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The Squeeze on Juicing

August 27, 2019

In recent years, “juicing,” has become a trendy topic. Juice bars have sprung up across the country and bottled juices have become widely available at health food stores, coffee shops, and markets. Some juices also come with high price tags. Celebrities and personal friends often talk about going on a juice “cleanse.” But is there any merit to the health claims these juicers often tout? Should there be a place for juice in your diet?

By Michelle Spearman, Dietetic Intern from Iowa State University

“Juicing,” or the act of consuming freshly squeezed vegetables and fruits, is not a new trend. The first record of extracting juice from plants for consumption was recorded in the Dead Sea Scrolls. People were recorded hitting pomegranates and figs on rocks as early as 150 BC.

Benefits?

There are several evidence-based possible benefits to including fresh-squeezed vegetables and fruits to a diet in moderate amounts. Juices can assist in hydration and may supplement extra vitamins and minerals in your diet. If you like the taste of veggie juice and it helps you keep your fluid intake up, then this could be beneficial.

To entice consumers, juice brands go to great lengths to use a method referred to as "cold-pressed juicing." However, in one scientific study, there was no demonstrable benefit to using this method of juicing compared to other methods of juicing, in regards to nutrient preservation. 2

Loss of Health Benefits

One of the problems with juicing is that the process of squeezing fruits and vegetables essentially removes the fiber from these healthy foods.  Fiber is an important part of any diet and it has many health benefits including lowering cholesterol, maintaining glucose and insulin levels, and feeding the microbiome. 

Another problem with taking the fiber out of vegetables and fruit is that the sugar content of the juice may be higher than anticipated. All fruits and vegetables have carbohydrates or sugar in them and juicing creates a concentrated version. It is always important to check the nutrition information especially if you are concerned about blood sugar levels. 

Safety

When fruits and vegetables are squeezed into a juice, bacteria on the skin of the vegetable or fruit are then transferred to the juice. Juices sold in grocery stores are pasteurized to delay spoiling and to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. At local juice shops or farmers markets, the fresh-squeezed juice is not pasteurized, since it is intended for consumption within a day or two of purchasing while held at a proper temperature. The general public can safely consume juice that is freshly squeezed and unpasteurized, but it could pose a threat to anyone with a compromised immune system such as preschoolers, the elderly, or pregnant women. When juicing at home, be sure to clean all surfaces including the skin of the fruit to avoid contamination.

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Juice Diets

Some claim that juice diets or “cleanses” can have great benefits. However, the American Journal of Medicine reported a case study in which a patient experienced acute kidney damage after partaking in a six-day juice fast. It is always important to consult with your physician or dietetic practitioner before making any dietary changes. This journal article also noted that there is no strong scientific evidence that supports juicing for health benefits as compared to eating a diet balanced with fruits and vegetables.3

"Don't be duped into thinking you need a juice cleanse to "detoxify" your body. Our bodies are perfectly well equiped to detox themselves." Christine Tenekjian, RDN - Duke Diet and Fitness Center. 

Regarding detoxing using juice diets, Christine Tenekjian, RDN, at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center says, “Don’t be duped into thinking you need a juice cleanse to ‘detoxify’ your body. Our bodies are perfectly well equipped to detox themselves. Our liver does this for us. Often people feel better when they do a ‘detox’ diet because of what they are NOT eating (processed, unhealthy foods), and because they are getting many micronutrients from the juiced fruits and veggies. But there are better ways to get those nutrients – from the whole foods in the context of a balanced eating plan.”

While freshly squeezed juices assist in hydration and may provide some beneficial vitamins and minerals, they are not magic elixirs with magnificent health benefits. While most people can enjoy juiced fruits and vegetables for the taste, there’s no reason to feel squeezed into purchasing them.

Learn more about healthy eating practices from dietary experts at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center at www.dukedietandfitness.org.

Make A Nutrition Appointment Today! 

References:

1. A Brief History of Juicing. https://www.dummies.com/food-drink/recipes/a-brief-history-of-juicing/. Accessed July 19, 2019.

2. Effect of cold-pressed and normal centrifugal juicing on quality attributes of fresh juices: do cold-pressed juices harbor a superior nutritional quality and antioxidant capacity?. Khaksar G, Assatarakul K, Sirikantaramas SHeliyon. 2019;5(6):e01917. Published 2019 Jun 18. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01917

3. Juicing Is Not All Juicy. The American Journal of Medicine. Lien Y-HH. 2013;126(9):755-756. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2013.04.007.

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