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Is Juicing Actually Healthy? A Doctor Explains

Photo by Stocksy
September 6, 2016

To juice or not to juice, that is the question. While many health-conscious people have embraced juicing, I say it's a trend that's best embraced lightly. Although it might surprise you, I think of a tall glass of fresh-pressed veggies and fruit as an occasional treat—like an indulgent dessert—rather than an everyday choice.

As with most quick-fix health crazes, there are always at least a few downsides to consider. Here's some food for thought to help you consider how to juice smarter—or whether to do it at all:

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1. Juice can be a sugar bomb.

Most bottled juices have enough sugar to stand toe-to-toe with a can of Mountain Dew. It doesn't matter if they're organic and refrigerated or conventional and off the shelf. Juices made from fruit, as well as veggies like beets and carrots, can add up to liquid dessert that sends you on a blood-sugar roller coaster.

Granted, with some very fresh, minimally processed juiced drinks, you'll get some quickly absorbed nutrients. But the sugar spikes and troughs that come with the package typically aren't worth the ride.

2. Juice isn't the best source of fiber.

Juiced fruits and veggies are virtually fiber-free—all that good fiber gets left behind in the base of the juicer and tossed out. That's a problem because fiber helps boost gut health and facilitates waste removal.

Although some think of juicing as a digestive aid, many people on juice cleanses actually often have a problem with constipation!

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3. Juice won't keep you full.

OK, so we've established that your juice has a ton of sugar and not a lot of fiber. But it's also missing fat and protein, both of which are key to feeling satiated. Without fat, protein, and fiber to fill your belly and signal to the brain that you're done eating, you're going to get mighty hungry, mighty fast.

4. Juice's nutrients don't last long.

How fresh is that bottled juice? The "sell-by" date will certainly give you a clue, but it's not going to tell you how potent the nutrients in the bottle still are. Unfortunately, the nutrients that you hope to imbibe with every sip start degrading the moment they are exposed to light and air. In other words, if that drink has been sitting on your desk all afternoon, you may be getting far fewer antioxidants than you think.

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5. Juicing can be wasteful.

Not to get up on a soapbox, but taking an armload of food that could feed a small family and pulverizing it down to liquid form is, to say the least, wasteful. To be a bit kinder to the earth, you might want to consider eating the majority of your produce instead of juicing it.

How to make juicing healthier:

In a perfect world, I'd say lay off the juices and eat as much whole food as possible. However, if decide you are going to drink a juice, here are some key tips to follow.

Make it yourself! That way, you can control the ingredients, portion size, sugar content, and freshness. When juicing, be sure to:

  • Skip high-sugar fruits, such as pineapples, mangoes, bananas, etc.
  • Go heavy on the greens.
  • Use lemons, limes, green apples, ginger, mint, and turmeric to add guilt-free flavor.
  • Keep in mind that juicing for weight-loss or detox is not a healthy approach, nor is it sustainable. Instead, try an elimination diet.
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If you're buying an off-the-shelf juice drink, read the label:

  • Check how many servings there are per bottle. Some bottles have two to three servings, and you can wind up drinking far more sugar than you intended.
  • Check the grams of sugar per serving. If it's more than 6 grams, skip it altogether or cut some of the juice with seltzer or water.
  • Check the grams of fiber. Many bottled juices have none at all, which is bad news for your body, particularly if you’re trying to keep blood sugar stable.
  • Be sure the drink is made with certified organic, minimally processed ingredients.

If you're ordering at a juice bar, be sure to:

  • Look for organic ingredients, so your drink is as free of chemical pesticides as possible.
  • Ask the barista not to sweeten your drink with fruit juices like apple, orange, grape, and so on.
  • If you prefer a sweeter drink, add a little stevia or touch of raw honey.
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Frank Lipman, M.D.
Frank Lipman, M.D.

For Dr. Frank Lipman, health is more than just the absence of disease: it is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social wellbeing. Dr. Lipman is a widely recognized trailblazer and leader in functional and integrative medicine, and he is a New York Times best-selling author of five books, How to Be Well, The New Health Rules, Young and Slim for Life, Revive and Total Renewal.

After his initial medical training in his native South Africa, Lipman spent 18 months working at clinics in the bush. He became familiar with the local traditional healers, called sangomas, which kindled his interest in non-Western healing modalities

In 1984, Lipman immigrated to the United States, where he became the chief medical resident at Lincoln Hospital in Bronx, NY. While there, he became fascinated by the hospital’s addiction clinic, which used acupuncture and Chinese medicine making him even more aware of the potential of implementing non-Western medicine to promote holistic wellbeing.

He began studying nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, functional medicine, biofeedback, meditation, and yoga. Lipman founded the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in 1992, where he combines the best of Western medicine and cutting edge nutritional science with age-old healing techniques from the East. As his patient, chef Seamus Mullen, told The New York Times, “If antibiotics are right, he’ll try it. If it’s an anti-inflammatory diet, he’ll do that. He’s looking at the body as a system rather than looking at isolated things.”

In addition to his practice, he is also an instructor in mbg's Functional Nutrition Program.

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