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  • Taylor Leahy - Dietitian

Juicing: Smart or Sugar Packed?

Store bought or homemade, does it make a difference and is it even really that healthy.

Juicing has become a hot diet trend over the past few years as a convenient way to get your daily recommendations of vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. There are many claims regarding juicing such as weight loss, better availability of nutrients, detoxing, and better energy. Some people spend quite a bit of money each month on commercial juices either at the store or have them delivered to their doorstep and others do ‘juice fasts’ where all they consume for several days is juice that they may purchase from a seller. Others purchase a juicer to do it at home any may spend $30-$800 on an electric juicer (from Bed Bath & Beyond). With all this hype, can juicing be too good to be true?

Are you going to drink your sugar or eat it?

Juicing is relatively quick and convenient way of getting some extra vitamins and minerals in, and it can be fun to mix a variety of fruits and vegetables together to get new flavors or to hide some veggies that you may not like very much. Although you can easily squeeze a sink worth of fruits and vegetables into a glass, is it really that “good for you”? When you juice fruits and vegetables, you are taking out the fiber and the phytonutrients that are bound to the fiber. The water and carbohydrates are what’s left behind, giving you the juice. Combining large amounts of fruits can lead to a high amount of not so filling calories and sugar. Without the fiber from the fruit to help slow down the digestion of the sugar we get a quick spike in blood sugar and then a drop as your body sends out insulin to help regulate the excess sugar. Some individuals feel the crash a bit more than others and most will feel hungry long before you would have if the orange juice you drank was actually a whole orange.

An interesting (but long!) article regarding the phytonutrients being bound to fiber and their oxidative stress fighting abilities can be found here.

Insoluble Fiber (which is fiber that is not digested) helps with stool bulking and regular bowel movements as it pushes food through the GI tract. (Fun fact: Constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements a week or having stool that is hard and difficult to pass. How’s your fiber intake? Click Here to see how much fiber you should be getting each day!); Fiber helps lower our cholesterol by binding with the cholesterol and helping to ‘sweep’ it out; and fiber helps up to feel full longer which may help with weight loss – not because its magic, but because we are less likely to keep snacking if we feel more satisfied. A whole medium apple has about 4.0 grams of fiber where as a cup of apple juice has none.

While the sugar from fruits and vegetables are from a natural source, rather than added sugar from a soda or a brownie, it still breaks down into glucose in the body. An article released in 2014 from the World Health Organization “recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake…Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.”

Sucrose (found in fruits and simple sugars) = Glucose + Fructose

Maltose (found in grains) = Glucose + Glucose

Lactose (found in milk products) = Glucose + Galactose

Whipped frozen blueberries and raspberries!

Another factor to be aware of when juicing is food safety. When making fresh juice at home, it’s important to wash all fruit, even those with skin, to decrease risk of bacterial contaminants. Your juicer should be cleaned between each use and stored in a way that will not get dust in the areas that your foodà juice touches. The juice that you purchase at the store, for the most part, has been pasteurized which means that it has been very quickly brought up to a high temperature to kill any bacteria and then is cooled down. If purchasing juice from someone else, like at a farmer’s market, those fruits and veggies may have been ‘organically’ grown, but you don’t really know the cleanliness of their kitchen or their food safety practices. Find out more info on juicing food safety here.

While juicing may help some individuals get some additional vitamins in, we are getting more sugar than we realize. Personally, i'd much rather you eat the fruit and vegetables and make sure you are getting enough water each day!

If you really must drink your fruit and vegetables at least throw them in a blender so you get the skin and fiber included, or try freezing your fruit and whipping them in a blender or food processor to make a sorbet.

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