The tutti frutti of juicing

Eva Wang
22 November 2014

Above: Image © istockphoto.com/margouillatphotos

I’m not talking about steroid use in sports, although some people do take juicing a little too seriously. I’m talking about the diet phenomenon that has had people drinking large quantities of vegetable and fruit juice since the early 1990s. Promoters of juicing stress its health benefits, and sometimes go so far as to claim it can cure deadly diseases. But should you really make juicing a key component of your regular diet?

Basic juicing

Did you know? You should limit the amount of added sugar you consume to 12 teaspoons a day. Added sugars are found in fruit drinks, pop, candy, pastries, and ice cream.In its most basic form, juicing simply involves drinking a lot of fruit and vegetable juice. If you want to make your own, you will need an electric juicer (ranging in price from under $50 to over $800), a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and some patience. The juicer presses the produce to squeeze out all the liquid, leaving behind any solids. To make 500 ml of juice, you would normally need about a pound of produce.

For people who find it difficult to obtain enough nutrition or to maintain a balanced diet, juicing provides a fast and fluid source of concentrated nutrients. Many fans of juicing point out that it makes eating vegetables more palatable, since the fruit often masks the flavour of the vegetables. Drinking a glass of juice is also much easier than chewing a pound of produce.

But juicing concentrates more than just vitamins: it also concentrates sugar and acid from the produce. Even though fruit and root vegetables are incredibly nutritious, they can contain a surprising amount of sugar, and sugar is still sugar. So tooth decay and even weight gain can be a concern if you juice too much.

There is also the mountain of pulp left over after you make juice. It may not be that hard to clean up, but what you are throwing away contains a lot of fibre and valuable nutrients contained in the fibrous tissue of the produce. Fibre makes you feel full and is incredibly important for digestion. Eating whole fruits and vegetables instead of juicing can help you gauge the proper amount to consume since it provides a better balance of nutrition, fluid, fibre, and sugar.

Extreme juicing

Did you know? Your body needs amino acids to make proteins but it can’t produce all the amino acids it needs on its own. The ones it can’t produce are called “essential” amino acids and you get them mostly from meat, dairy, and eggs. In its more extreme forms, juicing is promoted as a key component of juice cleanse diets and “detoxification”. These crash diets often recommend consuming nothing but juice for days, under the assumption that this will “cleanse” your body of “toxins”. Side-effects can include severe diarrhea, and although some may claim this is simply part of the detoxification process, it is more likely to be the result of a lack of fibre and a surplus of fluid. Fibre slows down the food in your intestines, allowing you to absorb more nutrients and holding your stools together.

Without a balanced diet, your digestion can be thrown way out of whack! The human body is a very efficient cleaning machine, so there is no need for do-it-yourself detoxification. Nor is there much in the way of scientific evidence that detoxification cleanses actually provide any benefits. In fact, you could become dangerously depleted of protein, fibre, essential fatty acids, and minerals during a cleanse. Plus, who wants to drink over three litres of fluid every day?

Like most things in life, juicing is best done in moderation. It is definitely a healthier alternative to pop or store-bought fruit drinks and can be a great way to supplement your diet. Also, most people probably find homemade juice tastier than water. However, too much juice can lead to depletion of other nutrients and excessive sugar intake (ironic if you’re trying to be healthy, don’t you think?).

You should also consider making smoothies instead of juice, since the fibre gets ground up in the beverage instead of being discarded. But at the end of the day, eating whole fruits and veggies is still the best way to get your daily requirements and drinking water is still the best way to stay hydrated.

Learn more!

Online resources

Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion (2014)

US Department of Agriculture

Website providing a wide variety of nutrition-related information, including dietary guidelines.

5 A DAY Portion Sizes (2014)

NHS Choices, National Health Service (England)

Simple guide to daily nutritional requirements and portion sizes.

Stay hydrated with water (2014)

Government of Canada

Basic information on the importance of water and hydration.

The Juice Truck (2014)

Example of a business promoting juicing and juice cleanses

Juicing Is Not All Juicy (2013)

Yeong-Hau H. Lien, The American Journal of Medicine 126(9), 755-756

Brief article on the potential dangers of juicing.

Tips for Vegetables and Fruit (2013)

Canada’s Food Guide, Health Canada

General information on choosing and preparing vegetables and fruit.

Juicing (2008)

American Cancer Society

General information on juicing, including potential benefits and possible dangers.

Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition (2007)

United Nations University, World Health Organization

A detailed analysis of nutritional requirements related to protein and amino acids.

Other resources

S. S. Gropper & J. L. Smith. (2008). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Undergraduate university-level textbook that includes a detailed discussion of dietary fibre.

Eva Wang

I have a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Health Sciences and a minor in Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University. I loved it! Learning about human health helped me understand how science applies to our bodies and our daily lives. My volunteering dates back to the Canadian Blood Services when I was in high school and, trying to get the most out of my university experience, continued into Peer Health Education and finally Let's Talk Science. Being able to share my excitement for science and health is so fulfilling, and I couldn't think of a better way to go about it! My other passions include cooking and baking; somehow, I was able to land a volunteer position with the kitchen of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2014! Volunteering is a great way to get a taste of what you love to do and is the perfect stepping stone into a satisfying career. It builds connections, character, and community! Although I love science, my goal is to eventually work in health promotion. Until that field has grown enough to offer me opportunities, I will be working with Canucks Sports & Entertainment: yup, the Vancouver Canucks! It may not seem relevant to my education but my education was a key factor in their choice to hire me and all my best references came through my experiences at SFU. CSE is also an incredible organization that respects its workers. A positive work environment is extremely important to me and, after working in many difficult work environments, I have learned to give seemingly-irrelevant work opportunities a chance. Because of my open and willing attitude, I have had irreplaceable experiences and I hope to have many more!



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