Ask any health guru about the pros and cons of juicing and you may need to clear your schedule for a week to hear them out. One of the bedrocks of healthy living, juicing has been heralded as nearly miraculous for just about everything from losing weight to preventing cancer. Because of this, the juicing trend is spreading fast. Lots of moderately health-conscious people now try and muddle a carrot concoction or wheatgrass shot into their week; for others it has become way of life.
Squeezing the properties of fruits and vegetables into a single drink rather than ploughing through a plate of veggies at every meal is a great way to get your recommended daily allowance. But before you remodel your kitchen to accommodate the biggest industrial juicer money can buy, it’s important to remember that even health miracles have their drawbacks.
According to the Food and Drug Administration juicing can, in some cases, lead to foodborne illness. All raw food can harbor pathogens that cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in worst case scenarios conditions like E.coli, hepatitis, and even kidney failure. The pasteurization process that most packaged juice and milk commonly goes through kills these dangerous organisms; juicing on its own doesn’t. Washing fruit and vegetables thoroughly and drinking raw juice immediately after it’s made can minimize the risk, but pregnant women are advised to be especially wary of drinking unpasteurized juice.
The Mayo Clinic says that it’s essential to drink fresh juices as soon after they’re made as possible because of their increased vulnerability to bacteria when stored.
And the doctors and researchers at Mayo are not the only ones who advise gulping down fresh juice only seconds after it has met with the centrifugal blade. There are plenty of other health professionals who believe that without fiber, fruit and veggies can’t hold onto their nutritional value.
“The antioxidants and other phytonutrients start to break down almost immediately once they are exposed to light and air,” says nutritionist Monica Reinagel.
The next thing to remember is that, because juicing removes the fiber from fruit and veggies, your body absorbs fructose sugar from fruit juice more easily and this can upset blood sugar levels. Vegetable juices other than carrot and beet, which work similarly to fruit juice, don’t have this negative effect, which is why many health professionals encourage us to drink more veggie juices and limit fruit juice to a glass a day.
So why should we juice rather than just eat more fruit and vegetables?
The Mayo Clinic argues that there’s little scientific evidence to support the belief that juice makes vitamins in fruit and vegetables easier for the body to absorb. Eating whole fruit and vegetables is the healthier way to get your daily intake, they say.
Others argue that drinking juice delivers the goodness, and most nutritent-dense part of the food, in a concentrated form. In a Department of Agriculture study, researchers analyzed 12 fruits and found 90 percent of the antioxidant activity was in the juice, rather than the fiber. In other studies people who drank juices were less likely to develop Alzheimers, cancer, or to develop heart disease.
Whether they would have gained the same health benefits from eating each respective fruit and vegetable is a matter still up for debate. But there is one point that everyone agrees on. Considering the fact that the average American is eating less than a fifth of the recommended five servings of vegetables and three fruits a day, if grabbing a juice can help make up the shortfall, juices have a vital role to play.
To juice or not to juice, that is the question: Answer in the comments.