Juicing has become part of the cultural zeitgeist. But is juicing actually more beneficial than simply upping your daily intake of fruit and veg?
One thing’s for certain – processing fruit and veg by juicing it before it hits the stomach gives the digestive system a rest and reduces that sometimes uncomfortable acid production. Essentially, taking on juices is less effort and helps the digestive system run more efficiently overall. An argument also exists that drinking raw vegetable juices demands the gut break down only one food group at a time, allowing for speedier digestion.
However, overall the answer to the ‘is juicing really good for you’ question isn’t clear-cut: downing the juice of fruit and vegetables essentially means consuming the water they hold as well as much of their vitamin and mineral goodness, but juicing also removes complex fibres and can send your sugar levels sky high. And that’s not to mention the lack of protein in most fruit and vegetable juices which is especially worth acknowledging if you’re about to embark on a juice-only fast.
But when practised intelligently and when armed with the facts, the benefits of juicing can be life-changing. Here are some tips to help you get the best out of juicing and avoid the downsides:
Eat your fruit and juice your veg
To answer the question in part, the efficacy of juicing depends on what you’re juicing. Pure fruit juices – especially pre-packaged varieties – can be high in fructose sugars (and therefore carbs and calories), but green juices made mostly from vegetables like spinach, kale and beetroot are great news for health-junkies. But let’s get one thing straight before we move on: downing a pint of green juice that contains a whole bag of kale won’t give you the same nutrient dose as you would get from eating that kale steamed with some salmon. That said, you’re still getting a pretty awesome nutrient fix that – we’re going to hazard a guess here – beats whatever you’d be eating or drinking instead. So don’t let this put you off. There’s also the added benefit that you know exactly what’s gone into your morning snack or afternoon pick-me-up. No additives, no colourants and no synthetic flavourings.
Tip: Fruit juices are high in calories and should be taken in moderation, but green juices made purely of vegetables can become dull for the tastebuds. Add an apple or some kiwi to your vegetable juice for some added sweetness.
Get your fibre fix
Most fibre in fruit and vegetables is all but completely lost in the juicing process if that pulp isn’t substituted into your diet somehow. And a diet based entirely around fruit and vegetables can become protein deficient quickly if you don’t address this issue. So if you’re not careful your juice habit could soon become a high-carbohydrate, low-protein and low-fibre habit. Not great for energy levels, hunger management or mood – let alone the laxative effect of digesting blended fruit and vegetables with no friendly fibre in the mix. You need protein to keep your metabolism ticking over properly, so your juice fast weight loss will come to an abrupt halt if you cut protein out of your diet altogether.
The solution? Make sure your diet, aside from juicing, is protein-rich and fibrous, or try to incorporate fibre and plant-proteins into your juices: artichoke, asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, carrot, onion, sweet potato, spinach and watercress for example. Denser fruits like peaches, strawberries and cherries contain protein too, so get them on your list for adding to vegetable juices or for the odd fruit juice concoction. Chia and flax seeds are both great sources of dietary fibre and protein – big favourites amongst veggies and vegans – so throw in a handful, spoon in some Greek yogurt or add a few splashes of almond milk.