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To juice or not to juice?

To juice or not to juice?  Yes it sounds very Shakespearean and dramatic.

It seems at the moment that everyone is talking about juicing, thinking about juicing or is experimenting with juicing.  So not surprisingly I am being asked a lot about what I think about juicing.  The most common questions are:

  1. Is it good for my health, if so what are the benefits?
  2. Is it essential to detox my body and/or clean out my digestive system and if so what are the best juices for me?
  3. Is it essential to good health and if so should I be doing it on a regular basis?

Like many things in life the answer is not black and white, rather the answer is ‘it depends’.

Let me explain.

Juicing – the downsides of a trend

Trends in what to eat or drink or what not to eat and drink come and go and/or go round in cycles.  As long as the trend is healthy and included as part of an overall balanced nutrient dense diet I think that is okay.  However when a trend becomes the exclusive focus in a diet or it is promoted as essential at the expense of nutrition and lifestyle fundamentals, I become uncomfortable.

Right now juicing seems to be ‘flavour of the month’.  Most of I what have read and heard is great however there are few themes of thought I am feeling less than comfortable with.  It includes:

  1. Juicing recommended as a preferred option to whole food.
  2. Juicing promoted as ‘the’ saviour to poor health.
  3. Juicing presented as an essential key ingredient to achieve outward beauty.
  4. Juicing recommended without understanding of individual health requirements.
  5. Juicing promoted as a solution to poor day to day eating and lifestyle habits.
  6. Implying juicing is essential to good health; that the body cannot detox itself.
  7. Juicing offered as ‘the’ answer to weight loss.
  8. Juicing recommended as the antidote to not having to live a balanced life most of the time.
  9. Many juices are processed, stored and then sold back to you at significant margins above what it would have cost you to make your own juice.
  10. Juicing offered as a primary meal replacement option.

So from a health and wellbeing perspective, what are some of the potential issues with juicing?

  1. Hyperglycaemic response:  When you juice a fruit or vegetable you progress digestion, it means you lose the wonderful and important fibre it has to offer.  This means that the glucose will hit your system quickly and potentially result in a spike in blood glucose which can be followed by a significant drop in blood glucose.  This can increase your risk of experiencing dizzy spells, fatigue spells, sugar cravings, being irritable, feeling shaky and experiencing blurred vision.
  2. You can consume kJ / calories quickly:  It takes much longer to eat an apple, a piece of celery and a carrot than it does to drink a juice containing these things.
  3. You lose or put at risk key ingredients in your fruit and veg.  Not only are you removing all that wonderful fibre but what about all those wonderful antioxidants and other phytonutrients in your fruit and vegetables you are putting at risk; these start to break down almost immediately on being exposed to light and air.
  4. It can undermine accountability and responsibility for good health:  I am not expecting you to be a saint with your health day to day, however I would like to challenge the belief that you can ignore your health most of the time and rescue it back with regular juice fasting.

Know where your juice comes from

There is the potential for some to push the boundaries of what is acceptable ethics:  Promotions can be targeted to take advantage of people’s lack of personal confidence.  For example I believe grounding your promotion in the primary message that juicing is the ‘secret’ to outer beauty is pushing the boundaries of what is reasonable.

It is not ‘the’ answer to weight loss.  Weight loss is challenging and it takes time.  Generally the faster it comes off the less likely it will stay off in the long term.  Keeping weight off permanently involves developing new and different eating and living habits.

You need to understand what is in your food.  Raw foods can contain foodborne pathogens, and hence result in diarrhoea and stomach upset.  It is important you know where your fruit and vegetables come from and what processing they have been through.

We are all different, how we respond to foods depends on a range of things, including our existing health, medications we are taking, health predispositions, genetics, our level of stress and our lifestyle habits.  Before you make significant changes to your diet and lifestyle understand the implications.

Make your own juice as part of a broader nutrition plan

So when do I think juicing is okay?

  1. As part of balanced nutrient dense well rounded nutrient diet.  Including up to three at most four juices each week is a good rule to abide by.
  2. Not taken as a main meal replacement.  I will always recommend you choose a whole food option as your primary choice.
  3. Ideally when they are made at home or are made fresh on the day and form part of a broader set of nutrients, particularly those that will help counter the risk of a blood sugar spike followed by a blood sugar low.
  4. When they are made on the day you drink them to maximise freshness and take advantage of potential health benefits.
  5. When they are recommended as part of a broader nutrition plan that has been created with your personal health and wellbeing needs in mind.  I strongly recommend you seek the opinion of a ‘qualified’ health care practitioner before you consider juicing.

Chew your food

Do you use juices to achieve your 2/5 – 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables?  Is it because you are too busy to sit down and eat a meal?  Getting the full benefit of our food includes investing in the ritual of choosing, preparing and sitting down to eat our food, the aim is to saviour and enjoy your food.  Food was not meant to be inhaled.  You were given teeth to chew, to help initiate and progress the digestive process.  I know we live in a busy world, however the world will not end if you take the time to eat your food.  Experiement with nourishing and nurturing your body, you might just find you enjoy it. 🙂

Stay hydrated

Do you include juices to stay hydrated, okay but don’t forget good old fashioned water.  Aim to include 4-5 glasses per day and eat lots of fruit and veg.  To jazz up your water, add some fresh lemon, maybe some crushed strawberries or chopped parsley with crushed mint or ginger.  And don’t forget your green tea or herbal tea.  The process of buying, making and finding a quiet spot to drink a tea is a wonderful habit to add to your life

Optimise your health with whole foods

My key message is that juices are not a miraculous saviour to poor health and they are not essential for good health.   But yes they can play a role as part of a well balanced nutrient dense diet.  The body has its own detoxification process and systems and I recommend you adopt a diet and lifestyle that supports, promotes and optimises what Mother Nature has given us.  I will always encourage you to choose the whole food as your first option.

As always my main message is one of balance in eating and living.   I believe the right amount of nourishment and the right lifestyle choices is the safest way to achieve and maintain good health.

Eat a well-rounded nutrient dense diet, don’t smoke, drink alcohol sensibly, stay active, include fun and rewarding activities in your life, ensure you have a purpose for getting out of bed day and spend time with those you love.

Take care, stay safe,

ciao Jan