For the past several years, juicing has been all the rage. Health advocates said it was a good way to get in your five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Fitness gurus promoted it as a terrific way to increase your intake of healthy nutrients and antioxidants. Weight-loss instructors advocated it as a good tool to help you lose weight and even “detoxify” your body.
However, lately, the tide has been changing. Now, you’re just as likely to find articles and blog posts about why you shouldn’t juice as why you should. What’s going on? If you’re regularly juicing, should you stop?
A Brief History of Juicing
Although humans have ground fruits and vegetables into juices throughout the ages, our modern idea of “juicing” began with the invention of the first juicing machine back in the 1930s. Raw food proponent Dr. Norman Walker is credited with creating the first one, which was called the “Norwalk Hydraulic Press Juicer.” It was cumbersome and time-consuming. However, at the time, it offered people a simpler way to extract juice from their produce items.
The Champion Juicer machine followed in the 1950s. It featured fast rotating rods, but the friction heated the juice, destroying many of the healthy nutrients. The 1970s saw the rise of exercise expert Jack Lalanne’s “Jack Lalanne Power Juice” machine, which many purchased in the hopes of being as fit as Lalanne was.
In 1993, the first twin-gear juice extractor was created — the Greenpower juicer. It pressed the produce to get the most of the goodness out of it and was considered the best juicer at the time for preserving the live nutrients and enzymes. It was during this decade that Jay Kordich, considered the “father of juicing,” gained popularity through his books and television appearances, spreading the view that juicing was a healthy and positive thing to do.
In the 2000s, Dr. Bernard Jensen published his book, “Juice Therapy,” which suggested that juices were the best and fastest method of getting healthy nutrients into the body. Today, there are many varieties of juicers on the market with different features, functions and price ranges.
7 Reasons to Rethink Juicing for Your Health
Proponents of juicing are quick to list all of its supposed health benefits. These include the following:
- Provides the body with additional vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other healthy nutrients present in fruits and vegetables
- Helps reduce inflammation since fruits and vegetables are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Juicing preserves enzymes, which helps improve digestion
- Boosts the immune system
Assumptions like these make sense on a surface level. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, so it would seem that consuming the juice from their essence would deliver those nutrients directly to the body where it could then use them to improve overall health.
However, most of these benefits have little to no scientific proof to support them. There are many studies that show that eating fruits and vegetables, in their original form, can improve health and reduce risk of disease. Studies concerning juicing, however, don’t show these same benefits. In fact, they often show the opposite — that regularly consuming juice is not good for your health. Below are seven reasons why you may want to rethink your juicing habit.
Fruit juice is high in sugar. It’s natural sugar, yes, but it’s sugar nonetheless. As such, it can spike blood sugar levels. On top of that, when you consume fruit and vegetable juice, you’re missing the fiber that’s present in the whole foods, which typically slows sugar breakdown and prevents blood sugar spikes.
One study involving more than 187,000 people found that drinking one or more daily servings of apple, orange, grapefruit, and other juices increased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 21 percent. Whole fruits, on the other hand, were found to reduce the risk of the disease. Those who ate at least two servings of whole fruits each week reduced their risk by as much as 23 percent when compared to those who consumed less than one serving per month.
As many as 79 million people have prediabetes, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. These individuals are particularly at risk for developing type 2 diabetes if they consume too many juices.
2. Juicing Could Destroy Your Weight-loss Goals
When you eat a piece of fruit, you enjoy a low-calorie snack. When you juice, however, you’re combining the high-sugar content of the fruits and vegetables in a compact form. That means you’re not only consuming a lot of sugar at once, but you’re also consuming a lot of calories too.
Many commercially available juices and smoothies and even some homemade options can contain more calories than a full meal. Consume one or more a day, and you could be adding on calories that you don’t even notice you’ve added on.
When you eat an orange or two, you feel full, but you could drink the juice from five or six oranges or more — which also gives you the same amount of sugar you’d get in a cola — and still feel hungry. Numerous studies have linked fruit juice to an increased risk of obesity while whole fruits are linked to a decreased risk.
Juices also lack sustaining proteins and fiber, which is another reason you feel hungry and may even suffer from headaches after consuming them.
3. Juicing Could Lower Your Metabolism
Going on a juice “cleanse” is a popular way to lose weight and “detoxify” your body, but the results are likely to leave you disappointed. First, there is no evidence that a juicing “cleanse” has any of the detoxifying benefits that proponents advertise.
The human body regularly flushes away toxins through natural processes that involve the digestive system, liver, and kidneys. There is no medical evidence showing that cleansing diets rid the body of any extra toxins or waste.
In addition, juice cleanses typically require you to cut way back on calories, throwing the body into starvation mode. Your metabolism drops to preserve energy, which means when you go back to your regular diet, you’re likely to gain all the weight back.
There’s more bad news. That lowered metabolism? It will most likely stay where it’s at, which means you could gain more weight once you return to your regular diet, putting you at a higher weight than you were when you started.
We all have a thriving community of bacteria living in our guts. Some of them are beneficial and some are not, but usually, the good guys outnumber the bad ones. Those good guys are responsible for keeping our immune system strong and the digestive tract moving. They’ve even been linked with positive mood. Juicing, however, could change that.
There is some evidence that fruit and vegetable juices can help the microbiome by increasing levels of good bacteria. The problem is all that sugar, particularly fructose, which is present in many fruits and vegetables, including bananas, cantaloupes, cranberries, lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples and strawberries as well as asparagus, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and broccoli.
Research has shown that some of the fructose from these and other foods passes through the small intestine to the colon, where it comes into contact with the microbiome, which is not designed to process sugar.
Several studies have already found a link between diets rich in sugar, specifically fructose, and disease-causing bacteria in the microbiome. Preventing the overgrowth of damaging bacteria in the gut revolves around eating less sugar, not more, which means that regularly consuming juices could, in the end, have a negative effect on the microbiome.
5. Juicing Could Shrink Your Muscles and Enlarge Your Belly
When you go on a juice diet, you often miss out on muscle-building protein. Yes, you’re getting nutrients like vitamin C and A with your juice or smoothie, but you’re getting very little protein unless you add it in. Protein not only preserves and builds lean body mass, but it also helps you burn calories.
All the extra sugar you’re getting from your juices is also likely to expand your belly. One study showed that liquid sugar increased risk of belly fat accumulation in as little as 10 weeks. Another study found that consuming 16 ounces of juice per day for three months caused insulin resistance and increased waist circumference.
6. Juicing Could be Harmful to Your Kidneys
Certain types of juices contain both calcium and oxalate, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Whereas most healthy people will be okay consuming them, those with a history of kidney problems could be setting themselves up for more.
In a 2013 case report, doctors reviewed what happened with a patient who experienced kidney failure after participating in a juice fast for six weeks. The patient kept a journal of the juices he consumed. An analysis of the foods showed an estimated daily intake of 1,260 milligrams of oxalate.
Popular juicing ingredients that are considered high in oxalate include spinach, kale, berries, Stevia sweeteners, wheat bran, carrot juice, vegetable juice, tomato juice, oranges, grapefruits, kiwi fruit, and Swiss chard.
7. Juicing Robs You of Healthy Fiber
Fiber helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. When you juice your fruits and vegetables, however, you take the fiber out of them. In essence, you’re saying goodbye to all the protective effects of that fiber and saying hello to potential digestive ailments like constipation and diarrhea.
The Better Option: Eat More Whole Fruits and Vegetables
Considering these risks, it makes more sense to follow the advice that scientists now give based on a large number of studies — eat more whole fruits and vegetables and leave the juices for occasional treats. Shoot for 1.5 to 2 cups per day of fruit, and 2 to 3 cups per day of vegetables. The benefits include:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Improved digestive health
- Better mental health
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- Healthier bones and reduced risk of fractures
- Reduced risk of cataracts and other eye diseases
Hollis, J. H., Houchins, J. A., Blumberg, J. B., & Mattes, R. D. (2009). Effects of Concord Grape Juice on Appetite, Diet, Body Weight, Lipid Profile, and Antioxidant Status of Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 28(5), 574-582. doi:10.1080/07315724.2009.10719789
Jang, C., Hui, S., Lu, W., Cowan, A. J., Morscher, R. J., Lee, G., … Rabinowitz, J. D. (2018). The Small Intestine Converts Dietary Fructose into Glucose and Organic Acids. Cell Metabolism, 27(2), 351-361.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.12.016
Kubina, J. (2019, May 31). Skip the juice, go for whole fruit. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/08/reduce-type-2-diabetes-risk/
Lien, Y. H. (2013). Juicing Is Not All Juicy. The American Journal of Medicine, 126(9), 755-756. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.04.007
Railton, D. (2018, February 6). How fruit juice affects the gut. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320834.php
Stanhope, K. L., Schwarz, J. M., Keim, N. L., Griffen, S. C., Bremer, A. A., Graham, J. L., … Havel, P. J. (2009). Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 119(5), 1322-1334. doi:10.1172/jci37385