Given the benefits of a nutrient-dense diet and the perceived difficulty of ingesting all those fruits and vegetables, there is a great deal of interest in juicing. Juicing is commonly seen as a way to detoxify or cleanse the body. It is also seen as a way to get the concentrated benefits of the plants, including phytonutrients.There are a lot of books and websites on this very subject. There are also large corporate interests that are leveraging the desire to juice.
This popular way of getting in your your fruits and veggies has some major drawbacks though. Juicing not only concentrates some of the good stuff, but can be overwhelming for the body. There have been case reports of people getting too much oxalates (think spinach, chard, beet greens, kale), leading to kidney stones (extremely painful), and even causing kidney failure. Many people also don’t realize that juicing creates an overabundance of fructose.
The large fructose load is a problem for the same reasons that soda is bad for us. In fact most available juices are no better, and many are worse for you. So even though the liquid is green and healthy looking, I suggest that people actually figure out how much simple carbs are in the concoction. It is easy to look online for commercially available products to get a sense for this.
As an example, a 12 oz can of coke has 39 grams of sugar. Now consider at Jamba Juice they have a “Make it Light” menu with the reasoning that these items are “better for you” with “1/3 fewer calories, carbs and sugar than classics.” They then go on to claim “ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION – YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH MATH.” Indeed, do the math. The range of sugar content in this section of their lower carbohydrate, healthy menu is 50-80 g, nearly twice as much sugar as the coke!! I have stunned some of my patients with this information, but this isn’t just Jamba Juice. You can also see this deception on the shelves of your local grocery store and at your local juice bar. Unfortunately this huge carbohydrate load is almost entirely comprised of the worst sugar for you, fructose.
Fructose doesn’t illicit an insulin response so your liver has to do extra work to process the load. This work can predispose you to sensitivity to other toxins. This also means that satiety (satisfaction) from the juice is poor and so people tend to drink more. Fructose also promotes the growth of bad gut biota (bacteria) and leads to translocation of bacterial toxins into the blood stream (aka leaky gut). This causes all sorts of inflammatory havoc. But it doesn’t stop there. Fructose is also notorious as one of the most reactive sugars. It is particularly good at causing glycation, leading to advanced glycation end-products (AGE) in your body. As seen on our previous post, AGE leads to oxidative stress and all sorts of problems (eg. hardening of arteries and discs, cancer, immune dysfunction) as the non-biologic compounds accumulate in the body.
So I say avoid juicing. If you want to drink your fruits and veggies, consider blending as it keeps the fiber in your diet. The plant fiber matrix is essentially complex carbohydrate, feeding and encouraging good gut biota (more on this later). The fiber matrix also slows down the absorption of sugars into the body which, in turn, reduces toxin translocation and AGE production.
Blending typically is superior to juicing for antioxidant activity and yielding larger amounts of phenolic compounds. But be careful, many “blends” are more like juice than actual blended whole fruit and vegetables. Jamba Juice deliberately blurs this distinction, but you could mistakenly do this at home too. I hear people telling me all time about putting apple, orange grape and other juices into their “blends.” I do agree with Jamba Juice on one thing though, “do the math.” Do a quick calculation of the amount of sugars in the blend before assuming it is healthy for you and your gut flora.
Have a healthy weekend!