Before answering if juices (fruit/ vegetable) are healthy, let’s understand the actual process of juicing. Juicing is a sort of food processing that pulverizes the fruit or vegetable and breaks it down. If you do not strain the fibre, you get a thick smoothie, and if you strain and remove all the fibre, you are left with the water (called juice). This juice has a lot of nutrients and natural sugars found in the fruit or vegetable used to make the juice, and since there’s no chewing involved (as in eating the whole fruit or vegetable), and since all the fibre has been removed, the nutrients as well as the natural sugars are very quickly absorbed into the blood stream. Now is that a good thing? For people who’ve been very physically active, or sick and convalescing people, this actually might be a good thing because their bodies are quickly able to access the nutrients and sugar and restore their body’s levels quickly. For most people, whoever, this isn’t a good thing.
Why juices aren’t the healthiest for most people:
- People need fibre, but the process of juicing removes the fibre. Fibre satiates, provides food for good bacteria and helps prevent constipation. It is an irony that many people in western societies end up discarding the fibre in the process of juicing but then go on to consume fibre supplements or powders because they are not meeting their daily requirement for fibre.
- Commercially made juices are usually pasteurized, which reduces the vitamins and antioxidants naturally found in the fruits and vegetables. Moreover, many commercially available juices have added sugar in them (besides the natural sugar content of fruits and vegetables), which ends up being very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and causing a spike in blood sugar levels.
- Even with no added sugar, the naturals sugars in fruits and vegetables becomes very easily absorbed into the blood stream since there’s no chewing or fibre involved to slow down the absorption of the sugar. This can lead to a spike in blood sugar levels and a subsequent ‘crash’ when the sugar level falls as quickly as it rose.
- You need a few fruits or vegetables to make 200 ml of juice. If you were eating fruits or vegetables whole, you’d be full after one or two servings but because juices have no fibre, you get the sugar from 5-6 servings or fruits and vegetables but you’re still not full because there was no fibre, and might be looking for some snacks or other processed foods to fill you up. You could be looking at lots more sugar and calories this way (not to mention chemicals and additives if you end up choosing the wrong snacks).
- Juices lack protein as well, and having juices too frequently during the day can not only lead to blood sugar fluctuations but also a protein and fibre deficiency, leading to adverse effects such as feeling hungry and tired.
- Much of the antioxidant and nutrition of fruits and vegetables is in the peel (example apples), and juicing removes this very valuable part.
Are there any benefits of drinking juices?
For some people, yes. Here are the potential benefits of juices:
- The process of pulverizing fruits and vegetables breaks down the fibre matrix, making nutrients more bioavailable (easily absorbed).
- Sick and convalescing people can benefit from drinking juices because the nutrients are easily absorbed and the body doesn’t have to work hard to break down the fibre.
- A juice-based diet can lead to weight loss in the absence of other solid food, and the high amount of nutrients in this diet can enhance the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
- Studies have shown that drinking vegetable and fruit juices can have a beneficial effect on heart health by lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol because of the high amount of antioxidants and nutrients present in juices from the fruits and vegetables.
- For people who do not meet the daily requirement of fruit and vegetable intake, juices can provide a convenient way to meet the daily requirement.
- 100% Pure juices, without the addition of any sugar or other additives, increases the antioxidant levels in the blood within an hour, and the effects can last for a few hours depending on the type of juice.
In conclusion, I must mention again that for a majority of the population, eating 5 servings of whole fruits and vegetables is more beneficial. Juices can belong as part of a balanced diet especially for sick or convalescing people. For the general population, please keep in mind that juices have drawbacks and that you shouldn’t neglect to eat fruits and vegetables in their whole form just because you are consuming juices.
I prefer smoothies to juices. Smoothies do break down the fibre but at least it’s not completely eliminated, and you can make your smoothie very healthy just by using more vegetables than fruits, and by adding protein from a source like greek yogurt, and good fats from nuts and seeds such as chia, flax and nut butters.