Juicing: Good or Bad?

So juicing is a huge hit right now! Coffeeshops and fancy boutique stores are selling $10 bottles of juice in pretty (hipster) packaging that claims a ton of health benefits with their multiple servings of fruits and vegetables, antioxidants, superfood nutrition, and cleansing properties. People are diggin' it.

But is it really good for you?

Juice is a tasty way to enjoy fruits and vegetables, especially for those of us who do not consume the CDC recommended amount. (Sidebar: CDC used to measure nutrition using the food pyramid - remember that thing? Everyone was recommended to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But they ditched the pyramid for newer, more accurate diagrams.) So how much do we need? The USDA now uses the plate visual, called Choose My Plate, in which fruits and vegetables should make up half of your plate in each meal that you eat. And the CDC has a Fruits and Vegetables Calculator, in which you enter your age, sex, and amount of physical activity per day for an exact amount that your body would need.

So, if you are not a fan of fruits and vegetables, juicing is a great option because one juice beverage can contain up to 5 servings. However, there are a few things to watch out for: 

  1. I did good, so bring on the dough! In most juices, the pulp, which contains loads of dietary fiber, is usually extracted from the fruits and veggies. Fiber helps us feel full for longer and helps us poop. Without fiber, you will get hungry easily, and because you were "good" and ate your fruits and veggies for the day, you might be more tempted to grab a bite (or all) of the doughnuts your coworker brought in. 
  2. Let's not do the whole cleanse thing. You are depriving your brain of the calories it needs to function when you're hopping on the juice cleanse wagon, and this directly affects our mood, concentration, productivity, and sanity (see video above). Usually, the minute people are done with a cleanse, or in the middle of it, they binge eat junk food, so what's the point? Consume regular fruits and vegetables, be full, be healthy, be happy (and not shoot-your-friend-because-she-cheated neurotic). 

  3. Sugar sugar high! Then crash. Natural sugars from the fruits and veggies in juice are good, but watch out for any added sugar. These added sugars might make your juice taste better, but they do nothing for your nutrition except add empty calories. According to familydoctor.org and choosemyplate.gov, women and men between 31-50 years of age who get less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day should not consume more than 10 and 17 teaspoons respectively of added sugar each day.  Check the ingredients in your juice and watch out for things like high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, honey, and molasses. 

  4. Try to get juices that contain more vegetables than fruit. Fruit tends to have more calories and more sugar than vegetables, which is not so great for the person who wants to juice to lose weight. 

  5. Add some protein. It'll help you feel fuller for longer. And you'll end up with more of a smoothie. Who doesn't like smoothies? Add some soy milk, almond milk, Greek yogurt, and/or peanut butter. 

  6. Honestly, you're better off eating fresh fruit and veggies. Yes, juice might be good if you're in a bind or in a hurry, but grabbing fresh fruit and veggies is better and cheaper for you in the long run. If you're worried about the fruit going bad, freeze them! Has anyone ever tried frozen grapes? 

  7. Or make your own juice/smoothie. And add protein. Add some of the pulp back in there too to get a helpful dose of dietary fiber. 

So the verdict? Drink in moderation. I don't think anyone should replace their fresh fruits and vegetables with juice, but a juice now and then can be a good way to help you keep your servings count up when life gets busy, or your TMJ acts up and you can't crunch an apple...or some other reason.

Happy juicing!