Juicing has been trending worldwide for over a decade now. What was once solely a preparation method for children to increase their nutritional intake, or a breakfast option for health-conscious adult, has now made its place in hipster health juice bars and cafes alike. Another more controversial topic is juice fasting or detoxing with the aim to obtain nutrition while otherwise abstaining from food consumption and supposedly ‘cleanse’ the gastrointestinal tract from any impurities or stale matter, respectively. Most of us were just fine growing up eating the whole fruit and vegetable as a snack or as part of a meal―so, does this thirst-quenching trend truly promote health, or are these promises as empty as the nutritional value in some juiced products, and are you in fact having your pockets literally juiced out of better spent cash?
Juicing is an easy way to increase your consumption of nutrient-packed vegetables and fruit: including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These juices are also low in saturated fats, added sugars, salts and other preservatives made in a lab that you’ve probably never even heard about. However, if you’re considering a juice fast diet to drop weight, you may want to consider otherwise: while strictly following a juicing program for more than a few days can promote a downward trend on the scales because you’re slashing your collective daily calories, in the end you pay the price. Most of these plans leave nutritional holes in your diet, particularly lacking protein, a key nutrient that helps you feel full and energized while maintaining your lean muscle mass and boosting your metabolic burn. In fact, following a low-protein, low-calorie diet will force your body to obtain energy from your muscles, leading to a break-down in muscle mass, which puts the brakes on your metabolism and reduces strength. It can also lead to a drastic spike in blood sugar levels, leading to headaches, mood swings, dizziness and fatigue.
Most of the fibre in fruits and vegetables is lost during juicing if the pulp is not added back to the mixture: a common (and ironic) issue with commercial juice blends on the market. Many commercially manufactured and some domestic blenders are fully equipped to blend raw, full fruits and vegetables into a liquid, thus making for a palatable drink whilst also keeping the fulfilling and beneficial fibre. Another major drawback: liquid calories do not have the same fill power as whole, solid foods, which make it hard to stick with a juice-only plan for longer than a few days without feeling irritable and starved.
Some of the health claims touted by commercial juice companies are just plain bogus. ‘Juice cleanses’ are not required to detox your system or remove toxins: your body is more than capable of managing everything it needs to do in order to remain healthy and function well. Some self-professed ‘health gurus’ also claim that juice cleansing also helps your body to achieve a beneficial alkaline pH, but in reality, your body once again is capable of maintaining a tightly regulated pH at all times, regardless of what you’re eating. There are no major human studies to substantiate the purported benefits of an alkaline diet or for a juicing detox diet for that matter.
Then there’s the cost. Commercial juice plans are prohibitively expensive for most people, with the most popular kits ranging from $65 to $85 a day. Even juicing at home can put a strain on your wallet since there is a low yield of juice per pricey kilogram of produce. The fascination with juicing has sparked the attention of opportunistic business men and women with an explosion in the retail food marketplace: you’ve probably heard about the international chain of retail outlets called ‘Boost Juice’ that had its origins in Adelaide, South Australia.Indeed, Boost Juice has made $2 billion in global sales since inception and the business has squeezed and blended its way through thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit and veg every year, including over 2000 tonnes of watermelons, 49 million blueberries and 3 million bananas a year in Australia alone.
Take home message: If you want to include juicing in your diet, skip the full-on liquid trend and instead enjoy a green juice (heavy on veggies and lighter on fruit to keep calories and sugar in check) with one of your meals. This way, you obtain the nutritional benefits and continue to get your fill of healthy wholefoods, including proteins (legumes, fish, eggs, lean meats and nuts), unprocessed, complex carbohydrates (wholegrain like oatmeal and pasta, starchy vegetables and legumes) and unsaturated fats (olive oils, avocados, fish and nuts).
Written by Chef Daniel Frutiger
For a nutritious and low-calorie smoothie that packs a punch―check out my recipe for a Blueberry-Banana-Almond-Kale Smoothie.