Pulp Fiction: Getting to the Seed of Truth Behind Juicing

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For decades, juice has had the reputation of a health food-- even to the extent of meal replacements. From orange juice with breakfast to the extremes of a juice cleanse, the colorful drinks are marketed as heart-healthy superfoods.

While there are definitely benefits to drinking fresh juices, there’s a lot of misinformation about the nutritional value of fruit and veggie juice, so we want to get down to the hard facts.

Here’s the truth: the vast majority of fruit juices are not as healthy as you think they are. Vegetable juices have a lot more benefits-- and some veggies are better to drink than others. Let’s get into the juicy details:

 
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Fruit Juices

Even when we purchase “healthy” green drinks, they often contain a high ratio of fruits to vegetables. And drinking just the juice of a fruit is significantly less nutritious than eating a fruit whole. As juicing removes the pith, skin, leaves, membranes, and seeds from fruits, it’s also removing all (or much of) the fiber of the fruit. Perhaps you’ve heard this before-- but why exactly is consuming fiber with sugar so important?

Well, there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be used by and broken down in our bodies and is helpful in blood sugar absorption. This type of fiber will remain in fruit juice, even when separated from the skin, pulp, etc..

However, in the act of juicing a fruit, we remove the insoluble fiber. This type of fiber cannot be absorbed by your body, which makes it an anti-nutrient. This may intuitively sound harmful, but is actually crucial for our health. Many fruits and even some vegetables have an excess of sugars and carbohydrates, which when consumed alone can produce extreme spikes in our insulin levels.

When a piece fruit is eaten whole, one will also consume the fiber, which reduces the amount of carbs and sugars our bodies absorb, leaving us with only the healthy levels of these substances (along with the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they provide).

Furthermore, when we drink fruit juice, not only are we eliminating much of the protective element that limits our absorption of these sugars, but we are drastically increasing the number of fruits we consume in a sitting. Those who have juiced know that it takes a lot of fruit to make a 12-ounce glass; this means that instead of eating one apple, you are consuming the juice of 6 to 10 apples, and you’re eating none of the fiber necessary to limit the absorption.

This is why a 12-ounce glass of apple juice is 39 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to 10 tablespoons of processed sugar. It’s basically just like a juice box-- or a glass of soda.

If you are interested in adding some fruit to a juice recipe, try fruits with considerably less sugar, such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.

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Veggie Juices

On the other hand, most vegetables have very little or no sugar at all. So drinking pure vegetable juice is not harmful like drinking fruit juice can be. And in fact, you can actually consume more of the provided vitamins and minerals than you would by eating your greens.

That’s why 1 cup of carrot or celery juice provides most of the same nutrients found in 5 cups of those same vegetables chopped up, according to the Stanford Research institution.

Similarly to fruit juice, the fiber is left behind when you drink vegetable juices. Whereas that can be dangerous in fruit juices, it can actually help you absorb more of the nutrients from vegetables. However, you can have too much of a good thing, and since you can eat so many vegetables from juicing, you may want to limit yourself to one per day. And if you’re drinking multiple veggie juices per week, try mixing in some fiber supplements.

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Juicing Responsibly

While there has been some misinformation surrounding juices, there are actually many health benefits to juicing responsibly. Drinking fresh juice in moderation with carefully curated ingredients can add vitamins and minerals to your diet-- and they can be a great snack!

Here’s our advice:

  • Use more vegetables than fruits.

  • Don’t store your juice, only make the amount that you will drink in one service. When using fresh vegetables without preservatives, the resulting juice will be susceptible to harmful bacteria, even when left in your fridge.

  • Use your own fresh vegetables-- don’t buy juice from the store.

  • If you’re looking for something sweeter, opt for a fiber-full fruit and veggie smoothie.

Store-bought vegetable juice often has more sugars and carbohydrates than you’d expect. For example, 12 ounces of V8 juice cocktail has 21 grams of carbs and 18 grams of sugar.

This is why we recommend using fresh vegetables from your garden. Always try to incorporate a variety of vegetables, so you’re not consuming too much of any one type of vitamin. Start with a combination of any of the following ingredients: kale, spinach, lemons, cucumber, celery, mint, and parsley. To spice or zest it up, even try adding salt, cayenne, a squeeze of lemon juice, some fresh ginger, or other spices. When using fruit, make sure to use only a part of it-- don’t juice the whole thing.

When your juice tastes more like a savory snack and less like a sweet treat, that’s when it’s the healthiest!