Juicing — Healthier Than Whole Fruit and Veggies?

  • There is no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are any healthier than the juice you get by eating the whole fruit or vegetable.
  • Juicing removes most of the healthy fiber from fruit and veggies and increases the absorption of fructose from fruit juice (and from beets and carrots) which may contributes to weight gain.
  • According to the Food and Drug Administration juicing can lead to food-borne illness so washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly and drinking raw juice immediately after it’s made can minimize the risk — pregnant women and those with impaired immunity are advised to be especially wary of drinking unpasteurized juice.

The wellness market

The wellness marketplace is big business and has expanded to chic juice bars, juice cleansing and fasting programs. The cold-pressed juice market is estimated at $100 million a year and with the possibility of greater energy, glowing skin, a clearer mind, a detoxified gut and more, who could refuse. Celebrity endorsements for juice detoxing provide an intoxicating message: the best and safest method to eliminate toxins while maintaining and rejuvenating energy. Fatigue, headaches, and memory problems are some of the modern maladies typically attributed to a build-up of toxic substances in the body. The medical field however isn’t quite sure about the hypothesis.

High-end juicers are the rage now and you can have the Ruby juice extractor that produces continuous fresh rich delicious juices from carrots, celery, cucumber, beetroot, tomatoes, spinach, apples, pears, grapes, pineapple, watermelon, and honey dew melon if you act today for only $1,951.49 -normal retail price is $2,414.00. That’s a bit expensive — but is it really worth the bucks?

Quick fixes and “super-foods” with unsupported health claims unfortunately, still can’t  replace a healthy life style that includes the avoidance of tobacco, more physical activity and a healthy nutrition pattern. It does take a bit more effort. Fruit and vegetable juice do provide many micronutrients (phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals) however, even more benefit is possible with a heathy nutrition pattern and eating the whole fruit. This is especially true for those who wish to control their weight, blood sugar and really improve their health.

The science

Some of the issues that contribute to the lower nutritional value of juices are as follows:

  • Antioxidants and phytonutrients like polyphenols found in colorful berries and other fruits can start to break down almost immediately once fruit juice and smoothies are exposed to light and air, as part of the oxidation process. The same occurs even when juice is kept in a refrigerator. Within 6 days as much as a quarter of vitamin C content will be lost in fruit juice or cut pieces of kiwi, pineapple, mango, strawberry, watermelon.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages include soft drinks, energy drinks that contain sugar and fruit juice. Most experts recommend that such sugar-sweetened drinks need to be limited to promote health and weight control. The down-side of fruit juice is related to the stress it puts on the pancreas — the organ we must preserve to avoid diabetes.

A brisk blood sugar spike occurs when the gastrointestinal tract is presented with fruit juice and that’s the signal for the pancreas to provide an insulin to help return blood sugar levels to back to normal. The elevated insulin levels as a result of spikes in blood sugar -is much more intense with fruit juice than by consumption of the whole fruit. The term glycemic index is away to rate from 1 to 100 the body’s bllod sugar response to food with glucose at the highest level. Fiber present in the whole fruit is largely removed when the fruit is converted to juice and it is the fiber content that is so important to lower the rise in blood sugar and consequent insulin spikes. It follows that eating the whole fruit is better than drinking the juice.

The twin diseases of obesity and type 2 diabetes are now at record levels affecting one-half of the adult US population over age 20!  Daily “OJ” is still a health ritual for many but for many the regular consumption of fruit juice and smoothies needs to reconsidered.

Clinical studies

Every one of the long-term studies of the health effects of fruit juices shows that you increase your risk of diabetes and weight gain with regular juice consumption. A 2010 study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported on 40,000 people followed for 5 years.

Those who consumed two or more servings of fruit juice per week had a 29 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who didn’t drink juice regularly — soda is worse with 42 percent increased risk for weekly soda drinkers.

On average, fruit juice has a nearly the same amount of fructose as soda.  For example, Minute Maid 100 percent apple, about  66 grams of fructose per liter and Coca-Cola has 62.5 grams per liter. The ugly truth is that most types of fruit juice contain a similar amount of sugar as a sugar-sweetened soda, sometimes with even more total calories! Just take a look at the breakdown for a 12 ounce glass of apple juice and a 12 ounce portion of Coca Cola: apple juice has 165 calories and 39 grams of sugar (9.8 teaspoons) and Coca Cola comes in at 140 calories and 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons).


The bottom line: fruit juice contains some nutrients, but less compared to many plant foods. It contains no fiber and is just as high in sugar and calories as most sugar-sweetened beverages. Another benefit of eating the whole fruit is that it is more filling and may help curb appetite. It’s the fiber that contributes to satiety (or sense of fullness) and limits overeating. Apple slices before lunch will help one feel more full and consume about 15% fewer calories compared to drinking apple juice. (Appetite, 2009).

Juice cleanses get the buzz but the idea of detoxification is just not part of traditional, Western medicine — except in cases of actual poisoning and especially heavy metal poisoning as with lead poisoning. There is no medical justification to detox with juice cleanses — despite the celebrity endorsements. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends rather than a “cleansing” diet, increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich foods and water.


Categories: In The Kitchen