The juicing trend doesn’t show any signs of letting up—and there’s a lot of pulp fiction about the benefits. Read on for some surprising news, plus the healthiest juices you can make from home.
Juice shouldn’t replace meals.
Devotees believe a juice cleanse is a healthy alternative to meals, sometimes for two to three days in a row. But most experts agree that it’s not good for you. One downside: not ingesting enough protein. While kale, spinach, and other veggies offer modest amounts, nothing matches a diet filled with lean proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, and cheese, among others. Consider juice a complement to your diet, not a replacement for actual food.
Juice doesn’t flush toxins. (Your organs do!)
There’s a misconception that a juice cleanse helps flush out toxins and waste in your system. Actually, your body does this cleansing on its very own—no juicing required. “If there are any bad things floating around in your body, your liver and kidneys work really well at excreting them,” says Natalie Rizzo, RD of Nutrition à la Natalie in New York City. Your digestive system takes it from there. Maintain a well-rounded, healthy diet and your body will operate as designed.
Juicing makes you miss out on one key thing.
When you grind a solid fruit or vegetable into a liquid juice, you’re stripping it of insoluble fiber, notes Abbey Sharp, R.D., a nutritionist based in Toronto and founder of Abbey's Kitchen. “It’s a valuable nutrient that aids in digestion and helps you feel satisfied.” Again: Juice is a beverage, not a food. You’re still gonna feel hungry, punk.
You actually don’t need all those vitamins.
The nutrients you get from juicing are good… to a point. Just as when you take a vitamin pill, your body absorbs the necessary quantities and then you urinate the excess. Says Rizzo, “Juicing is a really expensive way to take in a lot of vitamins and minerals that your body is just going to flush out.”
And now, the good news...
Fresh juice (as part of a balanced diet!) helps you beat sugar overload.
Downing blended juice as part of a healthy eating M.O. is way healthier than chugging from the carton. (Not that you know anyone who does that.) “When you stick with fresh-squeezed juices that aren’t packaged, you can avoid a bunch of added sugar,” says Sharp.
A glass of juice is rich in antioxidants.
Juice is filled with vitamins A, C, and E, which act as antioxidants—aka substances that counteract pesky molecules in our bodies known as free radicals that can do cell damage. “We accumulate free radicals in the body as part of normal bodily processes,” explains Sharp, “but they can build up in excess thanks to pollution, sun damage, and smoking. An overabundance of free radicals has been linked to heart disease and cancer.”
Juice is an easy way to get your veggies.
“Juicing may be the fastest and easiest way to get in nutrients from the vegetables you’d rather skip at dinner,” Sharp says of the kales, celeries, spinaches and other often-dissed veggies. “If you have a juice with a meal or otherwise, make sure you supplement with fiber to make up for what’s lost in the juicing process if you don’t leave the peel on.” (May we suggest a nice bed of lentils?)
Juice is a thirst-quenching alternative to calorie-heavy drinks.
“Of course, juice is not free of sugar and calories,” Sharp says. “But compared to soda and other sweetened beverages like sports drinks, it has more nutrient density without added sugar and preservatives.” Basically, if you have to choose between a vodka-Coke and a screwdriver (vodka with orange juice), pick the latter. And make sure the juice is fresh, since carton juices can pack just as must sugar as the soda.
Juice is hydrating.
“A lot of people forget to drink enough water in the day,” Sharp says. “Juice at least ups your fluid intake—as opposed to dehydrating effects of coffee, soda, or alcohol.”
You get more benefits if you leave the peel.
This one will save you time while packing on perks. “A lot of the nutrients of fruits and vegetables live in the skin,” Sharp notes. “Whenever possible, I suggest washing and juicing organic produce without peeling it.” But if it isn’t organic, you should always peel. “You’ll reduce your exposure to pesticides,” says Sharp.
Juice this produce with the peel intact:
You want the nutrients in the skin of apples, pears, bananas (believe it or not), beets, cucumber, peppers, eggplant, grapes, kiwis, watermelon, ginger, carrots, peaches, nectarines, and plums.
Avoid juicing these fruits with the peel:
Lemons and limes (“Some is good, but too much can upset the stomach,” says Sharp); cantaloupe (“The skin is one of the top sources of food-borne illness”); oranges and grapefruit (“Very bitter!”); mangos (“The skin can be eaten but causes adverse reactions in some people”); and pumpkin (“The skin is just too hard to juice”).
Here are some juices to try:
Check out three of Sharp’s favorite juice recipes, starting with this tasty, good-for-you concoction. Kale is packed with antioxidants vitamins A and C; pineapple is also high in manganese, which helps your body regulate calcium absorption, bone formation, and metabolism.
What to blend:
• 6 large kale leaves • 1/2 large cucumber, unpeeled • 1/2 bunch cilantro • 1/2 cup pineapple, cubed • 1 medium apple, unpeeled
Like kale, spinach is rich in vitamins A and C. Strawberries, lime, and apple adds even more vitamin C, making this a real immunity booster, says Sharp. Last, apples, kale, spinach, and strawberries are high in potassium, which helps to prevent fatigue and maintains healthy blood pressure.
What to blend:
• 8 large kale leaves • 2 cups spinach • 12 strawberries • 1 lime, peeled • 2 Granny smith medium-large apples, unpeeled • 6 mint stems
Try this juice: Spinach Apple
Spinach is filled with vitamins A and C, says Sharp; lemons have lots of C; apples contain C and potassium; and the ginger can help calm an upset stomach.
What to blend:
• 1 bunch of spinach • 2 Yellow Delicious apples, unpeeled • 1 lemon, peeled • 2 oranges, peeled • 1 chunk of ginger, unpeeled • 6 stems fresh mint