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To Juice or Not to Juice?
I have a lot of patients who have recently been asking me that question. It seems to be a popular trend right now for weight loss, “detox,” or just as an easy way to add fruits and vegetables to the diet.There are juice stands, juice bars, three to 14-day juice cleanse packages, and pre-packaged juices everywhere! The real question is: how good can juicing really be for us?
Let’s start by breaking down the basics. Juicing is the process of extracting the juice from fruits and vegetables. There are many different types of machines that do this, usually very expensive. The juice contains most of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in the whole fruit and vegetable, but the pulp or fiber, which is the bulk of the produce, is separated.
Note: A juicer should not be confused with a blender. A blender takes the whole fruit and vegetable, including the pulp, and liquefies it together to make it thick and fiber-filled.
Well, what are the benefits of juicing?
- Disguise your greens! If you don't like eating fresh fruits and vegetables or find it hard to include it in your daily diet, juicing may be an easy way to incorporate these. Don’t love the taste of kale or don’t have the time to make a salad or pack a snack or piece of fruit with your meal? Juicing could be your quick go-to. When combined in different flavor combinations, juicing is an easy way to include fruits and vegetables you wouldn’t normally eat on their own.
- Variety! Juicing can help to ensure we have variety. Mix and match different colored vegetables to meet vitamin and nutrient needs to stay healthy and protected from disease.
- Save it from spoiling! Produce spoils quickly if it’s not used in a timely manner. By juicing, you can prevent wasting not only the actual fruit or vegetable, but also the money you spent! Have leftover carrots in the fridge? Throw them in the juicer for a boost of vitamin A!
- Missing Meals! People often think they can replace the meal with the juice. Juices are inadequate in protein and healthy fat, which are important parts of a balanced diet. Protein and healthy fat keep you full, help to maintain muscle mass, and boost your metabolism. If you want a balanced, healthy meal replacement, turn that juice into a smoothie! Include plain, low fat Greek yogurt or protein powder, add flaxseed, nut butter, or avocado for some healthy fat, a variety of vegetables, and a piece of fruit to sweeten it up!
- Fiber, fiber, fiber! Fiber, which you can’t get from juicing, is an essential nutrient for our digestive health. A lot of the fiber, which is mostly found in the skin of the fruits and vegetables, is removed during the juicing process and gets discarded as pulp. The juice itself has a high concentration of sugar, which causes a spike of your blood glucose. So, for those with diabetes, juice should only be used when treating a hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) episode.
- Sugar overload! Many of the juices contain large amount of fruit. Too much fruit adds a lot of sugar, unwanted calories, and subsequently causes weight gain. Try using all non-starchy vegetables with just one whole fruit, to keep the carbohydrate intake lower.
Now what? Both the juice and the whole fruit provide a lot of water. No matter which option you choose, both supply needed hydration for the body. If you’re interested in juicing, occasionally it can be included as a supplement to your diet (if you do not have diabetes!). Once again, juice is not a meal replacement! Juicing alone will not provide you with enough calories or nutrients and will slow down your metabolism. So, I would suggest using a blender in place of a juicer to retain the fiber. Remember to complement your juice with foods high in fiber, protein and healthy fats to keep you fuller, longer and to keep your blood sugars stable.