Before we get into the pros and cons, let’s clarify what juicing is. It doesn’t mean picking up a bottle of orange juice from your local supermarket and drinking it in place of a meal. The fresh juices that you’ll pick up from a juice bar or make using a juicer at home typically use a centrifugal juicer, which extracts juice from fruit and vegetables whilst holding back the pulp (the fibre). The result is a nutrient-rich, easily digestible juice. Juices are typically a mixture of fruit and vegetables – a green juice for example may contain cucumber or celery, a leafy vegetable like spinach or kale, a fruit or two like apple or pear, and often herbs and spices like ginger and mint.
Fresh juices are an easy-to digest way to get a quick intense antioxidant boost. Because they’re low in fibre, you’ll get the vitamins without the bloating that you might get if you ate that many fruits and vegetables whole (and it’s unlikely you’d eat a whole cucumber AND 2 sticks of celery and 2 apples at one time!). Fresh juices often contain herbs and spices like mint, basil and ginger – these have anti-inflammatory benefits and may help with specific health conditions.
Juicing can be a good way to kick start weight loss and some people follow juice cleanses where they consume juice only for one or two days, or even longer, as a way to lose weight quickly and ‘detox’.
One of the biggest downsides of juicing is that the beneficial fibre from the fruit and vegetables is removed in the juicing process. A high fibre diet is linked to reduced rates of certain cancers and heart disease. Fibre also helps to keep you feeling full and reduces the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the blood stream. Without fibre your blood sugar levels will spike and fall quickly.
As many juices have lots of fruit in (juices can contain 5-6 pieces of fruit per glass), juices will often give you a big sugar hit – and without the fibre this sugar will enter your bloodstream even quicker.
Juices are just fruit and vegetables so if you only juice as when following a juice cleanse for example you’ll miss out on protein, essential fats, whole grains and many other nutrients like calcium, iron and the fat soluble vitamins A, E, D and K. This can lead to side effects like low energy, spots and other skin conditions, dry hair and lowered immunity.
Fresh juices can be a great way to get extra goodness into your day and may help to kick start weight loss. However, it’s not recommended that you follow a juice cleanse for longer than a day and if you’re looking to lose weight, it’s a better option to switch one of your meals each day for a fresh juice rather than doing a longer juice cleanse. This way you’ll lose weight steadily without missing out on protein, essential fats, wholegrains and other important nutrients. When you do juice, use a ratio of 3:1 vegetables to fruit (i.e. 3 portions of veg to 1 portion of fruit) to avoid spikes in blood sugar and too many sugar calories.
And remember, juicing isn’t suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women or anyone with diabetes.
Written by Ruth Tongue