The Promise and Perils of Juicing
Last week I talked about juicing fruit. When researchers compared people who ate whole fruit to those that just drank fruit juice, they made a surprising discovery. The juice drinkers experienced significantly higher rates of type 2 diabetes, weight gain and heart disease. People who ate whole fruit saw a decrease in those conditions.
This week I'd like to explore what happens when you juice vegetables.
As a reminder, juicing is the process of extracting the fluid content, or liquid part, from plant tissues such as fruit or vegetables. It's promoted as a way to add more vegetables to your diet and detox the body.
How food is prepared alters the calories. Let's say you're going to eat some vegetables. If they're steamed, baked or boiled, their cellular structure starts to break down from the cooking. That makes digesting them easier when you eat them. Good if you need quick energy, but bad if you're trying to lose weight.
The faster you digest a food, the quicker your stomach will register it's empty and send out more hunger signals. Eating a 400 calorie vegetable juice drink won't fill you up as long as a 400 calorie vegetable platter, simply because the digestive enzymes in your stomach have to work longer to break down everything on the platter. Juiced vegetables aren't as effective as whole vegetables for anyone trying to lose weight.
Higher fiber foods take more energy to digest. A study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that if you eat a 170-calorie serving of almonds, your body only absorbs about 129 of those calories. More than 40 calories are burned off in the digestion process. But that's not shown on any nutrition labels.
Compare two people eating 2,000 calories a day. If one is eating 15 grams of fiber and the other is eating 30 grams, the one eating more fiber can easily burn 10% more calories a day. That's over a pound a month. Juicing strips vegetables of their fiber and makes it harder to lose weight.
There are also the health effects of fiber. As we mentioned in our article last week, fiber can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 40%. Fiber reduces the incidence of diverticular disease and helps prevent obesity. You're removing one of the critically important components of vegetables when you juice them and toss away the fiber.
Now let's look at the detox claims. Promoters say we need to detoxify our bodies regularly.
The liver, kidneys, lungs and skin are the human body's natural detoxification system. They continuously remove wastes and toxins that are then flushed out through urine, feces and sweat. Changing your eating habits for a week won't reverse the damaging effects of years of high fat, high sugar and high sodium diets. There is no magic "flush" handle on your body to rid it of toxins like there is on your toilet.
Detox diets are also supposed to be good ways to lose weight.
That's partially true. A detox diet can help you lose weight because most are so low in fat and calories. But the results are strictly short-term. If you don't eat enough calories, your body will turn to muscle for fuel. As you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down. In the end, you weigh less (because you've lost muscle), but you still have just as much unhealthy fat. Instead of that "tight and toned" look, you'll have a "skinny and flabby" look.
The bottom line is this. Juicers aren't turning fruits and vegetables into miraculous healthy foods for you to drink. They're stripping out the fiber and concentrating the sugars to make things far less healthy. If you want to drink your fruit and vegetables, mix them in a blender to keep the fiber and healthy components. Just remove the unhealthy seeds and inedible skins.
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