Are You (Fruit) Juicing?

The juicing of fruits and vegetables has become an increasingly popular trend in North America with the emergence of boutique juice stores and an increase in sales of at-home juicing devices.  Given that the majority of North Americans consume an inadequate amount of fruits and vegetables, one could argue that juicing has great potential to help rectify this problem.

As a dietitian, the juicing craze pits the notion that food is generally best consumed in a minimally processed state against the reality that so many people out there are missing out on the benefits of adequate fruit and vegetable consumption.

According to recent Health Canada statistics, only about 40% of Canadians eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This has been and continues to be a massive public health concern in Canada, especially considering that fruit and vegetable consumption is generally associated with protecting us from numerous negative health outcomes.

So why am I not a huge juicing fan?

Speaking from personal experience, I find that many pro-juicers that I encounter and engage on the topic of juicing are somewhat defensive when I suggest that consuming a juiced version of a fruit or vegetable just isn’t equivalent to consuming the fruit or vegetable whole.

This is a bit bothersome to me because the process that transforms a whole fruit or vegetable into a juice is not fundamentally that different than the process that separates a potato from a french fry or whole wheat whole grain bread from white bread. 

Let’s consider the following example:

You have a banana, an orange and an apple.  Very rarely would you consume all these three foods together, and if you did the consumption process would be relatively lengthy due to all the chewing involved. (Chewing is a very important initial step to the digestion process which primes the body for further digestion and nutrient absorption.)

Yet, when blended or juiced, these three fruits could easily be consumed within a 30-60 second window at a similar caloric value with much less of the satiety, fullness and satisfaction that the solid fruit would provide. The mechanical processes that the juicer or blender perform are important functions that are intended to be carried out by your digestive system. The increased speed with which juices pass through the body may also alter their benefit and impact on your body, but more research will be required in this area to say this definitively.

With all of this being said, I fully appreciate that juicing and the consumption of fruit juices has some occasional utility in the diet of the average person, especially in the context of current fruit and vegetable consumption patterns.

When is it okay to juice?

The most obvious benefit to juicing is that it allows you potentially more palatable and convenient access to a wide array of vitamins, minerals and protective phytochemicals that fruits and vegetables have to offer. This is especially relevant for those who struggle with their fruit and vegetable intake or who avoid certain varieties of fruits or vegetables.

When it is a dire choice between juiced fruits and vegetables or no fruits and vegetables at all, then juicing is certainly the better option.

If you do juice, keep the following in mind:

  1. Try to opt for juices that are primarily vegetable-based rather than fruit based because vegetable consumption is probably a bigger issue in most people and vegetable-based juices may be less likely to provide excess calories.
  2. Opt for juices that contain vegetables (or fruit) that you might not otherwise eat or prepare for yourself. This at least helps to justify the fact you are consuming it in a juiced form.
  3. Do not fall into the trap of believing that regular juicing is an adequate replacement for the consumption of whole fruits and vegetables. Juicing should be more of a treat than a regularity.

Bottom Line 

My main gripe with juicing is that it seems too many people believe that a juiced version of a fruit or vegetable is truly equivalent to consuming the food in its natural form.  The goal of today’s article was to reiterate that, although juicing may play an important supplementary role for some people,  it cannot and should not replace the regular consumption of whole fruits and vegetables.

Thanks for reading!

 

Andy De Santis RD MPH

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