The vibrant colors and distinct flavors of fruits and vegetables represent the variety of nutrients that bring great benefit to our bodies. It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are good for us–a diet rich in fruits and veggies is associated with reduced risk for certain cancers, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Most Americans find it difficult to get the 5- 9 recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Juicing has enjoyed a popularity boost the past year, and many people credit juice as the reason for their increased fruit and vegetable consumption. As a dietitian, I am overjoyed that more fruits and vegetables are being consumed. However, I think it is important to be aware of the effect processing has on whole fruits and vegetables.
When we consume a whole fruit or vegetable, our bodies go to work breaking down the fibers and accessing the nutrients. This takes some time and as our digestive tract is breaking down food, it is slowly absorbing the sugar.
With juice, a machine separates the sugar, fiber, and nutrients from the original fruit/vegetable package. Now, the sugar and nutrients can be consumed much more rapidly and in greater quantities. The digestive tract has no fiber to break down, so all of the sugar can be absorbed into the bloodstream at once.
While you may typically only eat 1 or 2 whole fruits and vegetables in a sitting, with juice, you might drink up to 5 or 6. The increased nutrient intake is great, but you can see how the increased sugar intake can be a concern. Your body also registers liquid calories differently than it does calories from whole foods. As a result, juicing may unintentionally increase total daily calorie intake. If juicing has enhanced your fruit and vegetable intake, consider the following tips for how to continue to include it in your healthy lifestyle.
- Make your juice more like a smoothie by leaving the fiber/pulp in it. You can also add fat and protein, providing a larger variety of nutrients, as well as slowing sugar absorption.
- Possible fats to include: avocado, chia seeds, nut butter, nuts, ground flax
- Possible proteins to include: soy milk, nonfat dairy milk, plain yogurt, tofu, lentils
- Keep your drink heavy on vegetables and light on fruit.
- Limit juice to no more than one time per day.
- Always choose homemade juice over store-bought. Homemade juice is healthier than most store-bought juices, due to the fact that it is fresher, less processed, contains more pulp, and you have control of the ingredients.
- Drink homemade juice fairly quickly. Homemade juice that sits too long is susceptible to nutrient breakdown and bacterial growth.
Remember: Your body was designed to digest whole foods.
Juice might be a helpful tool for increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, but it should not be the primary form of fruits and vegetables that you consume each day.