The truth about juicing and juice fasts

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Most people know a high intake of fruits and vegetables is healthy, but many have lately questioned the benefits of consuming the essential nutrients that come from these foods through juice.

Eating several servings of fruits and vegetables each day can lower the risks of becoming overweight and developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes. And, while juicing is one way to consume the nutrients packed in fresh foods, there are also negative aspects to the practice.

Pauline Williams, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science, is a registered dietician and has a Ph.D. in nutrition. She said when people juice they consume more calories than if they were just eating the fruits or vegetables whole.

Amber Nance uses fresh ingredients make her own juice. (Photo by Elliott Miller)
Amber Nance uses fresh ingredients to make her own juice. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

Williams used the example of an orange. An orange contains about 60 calories, but when juiced, the orange only provides about half a cup of juice. When people juice oranges, they end up juicing about three oranges to feel like they are getting enough juice. Williams warned that when juicing, people need to be careful not to over-consume calories. She also said after juicing a fruit or vegetable, it is more likely to lose its fiber content — content that would otherwise be consumed if eaten.

“If you choose to juice, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it,” Williams said. “But you’re not getting the satisfaction of eating food.”

Williams said there is no evidence that juicing is healthy or health-promoting, but it may be a benefit if it helps people get the fruits and vegetables they need. She said, contrary to popular belief, juice fasts that only allow for the intake of juice are not healthy because individuals are missing other nutrients from protein and dairy. In addition, when juicing people miss out on the eating experience.

“With juice fasts, you’re not getting the satisfaction of chewing, swallowing and experiencing flavors,” Williams said.

Laura Brown, an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science, said after going on a juice fast, someone may drop weight quickly, but the weight will most likely return once that person falls back into his or her old routines. She said a person on a juice fast will be running to the bathroom often because of the water imbalance in his or her body. Brown disagreed with many of the rumors surrounding juice fasts.

“One claim is that juice fasts cleanse our bodies from toxins, but our liver, kidneys and the gut do that naturally,” Brown said. “Anyone who has somewhat of a normal diet has a body that will cleanse itself.”

Brown encouraged the consumption of more fruits and vegetables, but she said there are easier ways to go about it.

“Eat an apple, an orange or a banana,” Brown said. “If someone wants to drink juice, that’s fine, but you don’t have to buy a blender to increase fruit and vegetable consumption; there are easier ways.”

Amber Nance uses fresh ingredients make her own juice. (Photo by Elliott Miller)
Amber Nance uses fresh ingredients make her own juice. (Photo by Elliott Miller)

Brown said overall, Americans need to consume more fruits and vegetables, but they need to find a way that works for them, while still getting vital nutrients from other types of foods.

Amber Nance, a senior from Kaysville, has been juicing for about two weeks and has seen many benefits from her experience.

“You get a lot of the nutrients out all at once,” Nance said. “You can’t always fit a lot of vegetables in your stomach, so by juicing, you get a lot of the nutrients without eating a lot of vegetables.”

At first Nance was worried her energy would decrease, but said she was surprised by how happy and vibrant she felt. When she began juicing, she started with a juice cleanse, but said she could only do it for about two days because she was training for a marathon. Now, she’ll drink a glass of juice once a day in place of a meal.

“Sometimes vegetables are hard to eat, but by mixing them with fruit, it’s a bit more bearable,” Nance said.

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