To juice or not to juice? A quick search online will have you believing juice will cure all sorts of ailments from cancer, by increasing your consumption of antioxidants, to obesity, by limiting your caloric intake while still providing nutrients (Ruxton 2008). While consuming juice does provide the body with antioxidants and other vital nutrients, there are more effective and healthier means to incorporate these into your body.
The most important factor missing in juice, which is found in the whole fruit, is fiber. When you juice fruits, and vegetables, the fiber containing pulp is left behind. There are claims that tout this as being a health benefit, that by decreasing the amount of fiber you increase the rate of absorption of nutrients. The reality is the body is quite capable of handling the breakdown of fiber. Fiber is a vital component of the diet. Fiber does indeed slow absorption and by doing this is lowers your risk of developing diabetes (Bazzano et. al. 2008). Long term population studies of juice consumption, when compared to the consumption of water or milk, have shown an increased instance of type II diabetes (Bazzano et. al. 2008). Short term effects of fruit juice consumption have shown it to have a negative effect on plasma insulin levels and the body’s glucose response when compared to the consumption of a sugar equivalent meal of the same fruit (Bolton et. al. 1981).
Another benefit of having fiber slow down absorption is that it makes you feel full longer (Bazzano et. al. 2008 and Bolton et. al. 1981). So if your goal is to lose weight, eating the whole fruit will increase your feeling of satiation making it less likely that you will grab an unhealthy snack to calm your hunger pains.
The benefits of fiber are vast. Fiber maintains a healthy bowel by decreasing the instance of hemorrhoids and preventing colon disease. Fiber is a proponent of cardiovascular health by lowering total blood cholesterol levels; in particular it targets LDL’s or the ‘bad cholesterol’. It is also thought to lower blood pressure and inflammation.
Now while there are some studies out there linking good health with people who consume increased quantities of juice, these are findings are correlative (Ruxton 2008). This means the people who are surveyed and answer that they drink juice are in turn skipping out on sodas and alcoholic drinks, choosing juice as an alternative. This indicates these people are living a healthier lifestyle in general and their good health cannot be wholly attributed to their juice consumption.
If you like the idea of drinking your fruits and veggies I suggest smoothies as a healthier alternative to juicing. By making a smoothie you incorporate all the fiber contained in the whole fruit and thus all its health benefits. Do not add juice to thin out your smoothie, as they can become quite thick, instead use milk or a non dairy alternative. The addition of juice will only add to the sugar content of your drink. Remember the slogan ‘5 a day,’ make sure you are consuming at least five servings of fruits and vegetable each day. All those fruits and veggies you juice only count as one serving, so eat smarter and eat the whole thing. You’ll be eating less but getting more.
Heather Lundgren is a N.S.C.A Certified Strength Conditioning Specialist with a bachelors of science in Biology from Southern Oregon University. For questions and responses please contact Heather@traininginseattle.com
Bazzano LA, Li PY, Joshipura KJ, Hu FB. (2008) Intake of Fruit, Vegetables, and Fruit Juices and Risk of Diabetes in Women. Diabetes Care 31:1311-1317
Bolton RP, Heaton KW, & Burroughs LF. (1981) The Role of Dietary Fiber in Satiety, Glucose, and Insulin: Studies with Fruit and Fruit Juice. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 34: 211-217
Ruxton CHS. (2008) Smoothies: One portion or two? British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin. 33: 129-132