It’s hard to avoid hearing references to the juicing craze. Stores and juice bars advertise their latest creations; a friend talks about how juicing cleared her skin or helped her lose weight; Dr. Oz promotes juice cleanses, then warns of risks.
But what exactly do people mean when they say they’ve started juicing? And is it a good idea?
Dallas-based nutritionist Lauren Talbot says a juice is simply water, natural sugars and enzymes from fruits and vegetables, with the fiber removed through the use of a juicer, not a blender, which keeps fiber intact.
People who use a blender are creating smoothies, juicing proponents say. The distinction matters, because they say you’re getting a higher concentration of nutrients in juice.
“Could you imagine eating 6 pounds of vegetables in the morning?” Talbot asks. It would be nearly impossible, but removing the fiber allows you to consume those 6 pounds in the form of juice.
Still, some think the benefits of juicing have been oversold. We talked to several experts about how to incorporate it into a healthy diet.
Supporters of juicing say it adds a wider variety and more servings of vegetables to your diet in a concentrated amount, while reducing food cravings because the added nutrients replenish the body’s deficiencies.
They say it could also lead to clearer skin, better sleep and a stronger immune system.
“I’m so much happier,” said Talbot, author of “Clear Skin Detox Diet” ($14.95). “I feel lighter throughout the day and more energized. It’s not just juicing; it’s my diet as well that has made a huge impact on my life.”
Mitch Bernstein, a certified wellness coach at a Dallas juice bar, says the No. 1 benefit to juicing is the increased energy that comes as a result of giving the digestive system a rest.
“Most of our energy is going toward digestion, primarily because we’re eating foods that are wrong to start or went wrong in preparation — being cooked or prepared with added salt, oil, sugars,” he said.
“The body has to break it down and then expel all that, so it makes digestion and elimination that much more difficult.”
He says juicing allows nutrients to go straight into the bloodstream, without the body having to expend energy to break down food.
“If you do it longer, the eyes have more of a sparkle and the skin tightens, as soon as you lighten the load on digestion issues. It’s almost an anti-aging aspect,” he said.
Other nutritionists say juicing should not be seen as a cure-all. For starters, they say, juicing fruits and vegetables eliminates fiber.
“We know that higher fiber intake decreases your risk of diabetes and leads to better heart health and weight management,” said registered dietitian Meridan Zerner.
“A higher-fiber diet also decreases the amount of weight that could increase around your waist. We don’t want to discount the importance of the fiber in our enthusiasm to throw down the juice.”
She also says juices are full of calories, but don’t stave off hunger the way solid food does.
“Basically what you’re looking at is a high-calorie, low-fat, low-protein burst of sugar,” she said. “And is that a problem for those with diabetes and prediabetes? Yes.”
Lona Sandon, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, says juicing takes away the process of chewing, which can mean reduced feelings of satiety, or feeling full.
How to do it
Although Sandon said she’s turned off by juices that don’t look or taste good, Talbot says she has recipes that are tasty as well as nutritious.
For a basic juice, Talbot said you want a high-volume vegetable, such as celery, cucumbers or romaine lettuce.
She also adds dark greens, such as kale and spinach, and herbs, such as a handful of cilantro or parsley or a small piece of ginger root. Talbot said lemon cuts some of the green taste.
“I think it’s easy to get carried away with fruit, but lemon is really great if you’re trying to make a juice more palatable,” she said.
What about cleanses?
In a cleanse, juices are used to replace entire meals. Sandon and Zerner advise against that.
“You cannot rely on juice alone,” Sandon said. “And if you’re relying on it for an extended period of time, you are putting yourself at risk for some nutrient deficiencies.”
Zerner also said many of the weight loss and detoxifying claims behind juice cleanses are false and misleading.
“The kidneys and the liver, unless they’re sick, are doing the most amazing job detoxing with even just water.”
Talbot also says weight loss is not a reason to do a cleanse. She sees it as a starting point for people looking to change their lifestyles, or a reset button if you feel like you’ve been indulgent.
Bernstein suggests having two juices a day and eat raw salads, without added oil or salt, for about a week before the cleanse.
“I would never recommend that someone on the standard American diet come in and do a five-day cleanse. That’d be very uncomfortable,” Bernstein says, adding that it could cause headaches and nausea.
Having a crazy night out before a cleanse would be a shock to the system, Talbot says.
Registered dietitian Meridan Zerner says that anyone considering juicing should watch for total calories and balance that burst of carbohydrates and sugar with healthy fat or protein.
She also recommends investing in one of the higher-quality juicers so you can extract as many nutrients as possible from the fruits and vegetables.
Nutritionist Lauren Talbot says she likes the Breville line of juicers, specifically the Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain Plus. Priced around $150, it’s a smart buy for someone starting out, she said. It’s also easy to clean, which might encourage more frequent use.
She doesn’t juice berries, because they yield little juice for what they cost, or bananas, which don’t have enough water.
Another option is to buy cold-pressed juices.
Talbot said to look for ones with no more than 10 to 12 grams of sugar per serving.
“You want more nutrients, but you don’t want to spike your insulin level,” she said.
4 cups kale leaves and stems, about 1/2 bunch
4 cups baby spinach
3 stalks celery
1 inch fresh ginger root
Scrub and wash all produce. Organic fruit and vegetables are the best option for juicing. Cut each ingredient into pieces that will fit and put them through your juicer.
Typically greens should be juiced on low and harder-skinned fruits and vegetables on high, but it will depend on your machine, as will the amount of juice yielded.
A Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain Plus made about 3 cups.
Note: Feel free to add more or less lemon or ginger, depending on your preference for the taste. If not organic, the lemon should be peeled, which will reduce the flavor.
Source: Lauren Talbot