As a dietitian, one of the most popular questions I get is, “What do you think about juicing?”
And I’m not talking about taking steroids – I’m talking about pulverizing fresh fruits and vegetables into a liquid.
So what’s the big deal with juicing? Is it really worth the time and money?
To juice or not to juice? That is the question…
As with most nutritional topics, it’s a little more complex than “juicing is good” or “juicing is bad”, so let’s start by looking at the benefits and disadvantages of juicing, and I’ll let you decide if it’s a good idea for you.
Benefits of Juicing
1. Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, but drinking the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables will give you a solid dose of vitamins and minerals.
If you’re deficient in a few vitamins or minerals, you may notice improvements in your energy levels, ability to focus, and integrity of your skin, hair, and nails when you start consuming more vegetable juice – definitely a major benefit!
Some of these vitamins will be fat-soluble vitamins (specifically vitamins A, D, E and K), so you won’t absorb them very well unless you consume sufficient amounts of fat in your diet, but you’ll be able to absorb the water-soluble vitamins just fine.
If you want to get the most out of your juice, try adding some fat in the form of coconut oil, avocado, macadamia oil, or chia seeds to help facilitate the absorption of those fat-soluble vitamins.
If you’re buying juice, you can just throw in a handful of chia seeds and enjoy!
2. Rich in Phytonutrients
Raw juices tend to contain more phytonutrients (nutrients that aren’t vital but have healthful properties) and enzymes that can’t survive high levels of heat. So if you usually cook all of your vegetables, then you could benefit from consuming raw vegetables from time to time.
If you’d like to consume them in the form of juices, then that’s a solid option, but you could also try snacking on fresh raw veggies, like carrots with hummus or guacamole instead of chips.
If you can afford to buy prepackaged juices, then it can be a very convenient way to get some more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
Most of us can’t sit and eat an entire bunch of kale, 7 carrots, an apple, and some fresh ginger in one sitting because vegetables contain so much fiber, but vegetable juice can help you sneak all those nutrients into your body without feeling painfully full.
This is going to be more beneficial to people who don’t really like to eat vegetables or don’t get enough in their diets. Those of you who already eat a ton of vegetables don’t really need to be juicing regularly.
Disadvantages of Juicing
1. High in Sugar
This is clearly not going to be the case for all juices, as juice recipes vary from company to company, but it’s very easy for the sugars to sneak up on you when considering juices.
Next time you’re at the store, look at some of the healthy juices that you see marketed to you, and check the food label. Look for the grams of sugar in one serving of the juice and then look to see how many servings are in that one bottle.
I’ve seen juices that look and sound healthy with over 50 grams of sugar in the entire bottle. Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t have any sugar in life, but downing 50 grams of sugar in one sitting is not going to do you any favors.
So when looking for juices, remember to check the amount of sugar and try to choose juices that contain more vegetables than fruit, as these tend to be much lower in sugar.
If you’d like to learn more about the effects of sugar on the body, you can find that article here.
2. Low in Fiber
The majority of fruits and vegetables contain a great deal of fiber. That’s why most raw produce has a bit of a crunch to it. The cell walls are made up of mostly cellulose, which is a form of insoluble fiber.
Your body cannot actually digest fiber or use it for energy, but the friendly bacteria in your large intestine can ferment it and convert it into short chain fatty acids – molecules that help regulate your body’s fat, glucose, and cholesterol metabolism.
Fiber also provides satiety after a meal, so consuming too many foods that are low in fiber may leave you feeling hungry all the time.
3. Extremely Low in Calories
I place this point under the disadvantages because it’s becoming very trendy to experiment with juice cleanses – a meal plan restricted solely to juice for a certain amount of time (usually 3-5 days).
While juices have the opportunity to be extremely healthful, it’s very unlikely that they’ll be able to provide you with enough energy to make it through the day. I say it’s unlikely because everyone is different, and some people have responded very well to juice cleanses.
If you’re going to try a juice cleanse (only juice for a day) regardless of what I say, then consider choosing a shorter cleanse (around 1-3 days) instead of the longer ones. This way you’ll still receive the benefits of restarting your system and limit the detriments of adhering to a liquid diet.
If you’re trying to improve as a climber, I would definitely not try to follow a strict juice cleanse, as you will find yourself feeling sluggish and weak without protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.
4. Expensive and Time-Consuming
The final disadvantage of juicing is that it tends to be pricey, whether you buy or make your own. It’s also rather time-consuming to make on your own.
Now, if these aren’t really concerning for you, then you can ignore this disadvantage, but I find that most people cannot afford to spend $10 on a vegetable juice on the regular.
And even when I’ve tried making my own at home, I find that I have to spend so much money on produce that it’s really not that much cheaper to make my own.
Juicers tend to run in the ballpark of $300, so you have to make sure that you’re REALLY passionate about juicing before you invest in a bulky machine that is only good for juicing (and making your own nut milks).
However, if you don’t want to invest in a juicer, you can also make your own juices with a blender and either remove the pulp with a coffee filter or enjoy it in your juice.
Juicing is a great way to sneak some additional vitamins and minerals into your diet, but it’s not absolutely vital for your health.
If you’d like to receive the benefits of raw juice, and you can afford to buy or make your own, then consider having your juice as a daily mid-morning or afternoon snack. Look for juices with more vegetables than fruit and beware of juices that contain large amounts of sugar.
If you’re looking for a juicer to make your own, look for a masticating or “slow” juicer, as these will preserve some of the heat-sensitive nutrients.
If you make your own juices, then consider adding some coconut oil, avocado, or macadamia oil to your concoction, as the added fat will help your body absorb some of the vitamins more easily.