The vibrant colors and distinct flavors of fruits and vegetables represent the variety of nutrients that greatly benefit our bodies. It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are good for us — a diet rich in fruits and veggies is associated with reduced risk for certain cancers, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Most Americans find it difficult to get the five to nine recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Juicing has enjoyed a boost in popularity with many people crediting juicing as the means by which they’ve increased fruit and vegetable consumption.
There is a downside to juicing however. When turning fruit or vegetables into juice, a machine separates the sugar, fiber and nutrients from the original fruit/vegetable product. Now, the sugar and nutrients can be consumed much more rapidly and in greater quantities. The digestive tract has no fiber to break down, so all of the sugar can be absorbed into the bloodstream at once.
In contrast, when we consume a whole fruit or vegetable, our bodies go to work breaking down the fibers and accessing the nutrients. This takes some time, and as our digestive tract is breaking down food, it’s slowly absorbing the sugar.
While you may typically only eat one or two whole fruits and vegetables in a sitting, with juice, you might drink up to five or six. The increased nutrient intake is great, but the increased sugar intake can be a concern. Your body also registers liquid calories differently than it does calories from whole foods. As a result, juicing may unintentionally increase total daily calorie intake.
If juicing has enhanced your fruit and vegetable intake, consider the following tips for how to continue to include it in your healthy lifestyle.
- Make your juice more like a smoothie by leaving the fiber/pulp in it.
- You can also add fat and protein, providing a larger variety of nutrients, as well as slowing sugar absorption. Possible fats to include: avocado, chia seeds, nut butter, nuts, ground flax. Possible proteins to include: soy milk, nonfat dairy milk, plain yogurt, tofu, lentils.
- Keep your drink heavy on vegetables and light on fruit.
- Drink homemade juice fairly quickly. Homemade juice that sits too long is susceptible to nutrient breakdown and bacterial growth.
- Always choose homemade juice over store-bought. Homemade juice is healthier than most store-bought juices, due to the fact that it’s fresher, less processed, contains more pulp, and you have control of the ingredients.
- Limit drinking juice to no more than once a day.
Remember: Your body was designed to digest whole foods. Juice may be a helpful tool to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, but it shouldn’t be the primary form of fruits and vegetables that you consume each day.