minerals and phytochemicals into your diet. Phytochemicals are a type of nutrient that may help reduce the risk for certain chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

Pro: Juice can help protect your eyes, skin and immune system

The flavors, vitamins and nutrients you get from your juice really depend on the types of fruits and veggies you use. For example, here’s what that farmers market haul might look like:

  • Apples are a great source of vitamin C, which helps your body’s ability to fight off infection and heal wounds by supporting your cells. They’re also rich in the flavonoid quercetin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, neutralizing harmful free radicals.
  • Celery may help lower your blood pressure and maintain healthy digestion.
  • Carrots are a great source of vitamin A, which supports eye health. It’s a building block of rhodopsin, a type of protein in your retina that allows light to enter your eye.
  • Spinach, kale and other leafy green vegetables are also packed with vitamin A, which helps protect skin against the harmful UV rays of the sun. Two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin (found in spinach, for example), can also help reduce your risk of developing chronic eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Ginger has anti-inflammatory qualities and can be used to help treat nausea. If you have an upset stomach, it can speed digestion, bringing relief sooner. And at least one study linked it to being effective in fighting various gastrointestinal cancers.

Mix and match different kinds of fruits and vegetables to see which juices taste and make you feel the best.

Pro: Juice is great if you’re on a low-fiber diet

When you strain out all that pulp, you’re really getting rid of the fiber in the fruits and vegetables. So juicing can be good for those who need to be on a very low-fiber diet, says Jill Weisenberger, a registered dietitian and creator of the free guide Can I Eat That with Prediabetes?

That could include people who are:

  • Receiving cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation
  • Recovering from intestinal surgery
  • Having difficulty digesting food

“But this would not be a typical person,” Weisenberger says. Most people don’t get enough fiber.

The recommendation? Eat between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day. The average intake among U.S. adults is about 15 grams per day. A diet rich in fiber can help reduce cholesterol and help your body balance blood sugar, which is a major factor in diabetes.

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Con: Fruits and vegetables are best served whole

It might be a good idea to stuff some of that bounty you picked up at the farmers market in your fridge after all.

“There’s a reason Mother Nature created the plant in its whole part,” Zarabi says. “There’s no scientific evidence that extracted juices are any healthier than whole foods. More vitamins do not always equate to better, because the body can only absorb so much at one time.”

Con: Juice isn’t better than water at hydrating you

While the liquid portion of the fruit and vegetable plant can help you hydrate, it’s not the best way to do it.

Juice provides hydration and carbohydrates for energy, Zarabi says. “But keep in mind that if you’re trying to regulate your blood glucose, have diabetes, or trying to lose weight, you’re probably better off with water for hydration,” she says. Think about how many oranges you need to squeeze to get a full cup of juice. It may be best to stick with water and add a spritz of fresh fruit juice for flavor.

Con: Juice can be sneakily calorie-dense

Juice contains fructose, and while this is a natural source of sugar and carbs, drinking too much of it may lead you to consume too many calories. For example, juicing 5 fruits can add up to 500 calories and more than 100 grams of sugar, says Zarabi. Women should consume only about 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day, while men can consume up to 2,500. But these numbers can vary based on your height, age, and activity level, she says.

“For those looking to lose weight or who have fatty liver disease, you may want to think twice about drinking your calories,” Zarabi says. All the fiber from the fruit has been removed during the juicing process. Yet it’s the fiber that can keep you full. Without it, you can drink all the juice you want and never really feel satiated, Zarabi explains.

Popping a fiber supplement might seem like an easy fix, but it isn’t. “A fiber supplement is not a replacement for natural sources of fiber that derive from the indigestible parts of the plant,” Zarabi says. “The thick skins of fruits and vegetables are crucial to sweep out the debris and toxins in our body.”

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Juice fasting: Is it good or bad?

You may have friends who’ve gone on a juice fast, a type of fad diet that involves only drinking fruit and veggie juice instead of eating solid food for a stretch. But like any type of fasting, juice fasts can leave you hungry, Zarabi says. And they’re not as healthy as you might think.

“The sugar only increases your appetite, and the lack of fiber keeps your belly asking for more,” says Zarabi. “There is no protein or healthy fats in juice, so when juicing you have to keep in mind that they aren’t filling calories.”

Assorted detoxification diets (called “cleanses” or “detoxes”) have been promoted as ways to lose weight or remove toxins from the body, but in fact, some of the juices used in detoxes and cleanses haven’t been pasteurized or treated to kill harmful bacteria that can make people sick.

This can be especially harmful to older adults, children, and people with weakened immune systems. If you drink too much juice with spinach and beets in it, for example, the high levels of oxalate, a naturally occurring substance, could increase your risk for kidney problems such as kidney stones. The stones can form because your body has too much oxalate in it, and it doesn’t absorb calcium properly.

Also, detoxes and cleanses can be dangerous if you have diabetes. These fad diets can be full of sugar, and unbalanced blood sugar levels can present serious health concerns to diabetics. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet, especially if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes.

Juices vs. smoothies: Which one is better?

You may have seen juice bars open in your area — and many of them offer both juices and smoothies. What’s the difference between the two? Is one better for you than the other? The main difference is that smoothies include the whole food along with the fiber, which is ultimately removed from juices, says Weisenberger.

Leaving in that veggie and fruit pulp can be a better nutritional strategy than juicing, suggests Zarabi. “You’re breaking up the whole plant into smaller particles, rather than extracting the fiber, which we need for better health,” she says. “Also, you have the opportunity to add nuts and seeds to this blend, and these contain more phytochemicals, omega-3s, and protein. Now that’s a superfood.”

If you’re watching your weight, though, know that some smoothies can be high in calories. So it’s a good idea to keep tabs on what you’re putting in your smoothie too.

Getting enough fiber also helps maintain bowel health, normalize bowel movements, and keeps you at a healthy weight. It may also help decrease your risk of dying from certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

If you choose to juice, select darker-colored vegetables, Zarabi says. “The darker the vegetable, the more antioxidants and phytochemicals it has. Think kale, arugula, and spinach over iceberg lettuce and cucumbers,” she says. “And choose dark-colored berries for a touch of sweet.”

Like those sneakily high-calorie smoothies, make sure you’re aware of how much sugar there is in your juice. Dark-colored berries like blackberries and raspberries are low in sugar but high in taste. In other words, when it comes to the healthiest juices, the less sugar, the better.

Bottom line: For many people, juicing can be a healthy option in moderation. But always consult your doctor first before making any drastic changes to your diet, especially if you have diabetes or other chronic illnesses.

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The advertisement is provided as general information only. It is not intended to diagnose or recommend treatment of any illness, disease or condition. You should consult a qualified medical professional if you have questions or need more information.



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